“We’re old friends; DMI has taken really good care of us throughout the years”
Nolz Dragline & Construction, Inc. has been making water go in, under and through project areas across South Dakota for more than four decades. Ed and Deanna Nolz started the family company in 1974 by building holding ponds – or dugouts – for livestock on farms. Since then, the firm has evolved to include bridge construction and box culvert installation. Through it all, the Sioux Falls business has been dedicated to hard work – it’s literally in its DNA. Of the company’s eight employees, six are related.
“Our crew size depends on which of the grandkids has an activity,” joked Ed. “Not many companies do what we do because it’s pretty labor-intensive. We still get out of the machines and get our hands dirty. It’s what we know.”
While Ed, who is the company’s Treasurer, isn’t at the jobsite every day anymore, he and Deanna, President, are still involved. Ed drives a truck and tackles other small projects, both in the shop and the field, while Deanna handles the administrative duties. Their sons, Dave (Supervisor) and Kevin (Foreman), run the day-to-day operations.
“We have three generations at a jobsite,” said Dave. “It’s a true family affair. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
In addition to hard work, the family has a knack for adapting to the changing needs of its industry. When regulations stymied the popularity of dugouts, the company switched to bridge construction, raising the bridges and handling the dirt work associated with the jobs. As the number of bridge contracts decreased, competition became fierce. In response, Nolz Dragline began to focus on box culvert projects, a niche that it still fills today.
“Box culverts had always been a part of our business, but once the dugout and bridge work slowed down, we started doing more of them,” noted Ed. “We typically can handle the entire project – water diversion, demo, construction of the culvert, installation and dirt work – all the way up to asphalt.”
Outside of the box
Box culverts have become a staple of Nolz Dragline’s workload because of their increased popularity. They are more economical than bridges and have a longer life expectancy.
The most common use of the box culverts that Nolz builds is to divert water, but the structures can serve other purposes as well. Small or large, the company is equipped to handle the job.
“Not every road needs a bridge,” explained Ed. “A lot of times, we can build a culvert for a creek or small stream and bury it under the road. In other cases, we have to put in some pretty significant structures. They are cost-effective and will last 100 years.”
One of those large structures was a 13-foot tall and 18-foot wide, four-barrel culvert installed near Sioux Falls. The project arose when the State of South Dakota couldn’t prevent an existing bridge from sinking. The firm also accommodated other nontraditional requests.
“That project was one of the largest we’ve done,” said Ed. “To have four sections right next to each other is serious. It was an unusually big culvert. A lot of water moves through there, plus the farmer who owned the land wanted to be able to drive his equipment and herd his cattle through it.”
Nolz Dragline also recently completed a bike trail in Sioux Falls that required a tandem of culverts, one for bikers and one for water.
“The section for the bikers was a little higher than the one that diverted water to the creek,” detailed Ed. “We treated the bike culvert with a graffiti-resistant paint for easy maintenance. This area has some of the nicest bike trails around; it’s a big deal here. We’ve also built underpasses, paths and school crossings along Sioux Falls’ 26 miles of trails.”
To make the culverts, Nolz Dragline uses an adjustable form that it sets to the size of the structure. After excavating the bed for the culvert, the crew pours concrete into the form and reinforces it with steel. When the concrete has cured, the company then fills in around the culvert, at times with hand shovels, and preps it for asphalt.
When it comes to purchasing equipment for their jobs, relationships matter to the Nolz family. That’s why they trust Diesel Machinery, Inc., (DMI) and Sales Rep Roger Horstmeyer to handle their machinery and service needs.
“We’re old friends; DMI has taken really good care of us throughout the years,” reflected Ed. “We’ve known Roger for 40 years. If we need something, we know he can find it. That’s why he and DMI are usually our first call.”
Komatsu excavators are popular at Nolz Dragline. It recently purchased a Komatsu PC360LC and its fleet also includes a PC290LC and a PC78US.
“We like the PC360 because of its versatility,” said Dave. “We use different attachments depending on the job. When we’re removing a structure, we put a crusher on it, and the excavator handles it easily. When we’re moving material with a bucket, the stability and handling are amazing. It’s very operator-friendly.”
Nolz Dragline also has a Komatsu WA320 wheel loader, which it uses for multiple applications.
“The WA320 is a great loader for us,” shared Kevin. “We load trucks, move riprap and take care of snow removal with it in the winter. It has a lot of power and is reliable.”
Thanks to the dependability of Komatsu equipment, when Nolz Dragline calls DMI, it usually isn’t for service.
“The equipment is great; we rarely have an issue with it,” said Deanna.
In fact, Ed says that DMI typically calls him to schedule maintenance through the Komatsu CARE program, which provides complimentary service for the first 2,000 hours or three years of operation on its Tier 4 machines.
“We don’t have any mechanics, so the Komatsu CARE program is very beneficial,” noted Ed. “They come out at a time that works for us, and take care of the machine. This is another example of DMI going above and beyond.”
Bison, ball and the future
It goes without question that the Nolz family values its multi-generational company. However, the business isn’t its only passion.
“The company means a lot to us, and to have three generations working in it is special,” explained Ed. “We think it’s important to have the grandkids involved. They work for us, but they take off for ballgames and practices, and we’re there to support them, too.”
The family shares another pastime – buffalo. They operate a farm east of Sioux Falls that is home to 140 head of buffalo.
“We got into raising buffalo nearly 25 years ago when I had heart trouble,” said Ed. “We butcher them for the meat, which is leaner and healthier than beef. Our whole family eats bison, and we sell different cuts from our shop. I think the DMI mechanics like coming here to service the machines because they can pick up some meat!”
While the family has several common interests, the company is the tie that binds. Ed says that Dave and Kevin will take the reins of the company when he retires, and he expects his sons to continue on the path that made it successful while also calling back to its past.
“When the boys take over, they’ll probably keep doing culverts, however, we are set up for expansion,” he noted. “We have all the equipment and knowledge to build bridges. I could see them growing and getting back into those types of projects.”