Komatsu equipment is “quick, efficient, powerful and productive”
Greg Kellenberger always intended to be an underground contractor. It just took some time for him to achieve that goal.
“I worked on a farm as a kid and enjoyed using equipment to do a lot of digging and tiling,” he recalled. “I started a plumbing business in 1991 because it was cheaper and easier to get into that compared to underground contracting. Plumbing wasn’t my passion. I liked the challenge of underground utility work, so I knew that’s what I wanted to do eventually.“
For Greg, “eventually” came in 2005, when he purchased his first excavator.
“We had been doing a little backhoe work prior to that, but the excavator really enabled us to get a foot in the door for underground work,” he said. “In 2007, we bought our first Komatsu excavator, a PC200. We were really starting to dive into underground work when the recession hit, which caused our business to tank. We got down to a two-man operation – me in a machine and my son Miles in the ditch. It was a struggle, but we survived and are probably stronger for the experience.”
Today, Elgin, Illinois-based Kellenberger Plumbing & Underground employs about 35 people during its busy season. Nearly 90 percent of the company’s work load comes from underground pipe projects.
“We do some work for municipalities, however most of our projects are what I’d call ‘privatecommercial,’” said Greg. “We do storm, sewer and water pipe for big box stores, retail outlets, gas stations and the like. We also do a lot of storm traps, which are large, underground concrete vaults that temporarily hold excess rainwater to prevent flooding. Most people probably don’t know that these structures even exist. Almost any heavily commercialized area that doesn’t have a detention or retention pond will have a storm trap.”
Kellenberger Plumbing & Underground is very much a family business. In addition to Greg and his wife, Debbie, all four of their sons – Miles, Landon, Dillon and Taylor – work for the company.
“We had a family discussion when they were younger,” Greg recalled. “We asked if they wanted to be involved in the company. Turns out they all wanted to be here, and I’m happy that was their choice. Miles handles a lot of our dayto- day activities. Landon studied construction management at Colorado State University. He joined the company full time after graduating in December and does bidding for us. Dillon and Taylor are twins – one is an operator, the other is an apprentice plumber.”
“I think our greatest strength as a company is our work ethic,” said Miles. “We complete projects on time or early. We allocate enough people, and we work long hours and weekends if that’s what it takes to get the job done. I think we’re also known for mobilizing and responding quickly when we get a call from a municipality for a water-main break or a general contractor to come in and complete a project on short notice.”
Reliable Komatsu equipment
Kellenberger Plumbing & Underground’s equipment fleet includes three Komatsu excavators (PC360, PC88 and its original PC200) and a WA320 wheel loader. The company also rents extensively from Roland Machinery and Sales Rep James Klosowski.
“What I appreciate most about Komatsu equipment is how reliable it is,” said Greg. “We turn the key and go to work – even our PC200 that’s now eight years old runs every day. There’s no play in the swing. It has been virtually trouble-free.”
“We’ve been very pleased with the Komatsu product – both the excavators and wheel loaders,” said Miles. “They’re quick, efficient, powerful and productive – I’d say better than any other brand we’ve tried. Breakdowns are few and far between.”
“Roland Machinery has been great to work with,” added Greg. “When I first started, Roland was willing to work with us when some other dealers wouldn’t. We’ve stayed with them because the equipment is great, and they support us very well in all phases – sales, rentals, parts and service.”
Honor God and help people
Kellenberger said he’s pleased with the size and scope of his company today.
“We ran as many as six crews last summer, but I prefer to keep it at four. I feel as though we can manage that better. We could get bigger and probably make more money, but for me, it’s never been about the money. What’s important to me is my faith. I’m a Christian, and I want this to be a business that honors God and helps people along the way.
“That’s what we try to do – help employees and help customers,” he added. “We’re also always aboveboard in our dealings. We stand by our work, which means we do it right, or we make it right. My word and my reputation are worth more to me than anything else. I think if we maintain that philosophy, we’ll be in good shape in the years to come.”