“Komatsu and CEC are a great fit for us’”
The Kemp family has completed projects in and around Sebewaing, Michigan, ever since Edward and Lula Kemp bought a tiling machine in 1956. Sixty-one years and four generations later, Kemp Tiling Co., Inc., is a local institution.
Edward started the company by doing tiling jobs for area farmers, and it grew to the point that he needed a second machine a year later for son, John. John and his younger brother, Allen, bought the company from their father in 1973. Throughout the next few years, they began diversifying to create jobs for brother, Lon, and John’s sons, Ed and Paul. John’s wife, Norma, started doing the books in their home and later moved to the office’s current location, retiring fully several years ago. Although he also “retired” in 2002, John still runs the company’s crushing operation and spends endless hours researching parts and supplies online.
The family credits John as the driving force behind getting the company on board with GPS grade control. They purchased their first Topcon system in 2007. Allen’s plan to retire in January 2017 has resulted in fewer hours, but he is slowly handing the reins of the company’s tiling processes to his son, David. Allen and David also take care of the pond maintenance work for Michigan Sugar Factory’s Sebewaing plant.
Ed and Paul handle the excavation and trucking areas of the business, performing a variety of services including – but not limited to – site work, water and sewer line installation as well as road building. The two rely heavily on Ed’s son, John Edward “L J,” and Mike Herman, who is one of the few employees not actually related but is considered family in every other way.
As the business continues to thrive, success is measured in a unique way – its territory. Located near the eastern shore of Saginaw Bay, Sebewaing is outside of Michigan’s most densely populated area. However, that hasn’t kept Kemp Tiling from developing loyal customers within a 30-mile radius.
“We don’t have to travel far from home, which we think shows the quality of our work,” explained Paul. “Customers around here know that we are going to take care of them to the best of our ability. We’ve developed relationships that have lasted a long time, and we’re proud of that.”
Another source of pride is the friendships formed with other contractors and many of the inspectors with whom the Kemps have worked. Several jobs the company performs are close to “Kempville,” the rural community on the “Old Sand Road,” which is home to Kemp Tiling’s office and several of the family members’ homes.
Nearby customers include local municipalities such as Sebewaing Light & Water, The Village of Sebewaing’s Department of Public Works and the Villages of Unionville and Pigeon. Many of these customers call on Kemp Tiling for emergencies.
Kemp Tiling also picks up occasional road construction work. In 2013, it installed a 66-inch box culvert and built a half-mile section of highway M-25, rerouting the area’s well-known “Coal Mine Corner.” It also prepped for asphalt as a subcontractor for Ace Saginaw Paving Company on a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) project. Kemp Tiling has been a prequalified contractor with MDOT since 1989.
John and Allen started with four machines and a lowboy. Today, the fleet includes multiple excavators, dozers and off-road trucks; as well as six dump trucks, five gravel trains and two lowboy trailers along with a host of other pieces.
“We don’t typically have a lot of major projects, but instead focus on smaller jobs,” said Paul. “We’re a company that’s grown to where we have the equipment needed to handle any job we take on. We’re thankful for longstanding relationships with loyal customers through the years.”
Another local client is Michigan Sugar Company. Kemp Tiling tackles several assignments a year at Michigan Sugar’s Sebewaing and Caro locations. The association with Michigan Sugar began nearly 35 years ago and continues as they collaborate on ideas to make the sugar company’s processes more efficient – whether it’s related to pond work or building and maintaining the sugar beet piling grounds.
Versatility is key
Loyalty and dependability are two traits that are important to Kemp Tiling. The company finds both in its Komatsu machines from Continental Equipment Company (CEC) and Sales Rep Chad Fullerton.
“Komatsu equipment makes up a good portion of our fleet,” shared Ed. “The equipment is great, and we really appreciate everything that Chad and CEC do for us. They’ve earned our business.”
“The early returns on the PC240 have been outstanding,” declared Ed. “This is a versatile machine that allows us to do multiple applications at a jobsite. It handles great.”
We use the PC240 on several types of jobs,” continued Paul. “It has excellent balance and lifting capabilities.”
Kemp Tiling also has two Komatsu dozers – a D4 1 and a D61 – as well as a WA380 wheel loader.
“We outfitted both of our dozers with Topcon GPS systems, and they are our go-to machines for fine grading,” noted Paul. “These are older models, but I’d put our two dozers with grade control up against any other machine for carrying a grade.”
For Kemp Tiling, the service it receives from CEC matches the performance of the Komatsu ma chines it sells.
“Chad has always been our guy,” said Paul. “He stops in to see us routinely. Anytime we need parts or service, CEC is on top of it. We never have to wait.”
“Komatsu and CEC are a great fit for us,” he added. “Fortunately, we haven’t needed to call Chad often because Komatsu machines are well-built. We just check the fluids and do a quick, walk-around inspection.”
A day at Kemp Tiling has a family-reunion feel to it. Since the doors opened six decades ago, the Kemps have built the business as a team.
“We’re all in this together,” said Paul’s wife, Tracy. “We don’t put much stock in titles because we are all invested.”
“This approach has been very important to the success of the business so far,” noted Paul. “Everyone has helped get the company to where it’s at.”
The Kemps’ leadership in the firm is likely to remain strong as, the fourth generation is already on-board. It’s a safe bet that the future will see Kemp descendants continuing to serve the Sebewaing area.
“I think we are set up well for continued success,” said Paul. “We have a very strong tie with our customers and a solid reputation. We just want to continue to enjoy consistent business, meet our customers’ needs and keep the family involved in the company.”
“The best compliment we can get is when people need something, they think of us first,” said Tracy. “Whether it’s for utilities, a load of sand, or even a roll of tape. The people in our area know that Kemp Tiling will be there to help.”