Faye Burns isn’t what you’d call a back seat driver to her husband Clay. In fact, most days she’s the one in the driver’s seat, skillfully operating either the couple’s new Cat 312 C L hydraulic excavator, 926 wheel loader, D3C LGP track type tractor or any of their three trucks.
“Everybody asks us how we can stand to work together day in and day out,” said Faye. “Well, it works just fine because Clay’s the boss. A pretty patient boss, too, I might add.”
“Well, she’s the boss at home,” Clay chimed in. “That’s why we work such late hours. By the time we get home, she’s too tired to be boss.”
Faye and Clay Burns are a team in life (they have two grown and married children, two grandsons and one teenager still at home) and full partners at work. Together they own and operate Davidson Construction Inc. in Minot, ND.
They bought the company and name six years ago from a well-respected colleague in the area. In that time, they have more than doubled their business.
“Wally Davidson had a good name, which is why we kept it,” said Clay. “We’ve never had to advertise, either. All our work comes on referrals and the phone rings every day.”
They have focused most of their efforts on commercial jobs, much of which is bid work.
“People like to know what it’s going to cost,” explained Clay. “Commercial work doesn’t linger on like residential sometimes can. In commercial, you get on the job and off. Everybody knows the score.”
They complete all site preparation, installing water and sewer, footings, backfilling and final grade.
Recently they finished all the site prep and underground utilities work for a new hotel convention center. They’ve also recently completed the sewer and water work on an 80-by-200-ft. (24.3-by-61 m) auto body shop, and installed a new entrance to a beverage distribution center.
The Burns often work for the city of Minot and do the underground utilities work in many of the smaller communities within a 50-mi. (80 km) radius of Minot. During the long North Dakota winters, they maintain a steady snow removal clientele.
Tight, Smooth, Fast
On a brilliant fall morning, the couple is at work for Minot, placing riprap shoring along the Mouse River, which flows through town.
Clay is at the controls of the Cat 312C L using a 42-in. (107-cm) bucket to put the rock in place.
Faye claimed she doesn’t quite have the nerve to operate the machine on top of the river embankment so she gave the controls over to Clay.
But, she said, “The productivity of this machine is just awesome. It’s so tight, smooth and fast to operate. The visibility from the cab is wide open which is pretty important in a tricky spot like this one. Also the glass goes clear to the roof of the cab so you can keep a good eye on what your boom is doing.”
In the 10 months since purchasing the 312C L, they have put more than 600 hours on the machine. It also comes with the Cat Pin Grabber Plus Quick Coupler feature, which speeds changes between the 18-in. (46 cm) bucket and a 42-in. bucket as well as the pre-owned customized ripper they often use on trenching projects.
Years of Quality Service
During various employment through his career, Clay has become well familiar with the solid reputation of Caterpillar equipment and the quality service he can expect from his local Cat dealership.
“I’ve run it all and Cat iron is the most durable,” he said. “There’s a reason you get a better trade with Cat equipment. The resale value is always there.”
Soon after purchasing Davidson Construction, for example, Clay bought a well-used Cat 311B hydraulic excavator. By the time he traded it for the 312C L, the older machine had 6,000 hours of hard use.
“We didn’t have any downtime with that machine and its resale value held way up,” he said. “In fact, we financed the new machine through Cat Financial, and no other company around could match our final deal.”
Clay added that through the years, he’s seen the quality of service and support from the local Cat dealer in action.
“We had a hydraulic cylinder problem on the D3C a few years ago on a Friday afternoon. By Monday morning, the machine was back on the job.”
The Burns take advantage of the regular Cat Fluids Analysis Program from their local dealer.
And, no matter where they may be working, within 50 or 60 mi. of Minot, Clay said their dealer provides quick and reliable parts availability — to the job site when needed.
It’s that type of service and support that helps make their growth as owners/operators possible, said Faye. “Clay is a lot easier to live with now that he’s the boss and no longer working for someone else. Maybe there’s less stress?”
“Well, let’s say that it’s our own stress,” Clay interjected. “That makes a big, big difference.” CEG