“Every Komatsu piece we have used has been reliable, powerful and low-maintenance”
Many earthwork companies offer turnkey site-work projects, but few handle every aspect themselves. In most instances, they provide earthwork and/or utility installation and then sub out the services they don’t want to or can’t perform.
“That accurately described us for a time,” said S&K DirtWorks, LLC Owner and Managing Member Kevin Garner. “In those instances, things tend to get done piecemeal, and often you’re waiting on someone else to finish before you can get your work completed. Certainly that’s not ideal, so we decided some time ago to take care of everything ourselves to control the schedule and ensure that our contracts are wrapped up on time and on budget.”
To do this, S&K DirtWorks added services throughout the years, including paving, which is now part of a total package that covers clearing, mass and fine grading, utility installation, subgrade prep and more. The Rogers, Ark.-based company primarily stays in the commercial market, occasionally doing municipal and state government jobs. It typically operates within a 50-mile radius of Rogers.
“In rare instances, there may be a specialty item that we have to sub out, but, for the most part, we handle 100 percent of a site-work project,” said General Manager Jesse Humphries. “That includes any associated concrete and asphalt. We even do our own striping.”
Humphries joined S&K DirtWorks approximately 12 years ago, and Garner credits him for being the catalyst who pushed the company toward a more comprehensive list of services.
“Jesse brought a wealth of knowledge and experience in utility installation; he had put pipe in the ground all across Arkansas and Oklahoma,” Garner noted. “I had some background in utilities, but I was focused on grading, so when he came on board we really increased the capability to offer underground services. We kept building from that.”
S&K DirtWorks nearly doubled in size during the past five years. Garner and Humphries say there are two main factors propelling the growth – opportunity and reputation. The first is due to a burgeoning economy in northwest Arkansas that’s coupled with a huge influx of new residents who need housing. Developers are building several new subdivisions and putting up commercial properties, such as shopping centers and restaurants.
“We have built solid relationships with the developers because they know we will give them a quality job every time. If they put something out for bid, we are sure to be on the list,” said Humphries. “In many instances, they have come to us directly and said they want us to do their project. They don’t even bid it out.”
Garner said 100 percent of S&K DirtWorks’ current jobs are for repeat clients. He emphasizes that’s a testament to hard work and treating customers right.
“Everything has been word-of-mouth,” said Garner. “I have never advertised. Customers appreciate it when you give them a time frame and a price and then stick to them. Clients keep developing projects, and we continue to be the one they call to do them.”
That’s been the case since 1999 when Garner started the company with a partner whom he bought out a year later.
“I really did things backward,” Garner joked. “I bought a dozer before I had a trailer to haul it with. I had to hire someone to move it. Then, I bought the trailer before I had a truck to pull it. Eventually, I saved enough to get the total package and mobilize myself. Roughly three years into the business, I was able to start hiring some employees.”
OUTSTANDING STAFF COMPLETING COMPREHENSIVE PROJECTS
Today, S&K DirtWorks employs nearly 70 people and generally has 10 to 12 active projects going at any one time. With the addition of Humphries and several other key individuals, Garner has built a staff that he believes is the best in northwest Arkansas.
“They are outstanding,” Garner said. “There is no way S&K would be where it is today without their contributions. The staff is conscientious, knowledgeable, experienced, dedicated and hardworking. I can’t praise or thank them enough for all they have done to help build this company.”
Recent assignments include a large infrastructure project in Bentonville, Ark., for a new 102-lot housing development. The company installed about 6,600 feet each of water, sanitary and storm sewer lines and nearly 14,000 feet of electric for a developer. It also imported 60,000 yards of material and performed site grading, poured concrete curb and gutter and put down asphalt for streets.
S&K DirtWorks completed its largest project to date in 2015, a 70-acre sports complex in Springdale, Ark. Crews hauled in 96,000 yards of material as part of an overall total of more than 200,000 yards of earthmoving. It also installed a storm sewer and provided paving for sidewalks, curbs and parking.
KOMATSU, H&E PROVE PRODUCTIVE
Much of the digging, grading and placing of materials for those and other jobs was completed with Komatsu PC170LC-11 and PC290LC-11 excavators, WA200-7 and WA270-7 wheel loaders, a D61PX-23 dozer and an HM300 articulated dump truck. Most have been purchased in the past two years with the help of H&E Equipment Services Sales Rep Seth McCutcheon.
“We have had Komatsu equipment for many years, but really ramped up our fleet recently, in order to ensure that we have the equipment to meet demand,” said Garner. “Every Komatsu piece we have used has been reliable, powerful and low-maintenance. Our operators love the speed. They say that Komatsus are faster and smoother than other brands, which, in turn, reduces cycle times and increases production.”
H&E Equipment takes care of services on S&K’s Tier 4 machines through the Komatsu CARE program, which covers scheduled maintenance for the first three years or 2,000 hours.
“That’s added-value,” said Humphries. “We appreciate that H&E tracks the machines and calls us to set up the services at a convenient time and place. That ensures they are done on time, with minimal disruption to our operations.”
“Seth, Clint Slaten (who is the Springdale, Ark., Branch Manager) and H&E are big reasons why our fleet is increasingly Komatsu,” added Garner, who also buys Takeuchi skid steers and Hamm rollers from McCutcheon and H&E Equipment. “They have been great about helping us identify our equipment needs, then finding the machinery to meet them, whether it’s for purchase or rental. H&E’s support through service and parts availability is second-to-none as well.”
KEEP ON KEEPING ON
Throughout the past decade-plus, S&K DirtWorks carved out a fairly unique niche as it self-performs everything from clearing to paving for commercial clients. Garner expects his company will continue in that vein.
“First and foremost, our top priority is continued quality jobs done right and that meet our customers’ demands,” Garner stated. “A lot of companies diversify into multiple markets and run into trouble. We’re comfortable with what we offer, and we want to keep doing it to the best of our ability. As the saying goes, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it.’”