“The Komatsu was so much smoother, and everything worked so well together”
Jim Scarbrough’s South Fulton, Georgia, general store was a popular location for loggers in the mid- to late-1980s. The attraction was natural, because Jim was a retired logging veteran, and his brothers and friends who remained in the industry would stop by for conversation and supplies. The store also served as an impromptu daycare for Jim’s grandson, Frank, who came to idolize its patrons.
“I saw people who accomplished things,” recalled Frank. “They came in smelly and dirty, but they made an honest living and were happy and content. They left an impression. I knew that’s what I wanted to be.”
As Frank grew up, he set his sights on becoming a business owner. However, exactly what type of company it would be was up in the air. When working toward an engineering degree at Mercer University, the need for money and some sage advice from his grandmother helped define his vision.
“Honestly, I wanted spending money, and I couldn’t find a job,” he admitted. “I was talking to my grandmother, and she told me to go out on my own and start cutting grass for people. I grew up on a farm, knew how to run equipment and I liked hard work, so it made sense.”
That conversation sparked the birth of F.S. Scarbrough, LLC. His client list began to grow, and he would do jobs in the afternoons and weekends. In 1998, six months after starting the business, Frank hired his first full-time employee. Shortly after that, he dropped out of college and pushed full-steam ahead.
“We started out simple – just a guy, a truck and a push mower,” he said. “Growth just kept happening. We went from mowing to landscaping, then from residential to commercial work. Eventually, we added grading, and that took us to a whole other level.”
Today, Frank is President of F.S. Scarbrough, which employs 47 people and handles as many as 10 projects at a time. It specializes in turnkey site-development work throughout Georgia and the Southeast. Typically, the company performs clearing and grading services; water, sewer and storm utilities installation; and it also handles curb and sidewalk construction.
“We can take a project from inception and do everything in-house to get it ready to go vertical,” explained Frank. “We are designed for anything up to 60 acres. We get several jobs that are too big for smaller companies as well as ones that are too small for larger outfits to worry about. We have carved out a niche on projects with 250,000 yards of dirt.”
Keeping it in-house
One of the company’s largest contracts to date is a sanctuary-expansion for Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Oakwood, Georgia. F.S. Scarbrough will install 18,000 feet of pipe, ranging in size from six to 60 inches and move 60,000 yards of dirt on what Frank describes as a “wholesale renovation.”
“The church is making this its main campus and integrating many of the existing buildings,” Frank said. “We demolished the old parking lots and older buildings that were on the site. Now, we’re doing a cut-and-fill operation with major storm work. We’ll re-route some municipal and private utilities on site to include water, gravity-fed sewer and force main. After that, we’ll grade and put in the curb. We are pretty much doing everything in-house, besides asphalt and electrical.”
The five-month project, scheduled for completion in November, is an example of what makes F.S. Scarbrough successful.
“There are multiple moving parts on this job – it was an existing site, so we had to maintain the utilities even while the site was under construction,” explained Frank. “It required a great deal of coordination with the church to make it happen. Because we are able to do a majority of the work in-house, that helped keep everyone on the same page. This is one of our largest, most complex jobs, and I’m very happy with how it’s progressing.”
intelligent Machine Control excellence
F.S. Scarbrough moves a lot of dirt annually, so any piece of machinery that allows it to do that quickly is valuable. Machines that move large quantities of dirt in a highly efficient manner and automatically maintain grade are important to F.S. Scarbrough – that’s why it turns to Komatsu intelligent Machine Control dozers on projects like the Blackshear Place Baptist Church.
Two years ago, Frank was in the market for a new dozer and wanted to improve his use of GPS technology, so he turned to Tractor & Equipment Company, Inc. (TEC) and Sales Rep Mack Brice to demo a D51PXi dozer with integrated intelligent Machine Control technology against other competitive brands with aftermarket systems. The results were unanimous.
“We put our best operator in a dozer with aftermarket GPS on it, and I ran the D51PXi next to him,” remembered Frank. “It wasn’t even close. I easily outworked him, and I rarely run a dozer. The Komatsu was so much smoother, and everything worked so well together.
“Since we’ve had the D51PXi in our fleet, we are much more competitive,” he added. “We can deliver projects faster, while still maintaining grade. Because of that, we have been able to accelerate our schedules. At Blackshear Place, those dozers make a noticeable difference.”
F.S. Scarbrough continues to add technology to its fleet, including a D61PXi dozer, as well as GPS aftermarket systems on its PC360LC excavators. The company plans to strengthen its commitment to GPS technology moving forward.
“Part of our strategic plan is to use GPS on every job,” said Frank. “We’re equipping machines with GPS and looking at what we can do to improve our capabilities in those areas. The integrated excavators are something that we’re taking a close look at as well. The benefits of the intelligent Machine Control equipment give us a great advantage, and we want to extend that to every area of the business.”
The intelligent Machine Control units join a group of other Komatsu machines at F.S. Scarbrough, including five Komatsu excavators ranging from a PC88USLC to a PC490LC and a pair of HM400 articulated trucks. Through the years, TEC has been there to help Frank build and maintain his fleet.
“TEC has been great to work with,” proclaimed Frank. “Every time we call, Mack takes care of what we need. The Komatsu equipment and technology are amazing, so with a dealer like TEC, we are able to get the full value out of it. They do a great job.”
Great people make business
Frank envisions more growth for the company, especially in public works.
“We’ve been lucky to have success in the civil side of the industry, and now I think there is an opportunity for us to move into the public side as well,” he said. “It has to make sense, though. We don’t want to be chasing an extra dollar here or there. It will be measured growth, and we’re going to be committed to it.”
When the company does grow, customers can expect to see a familiar ingredient in its success – quality people.
“The people who work here are great, and they are dedicated to this place,” Frank stated. “We certainly try to hire those who fit into our culture. Without a great group of employees, this company wouldn’t be where it is. We have several who have been here 12 to 15 years and have grown with us. That’s something that I’m proud of.”
Two of those longtime employees, Vice President Eddie Brewer and Project Manager William Oxford, have been integral to the success of the company.
“I didn’t grow up in construction, but Eddie did, and he’s taught me a lot,” said Frank. “If I get an idea about a job, I’ll run it through Eddie. He tells me if I’m on the right track or not. William handles all of our operations; he keeps us running smoothly.”
Another key employee is Frank’s wife, Amanda, who is the firm’s Chief Financial Officer.
“She’s probably the most crucial part to everything we do,” shared Frank. “She keeps the office and books straight. She’s awesome with numbers. When the recession hit and times were hard, she was the one who found a way to make it work with the money we had. I don’t think we would have gotten through that time without her.”
Frank says that as long as F.S. Scarbrough has dedicated and quality employees, it will be successful. “Everyone here is in this together. We have our own jobs, but we’re all invested in this place, and that’s what makes us successful.”