Hughes Brothers Construction Succeeds With Nortrax

Thu January 08, 2015 - Southeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

The operator loads Deere 410E trucks with a Deere 470G excavator.
The operator loads Deere 410E trucks with a Deere 470G excavator.
The operator loads Deere 410E trucks with a Deere 470G excavator. The operator of this Deere 410E trucks dumps material at the storage site. The operator of this Deere 350G excavator with JRB couplers works with the pipe crews. The operator of this Deere 544K backfills behind a pipe crew. (L-R): Chad Hughes, Hughes Brothers; Tom Bauers, vice president of the southeast region of Nortrax; Justin Hughes, Hughes Brothers; and Richard Taylor, Nortrax sales representative, in front of Hughes Brothers’s Deere 672GP motorgrader. The operator of this Deere 672GP motorgrader cuts the grade for a road on a development in Winter Garden, Fla.


Hughes Brothers Construction Inc., based in Wildwood, Fla., is a family company founded in the depths of the recession in 2011. The hard work of brothers Chad and Justin Hughes, combined with a boost from Nortrax and John Deere, has paid off and helped the company to thrive.

“Deere was there from the start, and has met the demand for our growth,” Justin said. “Our salesman Richard Taylor has the same no quit attitude we have and never stops working for us... Deere runs deep. It started back in my father’s company and followed over to ours. They keep us going with good equipment, great service and the right financing to meet our needs. The loaders outperform all others, and the uptime on the excavators is second to none. Nothing is as precise or as productive as the 672gp motorgraders and the 410e haul trucks. They’ve really made a believer out of me. We overload those trucks all day, every day, and they just take it! We’re proud of our relationship with John Deere and Nortrax. They’ve never told us no and took a chance on us when the economy was still shaky. We credit them with a great deal of our success.”

Chad said that his father was in the underground business, and the brothers originally worked for him.

“When the market turned down, we had a good amount of public work on the books, so we were able to weather the downtime, and then after that, he was just ready to retire,” he said. “That’s when Justin and I went into business as Hughes Brothers, which was about three years ago.”

Justin reported that they started Hughes Brothers in November of 2011, breaking ground on the first job in May of 2012.

“I was in the field along with five other guys, and my brother was in the office,” he said. “We had no idea if we would make it or not. We just didn’t want to work for someone else. We did 15 million in sales in 2013, and are looking to top that by a good bit in 2014 while self-performing more work than last year and subbing out less.”

Chad said that when they initially went into business, they focused on dollar stores and gas stations — whatever they could make a living at.

“Being blessed and fortunate like we are, we made it to where we’re at, so it’s been good,” he said. “When we first went into business, John Deere stepped up, gave us whatever we needed, and worked with us as far as maintenance and everything goes. That’s probably our main reason that we’re 85 percent John Deere equipment.”

Currently, the company owns more than 20 pieces of newer John Deere equipment.

“Nortrax never restricted us with a credit limit,” Chad said. “If we wanted it, we got it from them. Some of the other dealerships were kind of leery of jumping on board with us when we first got started, so Nortrax has really stepped up. They never told us no throughout the whole thing. If we needed it, we got it. Back in my father’s company, he was a big Deere customer before he retired, and that relationship with Richard and Nortrax kind of followed suit over here.”

According to Chad, the bulk of their work consists of subdivision jobs right now.

The structure of the company is based on Chad doing all the estimating, office work and handling all the finances while Justin runs all the field operations.

“It’s really a good deal because with Justin running the field and me running the inside part, I have a part in my role, and Justin has a role, and we really don’t step on each other’s toes,” Chad said. “Everything flows and everything works well.”

Hughes Brothers has about 54 employees at this time.

“We’ve got apartment complexes and we do commercial, but probably 85 percent of our workload right now is subdivision work,” he said. “We’ve done DOT work, we do offsite utilities and we’re capable of bonding highway work, but right now we’re focusing on the private sector more than anything.”

Paving and concrete jobs are subcontracted out, but otherwise Hughes Brothers handles everything, including grading, underground utilities (all kinds, storm, sewer, water, fire main) and all road work.

One of the company’s current jobs is in Winter Garden, Fla., on the west side of Orlando, involving a 70 acre site on both sides of the road. Another development nearby involved 154 lots, and Hughes Brothers was just awarded Phase 2 of that project, with groundbreaking scheduled soon. The project involved 180,000 cu. yds. (137,620 cu m) of fill balance, with the dirt leaving to go to another project. The biggest cut was about 12 ft. (3.6 m).

“This was a pretty simple job, compared to most that we do,” Chad said. “This one’s in the dry section. We do a lot of jobs where the utility work has to be dewatered with a sump drain, but this job was dry.”

Having GPS systems on the trucks allows them to check the grade without having to stop the dozer.

“Our supervisor, the dirt foreman, has a 3D GPS system on his truck,” Justin said. “It’s set to the entire elevation, so he can roll across the pad to compare it to the plans without having to take the dozer operator’s word for it. He can check in and if there’s a problem with the dozer, he knows it in the truck. I run one too in my truck where I can go check.”

Hughes said that Gradeworks LLC builds the GPS files for them, allowing them to just dial down to where they want to be for the finished grade.

“Everything we have that we buy has the three-year, 5,000 hour power train warranty, and then John Deere gives us the option to extend that warranty,” Chad said. “Pretty much 90 percent of our John Deere equipment is still under that warranty. I think one loader has come off of it, and a motorgrader, but when they give us that option, we go out and they do an inspection for us. So far, we have extended the warranty on the two pieces that have expired.” CEG