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Texas Contractor Spurs Housing Development Project

Fri June 30, 2006 - West Edition
Tara Deering



A good businessman understands that sometimes you need to spend money in order to make money.

That’s why David Plata, president of Silverado Brothers Construction Co. Inc., never second-guessed his decision to purchase one of the largest terrain levelers manufactured.

He recognized right away the return he would get by investing in a terrain leveler capable of handling large jobs in San Antonio’s rocky soil conditions.

In fact, the Vermeer T1255 terrain leveler that Silverado Brothers Construction recently purchased is bringing the company new business. Because of the large machine, Plata said his company was hired to complete the infrastructure for a 400-acre residential subdivision being built in Boerne, TX.

“What got me this project was the Vermeer terrain leveler,” Plata said. “They knew we had recently purchased the T1255 and I told them, ’I can give you a good price on this project because I have the equipment and I own the equipment.’ That’s the advantage I have over some of the other contractors.”

Herff Ranch Project

The 400-acre residential subdivision being built by KB Home is nestled in a region northwest off Texas Highway 46.

From the beginning, Plata said his company was involved in building plans for the development called Herff Ranch. He and his crews were able to use their experience and offer input regarding the project’s infrastructure design.

Plata said he didn’t doubt that he had the equipment and experience to complete the job on schedule, but one thing he didn’t bank on was that his crews would have to wait to begin work.

Because so much development had been taking place in the area, it took longer than expected for the city to approve the building plans and permits for the housing development.

“You have to get in line and wait for them to give you permission to lay the pipe,” Plata said. “In a way, not even the homebuilder anticipated that I would be waiting on him.”

After being delayed for a month and a half, Plata’s crews began work at Herff Ranch. In order to carve out the trenches for utilities and level the ground for street paving, crews used the Vermeer T1255 terrain leveler and Vermeer T1055 and T955 track trenchers. The T1255 terrain leveler was necessary because the housing development is located on a limestone stratum.

“Everything that I own from Vermeer handles rock. It allows me to excavate in rock to lay my pipe, or build my road, or do all of my grading and house padding,” Plata said.

For housing development projects such as this one, Plata said being able to tilt the angle of the milling attachment on the T1255 gives the machine flexibility. He said it also helps his crews overcome the challenge of sloping the road while cutting.

“You can angle one way or you can angle it another way,” he said.

This proved especially helpful when Silverado Brothers Construction crews faced working around several mature trees on the job site.

Plata said the city of Boerne has strict tree ordinances that homebuilders must follow, and which mandate preserving as many mature trees as possible. Because the milling attachment is front-mounted on the T1255, the crews were able to excavate and grade close to the trees without disturbing their root systems.

“We were able to work around the trees and preserve some of the more mature ones,” Plata said. “Other contractors likely would have had to knock down the trees in order to gain access to the area. Since my milling attachment is on the front of the machine, I can get close without disturbing the trees’ root systems.”

When it comes time to install the utilities, crews will use the T1055 and T955 track trenchers with a “Texas Cut” tooth formation to cut through the hard limestone rock.

In addition to performing the landclearing, excavation, grading, and paving, the construction company also performs wet utility installation, including water, sewer, and storm drains. For the Herff Ranch housing development, Plata said it will use the two track trenchers to install 8- and 10-in. sewer pipe.

His crews also will be installing a conduit sleeve so that the local power and telecommunications companies can then pull their telephone, cable TV, gas, and electric wires through it. The diameter of the conduit sleeve typically ranges from 2 to 6 in.

“Sometimes we install one conduit and sometimes we install four different pipes,” he said.

Even though it started on the project later than expected, Plata expected to meet and maybe even complete work several days before the deadline.

“Because we had access to the equipment and the equipment performs so well, I’m able to get caught up. That’s what sets our company apart from our competitors,” he said. “They don’t have the in-house control that we have. They’re relying on subcontractors and other people, which makes it harder for them to stay on schedule and play catch-up.”

Building a Name for Themselves

The Herff Ranch project is one of the larger projects Silverado Brothers Construction has taken on in recent months. The family-owned company has grown considerably since being founded in February 2001. In addition to Plata, who serves as the company’s president, three of his brothers hold office positions with the company.

In starting Silverado Brothers Construction, the Plata brothers brought an average of more than 25 years of experience.

Plata said he began working in the construction industry while in high school when he got a part-time job with the local contractor where his father and brother already held full-time jobs.

After attending college for two years, he was hired full-time by that construction company and worked there from 1983 until 2001.

Over the years, the brothers built a name for themselves and gained all the experience they could.

“By doing such a good job, a lot of clients had faith in us. So when we got together and started our own company, they gave us an opportunity to show what we could do,” Plata said.

Specializing in new infrastructure for homebuilders, Silverado Brothers Construction has prospered from completing $20,000 jobs to single-client projects totaling approximately $4 million. Not only have the jobs and equipment gotten larger, but the company’s workforce also has grown to more than 100 employees.

“The market out here is absolutely booming,” Plata said. “I’m not taking credit for all of this. It has a lot to do with economics; it has a lot to do with our reputation; and it has to do with the opportunity that is present in this area.”

(Tara Deering is a technical writer of Two Rivers Marketing.)