Christening a Komatsu PC1250
Curtis Martin doesn’t remember a time when excavation wasn’t a part of his life. He grew up working for his father’s business in Pennsylvania, and when that business expanded to California, Curtis went too. For a while, he traveled back and forth between the two states, and in 2004, as his father was closing up shop, he decided to buy some of the equipment and started Ground Breakers Construction.
“I love construction, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” said Curtis. “I, along with five other guys, started out doing mostly residential grading work. I advertised heavily early on, but eventually our work mainly came from word-of-mouth referrals, which led to a large percentage of our work coming from repeat customers.”
Ground Breakers Construction’s customers are general contractors located within about an hour of the company’s home base in Lebec, California, including Kern and Los Angeles counties. The company offers grading and wet utility installation, often as a package. Curtis estimates that about 75 percent of the company’s projects are public, and the balance are private.
“That’s changed considerably since we started,” recalled Curtis. “Now, we like to offer larger grading and utility installs to general contractors. We bid to them, and for about half of the projects, we perform both the grading and the utilities, and on the other half of the projects, the contractors just want one or the other. Either way, our goal is to deliver a quality project that’s properly staffed and executed, so that it’s done safely, on time and on budget.”
Completing projects with Komatsu equipment
Key staff members include Curtis’ brother Milford, who is a General Foreman and oversees a couple of crews. Longtime employee Marvin Putt is also a General Foreman. Others include COO Marty Siebe, Mechanic Phil Yoder and Bookkeeper Mitchell Alvarez. In total, Ground Breakers Construction employs about 15 people full time.
“I would describe our staff as young, with a collective vision to provide the highest level of customer service,” said Curtis. “They take ownership in its success, which has helped us grow, and, in turn, take on larger projects. They deserve a lot of credit for where we are today.”
Ground Breakers Construction usually has three to four projects going at any time. It has worked on several commercial sites, such as one in Bakersfield, where the company installed about 6,000 feet of sanitary, storm and water pipe, as well as fire hydrants.
At Cal State Bakersfield, it put in about 10,000 feet of utilities for new student housing and moved about 20,000 cubic yards of dirt to build a road. It installed a similar amount of utilities on a job in Acton, as well as excavated about 60,000 yards of dirt.
Ground Breakers Construction graded the Cal State project with a Komatsu D61EXi-23 intelligent Machine Control dozer that it rented from Road Machinery LLC. Ground Breakers rented a D39EXi-23 for the commercial project in Bakersfield. Both augmented Ground Breakers Construction’s fleet of Komatsu excavators, which range in size from PC50s to a PC210LC-10 equipped with a Topcon GPS system. The company also owns two wheel loaders, including a Tier 4 WA320-7.
“My dad bought a Komatsu excavator in the early 1990s after being loyal to a competitive brand,” said Curtis. “It was a great machine, so after that we leaned toward Komatsu. We found the operator comfort, the productivity and the feel of the machines superior. It’s still that way, which is a big reason we buy and rent Komatsu equipment.”
“Komatsu’s technology stands out too, and that’s really on display with the intelligent machines,” added Milford. “The dozers save us time and money because they are accurate and keep us from overcutting. We like that the grade-control components are integrated, so we don’t have to deal with cables or masts. We recently demo’d an intelligent excavator, and we saw similar attributes that will lead to significant savings. ”
Ground Breakers Construction works with Road Machinery Sales Account Manager Adrian Garza for buying and renting Komatsu equipment. “Adrian is great about finding us equipment, and the company is good about having parts on hand when we need them,” said Milford. “We appreciate that Road Machinery and Komatsu provide complimentary scheduled maintenance on Tier 4 machines. Road Machinery tracks the machines, contacts us when a service is due and comes to a jobsite to complete it. It’s a great value and ensures service is done on time.”
Building a legacy
Curtis believes growth will continue to be slow and steady, with projects getting larger in Ground Breakers Construction’s future. He also sees the same core group of employees staying on board long term.
“Our calling card has always been taking care of the customer and getting too big takes away our ability to do that,” said Curtis. “Our legacy is being built one quality project at a time. We want that to continue, so we won’t do anything that jeopardizes our ability to deliver what our customers need, when they need it.”