(L-R): Dan Sheffey and Bill Adams of Tennessee Excavating rely on Aaron Kiser of Power Equipment for service and maintenance of their Komatsu excavators.
Construction is booming again in Knoxville, and Tennessee Excavating is right in the middle of it.
Just one year ago, the company had nine employees working on a single project. Today, more than 50 employees, operating more than 50 machines, are working on five sites.
Business is so good, in fact, that Tennessee Excavating is taking care not to grow too fast.
It's a problem any company would enjoy having.
"We have been truly blessed," Dan Sheffey, executive vice president, said. "We really want to peak out somewhere around 60, 70 employees. We don't want to get big enough that we have to go on the road to feed the beast. We are going to work here in the Knoxville area, and our goal is to stay within one hour of this office."
Sheffey, Vice President Bill Adams and a third, silent partner, acquired Southern Contractors in June 2017 and officially changed the name to Tennessee Excavating Company LLC in November 2017
Most of the "easy" sites around Knoxville have already been developed, however, and those that are left present a challenge that can be summed up in one word — rock.
"If there was a site that had rock on it, it was avoided by developers in the past," Sheffey said. "So now developers are coming in and looking at the more challenging sites. Some are steep, but in the case of our Lovell Road site, it's rock. So, that has provided some challenges.
"And where in the past, rock was just something you drilled holes and shot the dynamite, well, now, everything is so tight and congested, you don't want to go setting off dynamite if you don't have to."
To meet the challenge, Sheffey, Adams and company rely on Power Equipment, the Komatsu dealer in Tennessee and Northern Mississippi, which also carries Tramac hammers.
Downtime is rarely a problem, Adams said, but when it happens, Power Equipment's Aaron Kiser ensures a maintenance team arrives at the job site quickly, diagnoses the problem, fixes the machines and gets the crews back to work.
"They've been great for service, maintenance and anything we need," he added. "They are right on top of it. That's the No. 1 thing with me — having that trust."
Tennessee Excavating's fleet includes Komatsu's PC 210 and 290 excavators, as well as HM300 and HM400 articulated trucks.
"When I go to the field and talk to the guys, the operators prefer the Komatsu machines," Sheffey said.
Operators enjoy benefits that help keep them loyal to the company, he added. For example, during the winter months, when construction slows down and workers are often idle, the company continues to pay for their health insurance. Then, in the summer, when they are earning 60- to 70-hour checks, they pay the company back.
"At the end of the day, it's the people that really make the difference," Sheffey said. "You take a bulldozer, it's only as good as the guy sitting in the seat. Good employees make the difference, and we try to take care of the ones we have."