Underground Utilities Inc.
People And Horsepower … The Heart of It All
With a name like Underground Utilities Inc., there’s no question what the company does. “We started out installing sewer and water lines right from day one,” said John Bores, who founded the company with a partner in 1978, when he was 28 years old. Today the company does a little earth moving and road work along with the utilities work.
The company started with just a handful of workers and has grown to about 100 full-time employees today. Good employees are the reason for the company’s growth, Bores said. “We came across good people, and as work became available, we hired them. If we had good people, we found work for them. When work is slow, we do what it takes to find work for them and keep them busy. We don’t have layoffs. That’s what drives us, our employees.”
The Monroeville-based contractor has little to no turnover, and most people who get a job there stay until retirement. “They are part of the business. We are all in this together – if the company does well, the employees do well. They work like they own part of the company,” Bores said.
Underground Utilities does only bid work, with 90 to 95 percent of its jobs being public works projects for counties and cities. The remainder is private work. With about a dozen crews, the company works all over the state of Ohio. A recent contract, for example, involved an $8.5 million sewer project for Woodville, Ohio, southeast of Toledo. “It is one of our larger projects. We got the job in 2011. It had a two-year completion date, and we completed it in a year. The project went really well,” Bores noted.
“We used several Komatsu PC228 excavators for the project. We had as many as four or five of the 228s there digging sewers. The 228 is our favorite excavator, and they were the perfect fit for this project,” he observed. “It is a very convenient size for digging city streets. It’s a fairly compact, short-tail-swing model and it can easily dig to a depth of 16 to 17 feet.”
While the Komatsu PC228 excavator is the companywide favorite, Komatsu excavators in general are the clear choice for Underground Utilities. And that constitutes high praise, Bores pointed out. “Excavators are our bread and butter. We dig for a living; excavators are the most important piece of equipment on our job site.” The company has 36 excavators in its fleet.
Underground Utilities has been using Komatsu excavators since 1991. Bores still remembers that he purchased six Komatsu excavators from Columbus Equipment Company within a short period in the early ‘90s. They were all Dash-5 models, and included two 400-5s, three 300-5s and a 220-5. “That was the start of a love affair with them,” Bores said.
After more than 20 years, the company still has one of those original PC300-5 excavators in its fleet; it has about 20,000 hours on it and “all we’ve done is routine maintenance on it.” That machine is a prime example of why Underground Utilities Inc. prefers Komatsu excavators over competing brands.
“They offer great reliability and uptime,” Bores explained. “We have had very few mechanical problems on our Komatsu excavators. The repair and maintenance costs are extremely low. We can run these excavators 17,000 to 20,000 hours without doing any major repairs. And they are very productive. We have the best of all worlds – Komatsus are reliable, productive and the maintenance costs are extremely low. They are at the top when it comes to performance.”
The company has been a Columbus Equipment customer for more than 20 years, and the service has always been great, he added. “Columbus Equipment is the right size for us, not too big. We know who we are dealing with all the time; we can pick up the phone, call the right person and get the answers we need. We get to talk to a real person, and that’s important in today’s world.”
With a fleet of more than 100 pieces of equipment, plus trucks, Underground Utilities has its own maintenance shop, supervised by Mike Luers and staffed by five full-time mechanics. “We do most repairs in-house, and we don’t have to do a lot of work on the Komatsus, but if we need assistance, Columbus Equipment is there for us with answers when we need them. If we need parts, we can get them quickly and be running immediately,” Bores said. “If we need a bucket or something, we can call Columbus Equipment in the afternoon, and they’ll have it at the local branch the next morning. That’s exactly what we need.”
Bores also has a good relationship with his Columbus Equipment sales rep, Luke Matheson. “We communicate very well. Luke can relate to our needs and he understands the equipment. He speaks our language and he wears work shoes, just like us,” Bores said.
In addition to being president of Underground Utilities, Bores is promoter for the Attica Raceway Park, a 1/3-mile banked clay oval track on the Attica Fairgrounds. “John is all about putting on a good event for everyone at the track,” said Matheson. Races are held every Friday night from the end of March to early September. Columbus Equipment Company has sponsored the season’s opening night of races for several years.