Reliable Equipment Keeps Cary Laughlin Excavating, Inc. Productive
Excavation contractor, Cary Laughlin, is currently working on a residential development jobsite in South Salem, Oregon.
"On this project we're doing the excavation for a new foundation," said Laughlin, who is the Principal of Cary Laughlin Excavating, Inc., based in Sheridan, Oregon. "We'll be back in a couple of weeks to do the excavation for all the utilities into the home, all the drainage around the home. And then we'll come back and backfill and do all the final grading and prep work for all the flat work and concrete."
Laughlin said residential excavation work makes up about 75 percent of the company's work. Much of this is work on custom homes in suburban areas. "We'll do a lot of big driveways, rock walls, that kind of thing," he said. The company also performs a lot of preparation work for landscaping companies that hire Laughlin to do grading or rock work.
Along with foundation and grading, "We complete many septic systems," he added. "We specialize in septic systems. We also do small commercial projects. We do not do subdivisions or large projects yet." Offers have come in for the larger projects, but Laughlin has turned them down.
The company currently has four employees including Laughlin and his wife. The small, family business is what Laughlin prefers. "We may bring in one more for summer work, but I've always said five guys was my limit."
Keeping family life in mind, Laughlin also favors working locally. "We cover three counties, Polk, Yamhill, Washington," he said. "We try to stay within an hour of home and stay out of Portland."
Always in Excavation
Laughlin said he grew up around excavation and always wanted to have his own business. "I went to college, and was going to be an architect," he said, "But I decided I didn't want to do that."
A friend who had an excavation business encouraged him to get a few years of experience in the business and then check in with him. So Laughlin went to work for an excavation company in McMinnville, Oregon, which built subdivisions and took on larger municipal contracts. When he was ready to set out on his own, his friend helped him find his first customers. "We picked up a fairly big builder at that time and they guaranteed us all their work as long as we provided the quality they wanted." This was in 2005; Laughlin was 23 at the time.
Hard work and providing quality to customers has kept him in business since then. "We haven't done a lot of advertising, so word of mouth is how we get lot of the work."
The business had struggled during the economic downturn. Laughlin worked some jobs with just his wife and himself on site - at times with their infant daughter along in the truck. "It's definitely a family business," Laughlin said.
The Work at Hand
Rolling Hills in South Salem is a new subdivision that had a slow start during the recession, but is now selling quickly. "Every home on here seem to be on about a 45 percent slope. They actually did cut one side of the subdivision and filled the other to build these lots."
"It's steep ground - so when it's wet you can really slide around, Laughlin noted. "And there are houses 30 feet down from where we are working." As each home requires moving up to 500 cubic yards of earth, "where to put the dirt is a challenge." In addition to the steep slope, Laughlin also has to work within the strict erosion control requirements enforced by the municipality.
The need to meet those challenges might explain Laughlin's preference for excavators with tight tail swing design, such as the Komatsu line of excavators. The company's fleet of equipment includes two Komatsu PC35 Mini Excavators, and one Komatsu PC138 Hydraulic Excavator.
They have two Ford F550s that are contractor trucks, a number TrailMax trailers, one Kenworth W900 Dump Truck and one Caterpillar 259B Series 3 Multi Terrain Loader. Laughlin goes to Modern Machinery in Portland, Oregon, for his equipment needs. "I bought my first machine from Rob Jacobs, Modern Machinery Territory Manager, and have been working with him ever since."
Also helping Laughlin get his work done is a laser guide. "We use Trimble lasers," he said, as an indicate system. "They work real well."
Once the foundation work is done on the house, Laughlin will move on to other work until the next phase. "We're in and out normally three times during the duration of the home building," he said, "We're here first and last - when we come in to do the final grading."
One goal Laughlin has for his business is to expand into work with commercial septic systems. "We do any residential septic system that is on the market now," he said, "I'd really like to step more into the commercial systems business."