Alexander Contracting

CHANGING WITH THE TIMES HAS HELPED THIS ‘OLD-SCHOOL’ COMPANY THRIVE

March 31, 2017

PC228 excavator is “very versatile”

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The construction industry is constantly evolving. Companies that adapt are wellpositioned for future success; those that resist often fall behind. Alexander Contracting Co. Inc., a third-generation site-work contractor in Columbus, Georgia, has skillfully managed change since opening its doors in 1952.

“If you don’t adapt, you’ll be out of a job,” said President Lon Alexander III. “We have been able to do that, but we still consider ourselves ‘old-school.’ We’re honest with our customers and deliver quality results on time and on budget. Continuously doing that has allowed us to be successful.”

Family patriarch Lon Alexander Sr. started the business after 25 years in the industry, and his son, Lon Jr., joined him in 1963. The company grew from a small firm with 20 employees, to a large, full-scale site-development company that focused on clearing; grading; installing storm, sanitary and water lines; as well as placing and preparing stone base. Lon III joined in 1985 and runs the company today. With 100 employees Alexander Contracting typically has 15 jobs underway at a time, ranging from $200,000 to $10 million.

Alexander Contracting’s path throughout the last six decades has been far from linear. “We’ve had ups and downs just like any other company,” said Alexander. “We really ramped up in the early 2000s and doubled our size during a 10-year span. Since the downturn in the economy, we’ve scaled back and focused on being more efficient – we’re about half the size we were in 2013. We also decided to focus more on private work than we have in the past. It’s paid off.”

The company’s list of assignments includes several large undertakings, including the massive Eastern Connector highway project east of Columbus. The two-year effort saw Alexander Contracting finish all of the site-development activities for the four-and-a-half mile, four-lane highway.

It also completed site development for the 30-acre National Infantry Museum in Columbus. Recently it hauled in 250,000 yards of dirt as well as installed storm, sanitary and water lines on 40 acres at Spencer High School in Columbus.

Alexander Contracting selects its projects based on a certain set of criteria.

“We do a lot of pre-planning in order to make sure we are as efficient as possible,” noted Alexander. “We target assignments where every move counts. We keep the lines of communication open with our customers, get the work done and move on. All of this has led to many repeat customers; we’ve served some of them for 50 years.”

Another element to the company’s success is quality employees. With very low turnover each year, Alexander Contracting has built a strong staff with plenty of experience. Alexander lists employees such as Vice President of Outside Operations Jim Kelly, CFO Raines Jordan, Estimators Scott Fowler and Jess Calhoun, Superintendent Charles Grizzle and General Superintendent Tommy Doughman as a few key members of the company.

Intelligent and efficient

2016-03-31-Alexander-Contracting_3The construction industry is constantly

One of the latest advancements in the construction industry is GPS technology. Alexander Contracting began using aftermarket-GPS systems nearly a decade ago with impressive results. To remain ahead of its competition, the company turned to Tractor & Equipment Company (TEC) and Sales Rep Jon Lake to purchase a Komatsu intelligent Machine Control D61PXi dozer.

“We were one of the first in the area to start using GPS, and we found that we were about 60 percent more efficient with it,” recalled Alexander. “We heard a lot of good things about the new Komatsu intelligent Machine Control dozers, so we got a D61PXi in 2015 for the Eastern Connector project. It was just amazing. We saved so much time. We used very few stakes and were on grade. It was great.”

Since that job, the D61PXi has proven to be a valuable asset for the company.

“Having technology integrated into the machine is nice,” noted Alexander. “With an aftermarket-GPS system, we had to put it on and take it off every night. That required a lot of time and money each day. Plus, if an operator damaged the connector during the process, we would have to buy a new one or take it to the shop. We don’t have those costs with the Komatsu dozer.”

Consistently impressive results have changed the company’s attitude toward the technology.

“When GPS technology first came out, I think a lot of companies resisted, and the operators didn’t want to use it,” recalled Alexander. “Today, however, if you don’t have this technology, you are two steps behind. The results are pretty clear, and I think if you go to any site today, you’ll find GPS technology in use.”

Great machines, better service

2016-03-31-Alexander-Contracting_2The construction industry is constantly

Alexander Contracting turns to TEC to help build its fleet, which features several Komatsu pieces, including four HM400 articulated trucks; six excavators (four PC300 excavators, a PC228 and a PC138USLC); a D39 dozer; and three wheel loaders (a WA270 and two WA250s). Alexander expects to add more Komatsu pieces in the future.

“Komatsu makes a great product,” he said. “We’ve turned to Jon and TEC for our Komatsus, and we’ve been very happy. Jon is terrific; we can reach him at any time. Komatsu Financial has also been great; we use it to finance almost every machine.

“The machines are dependable, and they last a long time,” he continued. “We bought two HM400 haul trucks in 2009 and didn’t spend any extra money on them, other than regular maintenance. That really reinforced their quality to us. When it was time to trade them in, we got newer HM400s – we didn’t think twice about another brand.”

The company’s most recent purchase was a Komatsu PC228 tight-tail-swing excavator. Alexander says his water crews utilize the machine most often in areas with limited space. “Our operator is extremely impressed with the machine. The excavator offers a great deal of strength in a small frame, and the operator doesn’t have to worry about hitting anything with the back end. We’ve used it to lay 12-inch water lines and 48-inch storm drain. It’s very versatile.”

While Alexander is impressed with the machines, he says the service from TEC and Komatsu has solidified his decision to continue purchasing Komatsu equipment.

“TEC takes care of approximately half of our service and maintenance now,” reported Alexander. “Technology changes so fast, and we can’t afford to have our mechanics go to a class every six months to learn about it. The technicians at TEC are very good at their jobs, and we are happy to have them work on our machines. They have allowed us to increase the lifespan of our Komatsu machines by roughly five years. We are very impressed with the new machines, and the service we get from TEC is extraordinary. Those are a few of the reasons we feel comfortable adding new machines and technology.”

Alexander Contracting also has four Hamm HD 110 smooth-drum rollers, a Hamm 3412 compactor with a vibratory pad-foot drum and a GOMACO GT-3200 sidewalk paver from TEC.

Strong future

After more than 60 years of success, Alexander says the company is poised to continue to thrive in coming years.

“We are fortunate to have several jobs on the books, and our area has many contracts coming up,” noted Alexander. “We have more projects lined up to start in the next six months than we’ve had in the last three years.”

Alexander knows that inevitably there will be changes his company will need to address to remain successful. He says the next issue facing the industry is finding qualified people to match the upcoming work load.

“This is a hard, challenging field, and the workforce is shrinking,” lamented Alexander. “However, I think the emerging technology will help attract people to this industry. The Georgia Highway Contractors Association is recruiting high school kids and sparking their interest in this kind of work. The joystick controls and GPS technology are interesting to members of the younger generation who may see the equipment on the side of the road, but not know how to get involved. They can make a great living in this industry. The labor shortage is a hurdle, but we’ve met challenges before.”