James Peterson Sons, Inc. Excels on Complex Site and Road Jobs
When it comes to road building and site work, including underground utilities, few Wisconsin companies can match the breadth of experience and expertise of James Peterson Sons, Inc. The Medford, Wisconsin-based firm works across the state performing a wide range of projects, including highway construction, commercial and residential sites, ag developments, lift stations, landfills, airports and more.
"Our expertise is with the difficult, complex projects that have multiple stages and require a lot of planning," said Vice President Jeff Peterson. "Working in traffic. Night work. Design-build projects. Those are the jobs where we shine. Also, since we have material pits, projects that have a gravel or crushing component are right up our alley. That includes recycling pavement on-site, which saves us from hauling out demolished pavement and bringing new material back in."
James Peterson Sons is now a fifth-generation family business that employs as many as 200 people during the busy summer months. James Peterson started the company as a logging operation. There is a little discrepancy regarding the exact timeline - a family history indicates it might have started in the early 1920s, but other sources cite the 1930s.
Regardless of the precise date, James Peterson's two sons, Morgan and George, logged with him. In the summertime, they started doing roadwork with horses and an early version of a pull scraper. Morgan's sons Jack and Jim followed him into the business, and expanded into pits and crushing. Today, Jack and Jim - both well past retirement age - remain very active in the business. Jack serves as President/Treasurer and oversees crushing operations, while Jim is a Vice President and is in charge of public relations and project development. Jack's sons Jeff and Scott also serve as Vice Presidents, and Jim's son Tim is Secretary. The fifth generation consists of Tim's son Ryan.
"Being involved in a true family business like ours is great, but not always easy," said Jeff. "There are challenges that you have to work through. It's kind of like politics. People have different opinions. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you find a middle ground. The key is, you have to want the family aspect to succeed, and all of us do."
James Peterson Sons incorporated in 1955 and was a successful contracting firm, but rarely worked in the eastern part of Wisconsin. That changed in 1999 when the company acquired Buteyn Excavating & Grading of Sheboygan to form Buteyn-Peterson Construction, which works from Door County to Racine, Wisconsin, including Green Bay and Milwaukee. In 2005, it expanded again by acquiring Lakeland Enterprises of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, which is now the Utility Division of James Peterson Sons. Today, the company truly works statewide, as well as in the Upper Peninsula.
"When it comes to site and roadwork, we're very self-sufficient," said Jeff. "Except for paving, we're able to do everything in-house with our own personnel. We believe that helps us better control project outcomes. We work on both the public side and the private side. We have good people across-the-board, and especially good management and supervisory personnel. We go in with a solid plan and alter it as necessary as we move forward through the job."
Technologically Advanced Equipment Adds Advantage
James Peterson Sons owns a large fleet of equipment, including numerous Komatsu units from Roland Machinery Company. The company has Komatsu excavators ranging from PC200s to PC490s; three WA500 wheel loaders; and its dozer fleet includes D51s, D65s and three intelligent Machine Control (iMC) D61PXis.
"Komatsu makes good equipment," said Jeff. "The excavators are top-notch, and we love the D61i. It's an outstanding dozer. It's well balanced and has good visibility. The fact that the GPS is integrated into it, and not just added on, is a big advantage. We still have aftermarket systems on some of our machines, and we often have cable issues. The Komatsu iMC dozers don't have that problem.
"Support-wise, Roland does a good job and Sales Representative Dan Ross is the guy who makes things happen for us," he added. "If we have an issue, we call Dan and he gets the right people involved and takes care of it. We also like that Roland has a specific person, a technology solutions expert, who handles the GPS for us if we have any questions."
Jeff says the family is pleased with where the business is and would like to see continued growth.
"We've grown steadily through the years. Of course, the acquisitions gave us substantial boosts in a couple of those years. Looking to the future, it's all about the economy and highway funding. In Wisconsin, it looks like department of transportation work will be substantially less than normal - about 40 to 50 percent less. We would definitely like to see more road projects.
"That said, we expect to get our share of the work that's out there, and as always, our goal will be to do the best job at a fair price," he added. "All of us family members, and all of our employees, live here. We take a lot of pride in our work. We enjoy seeing all the roads, buildings and developments we've had a hand in constructing over the last half-century or so. The lasting nature of what we do is what's special about this business, and that's perhaps especially true for a family business that's been around as long as ours has. We're proud to have a fifth generation involved, which is pretty rare. I think we all hope it carries on to a sixth, seventh and beyond."