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VIDEO: For Utah's Rogers Construction, Dirt's in Their DNA

Mon January 04, 2021 - National Edition

They call it “digging,” but when you see the machines tear into the red Utah rock, you’ll see it’s actually more of a “carving” process. For much of Rogers Construction's work, they use ripper attachments to assist in breaking through the tough ground. “The technology of GPS grade guidance that Hitachi offers makes my good operators even better,” Curtis Rogers said. Rogers’ entire fleet of excavators is exclusively Hitachi orange. For the Rogers family, owners of Rogers Construction Inc., St. George, Utah, is the center of their family and business. (L-R) are founder Richard Rogers; Curtis Rogers, Rogers Construction president and second-generation owner; and Landon Rogers, supervisor and third-generation family member.

Through the desert air and rolling rocky terrain lies the town of St. George, Utah. The area, nicknamed Utah's Dixie, offers a stunning view of Zion National Park and the Pine Valley Mountains in the distance.

Located between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, locals joke that St. George is a few hours from everything. But for the Rogers family, owners of Rogers Construction Inc., St. George is the center of their family and business.

Operating a construction and excavating business and working the land in a place like St. George is certainly a challenge.

"In southern Utah, we have a whole variety of different kinds of rock," said Landon Rogers, Rogers Construction supervisor and third-generation family member. "We have basalt or lava rocks, sandstone and mudstone that are almost hard as steel. We need durability in our machines to handle it."

They call it "digging," but when you see the machines tear into the red Utah rock, you'll see it's actually more of a "carving" process. For much of their work, they use ripper attachments to assist in breaking through the tough ground.

"In the sandstone areas, we've found that a 30-ton class Hitachi can routinely rip and tear at the sandstone and develop a fillable material out of it," Landon said. "That's huge for us. Hitachi really holds up in the solid rock that we work in."

The machines have held up so much so, that Rogers' entire fleet of excavators is exclusively Hitachi orange. Curtis Rogers, Rogers Construction president and second-generation owner, noted that Hitachi has always been their choice. The firm has been growing its fleet since it began in 1965.

"Hitachi had stuck out to us from the beginning," Curtis said. "My operators always enjoy running the Hitachi equipment. When you find something good, you stick with it."

And stuck with it they have. Their Hitachi loyalty is especially noticeable when they describe their lineup.

"Oh gosh, we've got a lot of Hitachis. We've still got ‘Old Bertha,' a big EX400 with 15,000 hours on it. Then we've got minis all the way up to our new 350. So, it's pretty exciting when a new machine joins our fleet because we know it's going to be around for a long time. If Hitachi made pickup trucks, we'd have to buy those, too," Landon said.

Total Ownership

Not only has the Rogers family grown its fleet over the years, but it also has grown its footprint. While the company works on many construction projects in the area, it also is known for purchasing and developing large plots of land itselves.

Recently, the Rogers family sold land it purchased decades ago to build a housing development as well as a new medical facility.

"The way we buy and develop our own land is a bit unique," Landon said. "It's definitely a long-term investment. My family bought some of the land we're developing today over 30 years ago. You have to have the patience for it to pay off."

A lot of the land it purchased years ago was on the outskirts of town. Now, as St. George grows, the land's value does, too. The subdivision it currently is developing will feature some of the most high-end realty in the area.

"We're developing 52 lots in the red sandstone cliffs. With the rocky terrain, we're essentially carving out spots for these houses," Landon said. "With the topography and materials, each lot is its own unique challenge. But at the end, these houses will be worth roughly three to five million dollars."

Developing the tough land day in and day out requires durability from their excavators.

"We've found that the Hitachis can dig through about any rock here that we have," Landon said. "And that's saying something. Overall, we've found that as far as pins, bushings and boom structures go, Hitachi just holds up over the long run digging in this tough material."

Game Changing Efficiency

When it comes to increasing efficiency, every little bit makes a difference for the bottom-line. Landon thinks fuel consumption is a large part of what makes Hitachi stand out.

"Our fuel consumption savings with Hitachi is huge," Landon said. "I feel like I get so much more work done with Hitachi and the Isuzu engine than other machines. That's another huge factor for us as owners and operators."

A large part of staying up to date with its machinery is the support it receives from its dealer, Honnen Equipment.

"Our dealer has been excellent in finding us the right Hitachi equipment," Landon said. "We have a really strong business relationship, and I feel like they're always watching out for us."

Honnen's support and parts availability has been a large part of increasing Rogers' uptime.

"The biggest thing they do is truly care, and always touch base and get us what we need," Landon said. "If we need a filter, or anything, they're there. That saves us time and money, which we really appreciate."

Dirt Runs in Their Veins

On site at any Rogers Construction job, one thing is clear: family is important. As a family-owned company, they've created a culture where even the employees that aren't family are treated like they are.

"Dirt runs through our blood," Landon said. "My grandpa got involved in the construction industry and started the business, and he's worked to grow it ever since with my dad."

Landon's grandpa and Curtis' dad, Richard Rogers, is a somewhat gregarious and strong-willed man and is known by everyone in town as "Rocket."

"My dad used to drive freight for a company that was called Ringsby Rocket," Curtis said. "Some people don't even know his real name."

Landon being able to see his dad and grandfather work together for all these years is something he cherishes.

"I have had so much pride working with them," Landon said. "But I think overall, working with my dad has created a stronger father-son relationship."

Landon's dad, Curtis, echoed how important family is to him.

"Family is everything to me," Curtis said. "It means more than all of this machinery, or all of the money in the world."

Curtis hopes Landon's three-year-old son, Lincoln, will be the next generation of the company.

"I'd love to see the company go on for another 50 years. Landon's got a son and he loves tractors, so I'm hoping there'd be a time he'd be in the business," Curtis said. "We'll keep on digging dirt for a lifetime."

Making the Grade Every Time: The Difference of GPS Grade Guidance

The Rogers family has found success by being open to and embracing machine technology. One of the latest features it has seen have a positive impact on their bottom line? Grade guidance.

"The technology of GPS grade guidance that Hitachi offers makes my good operators even better," Curtis said. "It makes them move material once instead of twice, and all efficiency is money. The technology and ability to see what they need to do is very crucial in this business. I'm a firm believer that you need to keep up with technology."

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(This article first appeared in Hitachi's BREAKOUT magazine, Winter 2020 issue. )

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