Being able to recognize a good partnership can make all the difference in the world when starting out in a new industry. A good partnership, whether with the right people or the right equipment, can solidify the success of a business and help sustain it for years to come.
Jeremy Sanders and Clifford Fisher IV said they’re pleased with the partnership they’ve developed over the last year. The two have worked together to help grow Carolina Clearing & Grading in North Charleston, S.C., which specializes in turnkey site work.
“Just about anything that needs to be done, we’ll do. Whether it’s residential or commercial jobs, we turn over built pads and completed parking lots and roads. We do all of the infrastructure work,” said Sanders, the company’s president.
Because of this partnership, Sanders and Fisher have been able to grow their business by focusing more on land clearing. Fisher, general superintendent of Carolina Clearing & Grading, grew up doing site work for his father’s company. When he joined Sanders, the duo purchased three grinders and became one of very few contractors in the area to offer complete site work, including grinding services.
“We’re one of the only companies that I know of that actually does complete site work — from installing water and sewer all the way through grinding,” Fisher said.
Being able to offer a complete site work package has enabled Carolina Clearing & Grading to take on larger projects, such as an 80-acre (32 ha) industrial development in Palmetto Commerce Park, located in North Charleston. Sanders said they were hired by general contractor Pattillo Construction to perform clearing, grinding, erosion control, utility installation and fine grading — a complete site package estimated at $7 million. The first phase of the project is expected to take two months to complete and includes clearing, grinding and erosion control.
Interviewed with just two weeks remaining on the first phase, Sanders said they finished all of the clearing, grubbing and grading, and about 90 percent of the grinding is completed.
“Right now, we’re just trying to finish up the grinding and haul the rest of the chips off-site,” he said.
Carolina Clearing & Grading stationed all three of its Vermeer grinders on the project in order to tackle the 10- to 15-year tree growth that covered much of the job site. The company owns a Vermeer HG6000TX horizontal grinder and two Vermeer TG7000 tub grinders. Sanders said the tub grinders are especially helpful in grinding through the older tree growth commonly found in the North Charleston area.
“We have a lot of large pine trees and hardwoods … with those tub grinders, you can pretty much throw those large stumps in there and not worry about it. They grind through them easily,” he said.
At the Palmetto Commerce Park project, Fisher said his crews used a 2.5-in. square screen on the HG6000TX and a 3-in. round screen on the two tub grinders. The size and quality of chips produced by the grinders is important because the resulting wood product is hauled off-site to the nearby Westvaco Corp. power cogeneration facility, where it is used as boiler fuel.
“They have fairly strict requirements on the size and quantity of the material that you bring to them,” Sanders said. “That’s why we have to screen the material with a Wildcat 626 trommel screener to make sure we get the dirt and fines out so that it burns thoroughly and causes less waste.”
Another key to keeping dirt to a minimum is how the trees are cleared and stacked.
“We make sure our operators know how to properly clear and stack the wood material. It’s finding that happy medium between speed and quality of stacking,” Sanders said. “You want to make sure you’re not spending more time later on down the road by having to restack the debris or run it through the screen again.”
As with any construction project, staying on schedule is imperative. And ways to increase productivity become even more important when it’s a large project and when the resulting wood chips must meet special restrictions. Because of the quality of wood chips that the Vermeer grinders produce, Carolina Clearing & Grading crews only have to run the wood debris through the grinder once.
Fisher said the Duplex Drum cutting system on the Vermeer grinders is a must in the grinding business, because it provides optimal cutting performance and simplified maintenance. The Thrown Object Restraint System (TORS) also helps provide better material flow in some conditions while reducing the quantity and distance of thrown objects.
The grinders’ productivity enabled Carolina Clearing & Grading to overcome weather obstacles and remain on schedule.
“We went through a stretch in the first month of the project where it rained quite a bit and we had to make up for it,” Sanders said. Besides making up the lost time, the crews were also able to simultaneously complete two additional clearing and grading projects — a 14-acre (5.6 ha) middle school job site and a 16-acre (6.8 ha) apartment complex job site.
“By having the three grinders, we were able to continue working on the 80-acre tract, but still drop back with one of the other grinders and finish the school site. They provide us with the flexibility where we can keep both jobs going at the same time,” he said.
On average, the grinders are operated 10 hours a day, five days a week. But when there was inclement weather or other projects to complete, Sanders said crews ran the three grinders as many as 60 hours a week, including Saturdays.
“We like to work for as long and as hard as we can to try and make up for bad weather,” he said.
Sander’s and Fisher’s hard work has paid off so far. The 80-acre industrial job site is on schedule and the grinding portion of the project was expected to take a total of about three weeks to complete. In all, crews expected to haul off approximately 3,500 tons of resulting wood product, Fisher said.
One thing Sanders and Fisher say they’ve learned is that creating and maintaining good partnerships is key in this industry. Not only must they make good decisions when it comes to partnering with clients for construction work and debris disposal, but also in aligning with equipment manufacturers and their local dealer, Vermeer Mid Atlantic.
“We demoed a couple of different brands and decided that Vermeer was the one we wanted,” Sanders said. “You have to try them out and see which one best suits you in terms of production, features and service. For us, the grinders have been outstanding. We haven’t had a problem with them.”