Firm Celebrates Gold With Hitachi Orange

Wed June 01, 2005 - West Edition

The 750 employees of Texas Sterling Construction are celebrating the company’s golden anniversary. Its 50th is shaping up to be its best year ever, in part due to Hitachi.

In 1981, Sterling Construction founders Jim and Pat Manning moved from Michigan way down south to the booming Houston metro.

Terry Williamson joined the company in 1990, and expanded the company’s capabilities by jump-starting the concrete paving division. The company has been on the fast track ever since. Three years ago the company acquired a competitor’s heavy highway division and now its stock is traded on the American Stock Exchange.

With offices in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, the company is looking to continue its growth through more contracts and acquisitions. But the heart of the business remains Texas-sized heavy underground utilities.

So where does Hitachi enter the Sterling Construction picture?

“We bought our first Hitachi backhoe in 1994,” recalled Terry Williamson, now the company vice president. “Back then, our volume was about $20 million a year. Today, we have 36 Hitachi ’hoes, and we’re up to $180 million a year. You could say we’ve grown with Hitachi.”

And Hitachi has grown as well, due to loyal customers like Texas Sterling.

“Installing large-diameter water main and sewer drainage pipe is our specialty,” Williamson continued. “Right now we’re installing three large-diameter water mains — a 36-inch and a 48-inch, combined with a 30-inch well-collection line. We’re also working on a $12.3-million grade separation, where we’re building a railroad bridge and putting in new storm drainage … and changing a two-lane asphalt road to four lanes of concrete.”

And there’s more.

“We’re also working for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in downtown Houston, three U.S. 59 jobs for the Texas DOT and four toll roads. Plus we have some massive storm-drainage contracts at a medical center coming up in a few months.”

Texas Sterling’s fleet of more than 1,000 pieces of equipment includes 36 Hitachi excavators ranging in size from the EX80 to the Zaxis 800.

“We have three 550s, a 700, a 750, and an 800 that we use to dig and set a lot of big boxes,” said Williamson. “We can handle up to 10 feet by 8 feet with our backhoes. Competition-wise, we feel they make a big difference for us on those bids for deep and difficult work.

“The reason we initially chose Hitachi machines was their great center of gravity and balance. In 1994 we had several different brands of excavators, including a Hitachi, out on a deep sanitary sewer job. We really put them through their paces digging the trench. Since we were using the box-and-plate shoring method, we had to have more strength in the front of the machine.

“When we shoved on the plates in the trench, a lot of the excavators just reared up. But not a wobble from the Hitachi. That machine stood its ground. We’ve been running them every since. For our application, Hitachi was — and still is — the best machine by far. We still have that first 700 we bought in 1994, and it’s still a good machine. We’ve had luck with them without spending much money,” Williamson added.

(This story appears courtesy of “Hitachi Breakout” magazine.)