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Father, Daughters Build Separate but Intertwined Firms

For the Capps family, a father-daughter team has worked well in Jacksonville, Fla.

Wed September 03, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Family-based teams are common in the construction industry. For the Capps family, a father-daughter team has worked well in Jacksonville, Fla.

“In the early 1990s, I started a company, Powerline Sand, that supplied fill dirt and sand to local contractors in the Jacksonville area,” said Edwin Capps. “I sold that in 1998, but shortly after, I started another company, Capps Land Management, which bought and sold land and was also involved with material supply.”

“Dad had reduced his operations to small excavations and site work to facilitate his rural residential land sales,” said April Capps, who had worked with her dad at Powerline until leaving for an IT job with a large insurance company. “In 2004, I came to him and said, ’Let’s get back in business.’ He begged me to drop the idea, but I love the smell of dirt. I could also see the potential and wanted to take a shot at running a company and determining my own fate.”

April’s persistence led to Capps Land Management & Material, a company that she heads up. Originally, it was going to focus on underground utilities, often in conjunction with her dad’s land development services.

Throughout the years, however, it has become a full-service site development firm, whose specialty is large commercial earthwork, including Florida DOT jobs.

JoAnn Capps, Edwin’s other daughter, owns and runs a third family business, Capps Land Management & Trucking.

“For the most part, we support the operations of the other two companies by carrying fill dirt and/or aggregate to and from job sites,” said JoAnn.

All three companies are separate business entities, but they often work together.

“When I need material on a job site, I try to get it from my dad and have JoAnn deliver it,” said April. “I also do project management for dad’s company and JoAnn does project management for me. So, while we are separate companies, we intertwine and help one another wherever it makes sense.”

In addition to the three principals, other family members include April’s husband, Jason Freeman, who manages field operations as general superintendent, and Edwin’s wife, Stacey, who serves as treasurer. “We also rely heavily on many other employees who are almost like family, such as Ray Nipper, who has worked with the Capp family for over 25 years,” added April.

Big Growth and a Big Job

Edwin was semi-retired when April came to him with her idea to start a business. He had a total of four employees at the time. Today, the three businesses combined employ about 75 to 80 people. The companies work primarily in north Florida, but April’s firm also has done jobs in Tampa and south Florida.

“We seek out heavy-embankment jobs — projects with a lot of excavation that require a good amount of fill,” said April. “Those types of jobs fit our skill sets perfectly, and as a result, we are very competitive bidders. In addition to those big jobs, we also work on driveways and deliver dirt to local homeowners. The old saying, ’nothing too big or too small,’ seems to fit us well.”

A larger project currently under way is a 6 mi. (9.6 km) reconstruction of state Route 23 that stretches from I-10 to Argyle Forest Boulevard in Jacksonville. Combined, work on the north and south segments of the road will total approximately 4.5 million cu. yds. (3.4 million cu m) of dirt, in addition to about 3 million cu. yds. (2.2 million cu m) of imported fill material. Capps’s crews started work on the project in November of 2013 and expect to be on the job until 2016 completing earthwork and utilities.

Intelligent Machine Control Dozers

To take on big jobs like the state Route 23 reconstruction project, Capps Land Management companies have turned largely to a fleet of new Komatsu equipment from Linder Industrial Machinery in Jacksonville. Included in the fleet are four Komatsu excavators (three PC360LC-10s and a PC210LC-10); two Komatsu wheel loaders (a WA320-7 and a WA270-7); and two new Komatsu D61PXi intelligent Machine Control dozers.

“The D61PXi has the GPS technology integrated into the machine rather than added-on after the fact. That feature is unique to Komatsu, and it’s where the industry is headed,” said April. “Companies that don’t get on board will be left behind, and we don’t intend to be left behind.”

“The D61PXi is an outstanding, all-around machine,” said Jason Freeman. “The integrated grade-control technology is fantastic because it allows an operator to actually see what he’s building, and the accuracy has been very impressive. Beyond that, it’s just a great dozer. It has plenty of torque and horsepower, and it’s very comfortable. Also, the wide track, a 36-inch pad, stands up well in mucking conditions, and we have a lot to demuck on state Route 23.”

“With our D61PXi machines, we can get on a job sooner, be more efficient and verify progress in real time,” said April. “If we’re heading for trouble on a job, we find out early enough to turn it around. Because we’ve been so pleased with our intelligent Machine Control dozers, we’ve already ordered two more of the new D51i machines.

“Linder and our sales rep David Peacock have been core to our business from the beginning. David is our first call when we want to buy or rent a machine. Linder performs our service intervals through Komatsu CARE and is a quality dealer that we count on for all of our equipment needs.”

Future Looks Bright

As for the future, April is confident that all three Capps Land Management companies are on solid footing, and she’s cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead.

“The economy seems to be improving. As long as that holds, and we continue to build off of dad’s reputation of honesty and integrity, I think we have a good chance of long-term success. He has always emphasized the importance of strong business ethics and standing by your work, even if it costs you in the short run. JoAnn and I are benefitting from the goodwill he’s built over the years.”

“I’m very proud of my daughters and what they’ve accomplished with the businesses,” said Edwin. “Their goals are to take the companies to a whole new level, and I’m confident in their abilities to do just that.”

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