“Komatsu is the best in the business for excavators”
GW Thomas comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. His grandfather – George Thomas, who he’s named after – moved to Oklahoma in 1902, before it was a state. Raised in the cattle industry, George bought and rented land for livestock operations. He also ran a general store just outside of Chickasha as well as a grain elevator.
George operated the businesses through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression days when customers often had little, if any, money. Occasionally, he accepted land and mineral rights as payment. George’s son Harper, GW’s father, eventually took over. As the oil industry began to blossom in Oklahoma, he started leasing land.
“Men would come around looking for leases, and I was intrigued by their maps,” said GW. “I learned from my dad, and after college, I went to work for an individual who taught me a lot about buying and selling oil properties. Eventually, my wife, Bertha, and I started our own company, called GB Energy, Inc.”
GW also maintains the family legacy in the cattle industry. He and Bertha own and operate GB Ranch, which has a 300-head Angus cow herd and a 700-head stocker/grower operation. They also grow wheat on part of their land.
“We have what we call permanent-resident cows that we breed and get a calf crop from each year,” explained GW. “Additionally, we buy cattle, bring them in and grow them to a certain weight, then either sell them to a feedlot or market them directly through auction. A lot of people ask me why I continue to deal with cattle when the energy business has been so good for many years. I always tell them that I grew up with dirt under my nails and in my blood. I can’t give it up.”
Excellent equipment, superior service
Throughout the years, GW and Bertha purchased land nearby when it became available in order to expand their ranch. With the help of Operator Juan Lopez, they are clearing trees, building ponds and reshaping the landscape of the new acres.
“Much of what we purchased was neglected and overgrown, so our focus right now is making it productive,” said GW. “Cleaning it up, and an aggressive spraying and fertilizing program clears the weeds and opens additional acres for grass that can be used for feeding cattle.”
Clearing and grading are done with a Komatsu D39EX-23 dozer and Komatsu PC170LC-11 excavator equipped with a mechanical thumb. The PC170, which GB Ranch bought a few months ago, replaced an older PC160 that Thomas purchased used from Kirby-Smith Machinery in 2011. All were acquired with the help of Territory Manager Brad Howard.
“For many years, we used a dozer to clear, and I really didn’t like how it gouged the land and mixed in so much dirt with the trees and brush,” recalled GW. “Some pipeline workers told me that using an excavator would solve the problem. They suggested contacting Kirby-Smith because Komatsu is the best in the business for excavators, and Kirby-Smith backs them with outstanding service. I found that to be the case on both accounts. One of the best days I ever had was when I met Brad.”
GB Ranch takes down trees and pops out brush with the PC170LC, then works to smooth and shape the ground with the D39EX. “Komatsu’s reliability is outstanding,” GW stated. “It is tremendous peace-of-mind to know that we can depend on it to perform day in and day out without major breakdowns.”
Kirby-Smith Machinery covers routine services for the first three years or 2,000 hours under the Komatsu CARE program on the Tier 4 machines at GB Ranch. Kirby-Smith tracks the machines’ hours through KOMTRAX, then contacts GW to set up a convenient time for one of Kirby-Smith’s certified technicians to perform the work.
“Komatsu CARE is a great benefit that ensures services are done on time,” said GW. “Kirby-Smith has always done a great job for us. If we have an issue, they respond right away and often take care of it the same day. I’m certainly not a large customer, but Kirby-Smith treats me like I am.”
Focus on management
GW says that GB Ranch is about the right size. He and Bertha are not necessarily interested in adding more acres.
“Now our focus is on continuous improvement of the land we have,” Thomas said. “In the next few years, we plan to have it all cleared and shaped to a point that maximizes grass production. As long as we have Komatsu machines, we will call on Kirby-Smith to take care of any equipment needs.”