John Deere Machines Keep Laser Construction on Target

Fri July 22, 2005 - West Edition
Kate Zanoni

Fifteen years ago, Gary Klein and Mark Ellickson initially struggled to find work as they began their own construction company, Laser Construction Inc., in Lemont, IL.

The two had been working in large construction together since the 1970s. They went their separate ways in the 1980s, but decided to reunite after nearly a decade of working separately.

“We were both unhappy with our situation and wanted to do something different,” said Ellickson. “We wanted to make our move, so we got together and formed this company.”

For the first month and a half they were in business, Klein and Ellickson spent nearly all of their time bidding work and calling potential clients. The company’s first job was a $14,000 storm sewer job as a subcontractor in LaGrange, IL. Laser Construction’s volume today is approximately $23 to $24 million per year.

“We got a slow start, but we worked hard and grew from there,” Klein said.

Today, the company does underground utility and site excavation and grading work, as well as commercial projects, subdivisions and public work as a subcontractor or general contractor.

Currently, Laser Construction is home to nearly 100 employees, including operators, teamsters, laborers and plumbers. Ellickson cited West Side Tractor as a “tremendous help” over the years for continued service to Laser Construction’s growing fleet.

“Thanks to West Side Tractor and salesman Bob Plageman, now we have over 75 pieces of heavy equipment,” said Ellickson. “Bob really helped us get started and is the reason we have such a good relationship with West Side Tractor.”

In the company’s first year of business, Klein and Ellickson purchased three machines. The first machine acquired from West Side Tractor was a John Deere 510B combination backhoe. It is still in Laser Construction’s fleet of iron to this day.

“We’ll put that machine up on a pedestal and bronze it. We’ll never sell it,” said Klein.

He recalled the early days when he and Ellickson needed another excavator.

“Bob said, ’Come get this one. I don’t know if it will be big enough for you.’”

The machine was a John Deere 790. Laser Construction signed for it, but did not want to pay for it over the winter. Klein and Ellickson knew they were going to buy it and already had it lettered.

Laser had just finished a job in Burr Ridge on I-55. Plageman allowed Laser Construction to keep the machine free of charge until spring rolled around –– as long as it was not being used. For months, the excavator sat on the side of I-55.

“It was like a big billboard. We parked it next to a sign and it was lit up all night,” said Klein. “You could see Laser Construction all the time along I-55.”

Plageman recollected his first meeting with Klein and Ellickson, saying, “I met Gary and Mark at the store and asked them one question, what do you need? Whatever they wanted, we did our best to help them out with it,” he said. “From then on, their company has done nothing but grow.”

According to Ellickson, Laser Construction remains pretty well equipped with 14 excavators, 14 high lifts, nine combination backhoes, seven wheel loaders and many compactors, dozers and scrapers. The replacement value of its equipment is more than $13 million.

Recently, Klein and Ellickson acquired four John Deere 755C crawler loaders and a John Deere 450 excavator from West Side Tractor.

Since Klein and Ellickson like to do subdivision work, they have tackled all of the Brookside Glen jobs in Tinley Park, which is a new residential development. Laser Construction crews have been working on the job for the past six years.

Ellickson said, “Our success is do in large part to our employees and we never lose sight of that fact. We have a very low turnover rate because all our employees know that we appreciate their hard work and do all we can to keep them working.

“It’s not unusual to have two lowboys on the road to move all the crew’s equipment to another location for a new job the next day. We have very little downtime unless it’s weather related,” he added. “Some people have been with the company since we started in 1990.”

Twenty-five to 30 percent of Laser Construction’s jobs are commercial work, such as constructing shopping centers, industrial buildings and warehousing. Ten percent of its work is road construction and the rest is residential.

Laser Construction is presently working on the underground utilities for a retirement center in Naperville, IL –– called Monarch Landings –– for general contractor, Erickson Construction. According to Ellickson, it will be a two-year job.

With the help of the fleet of iron from West Side Tractor, Laser Construction is sure to be “right on target.”

For more information, call 630/850-7111. CEG