Charles Jergens Construction Inc.: Ability to Adapt Defines 45-Year Journey


Charles Jergens Construction Inc. has been helping build the Dayton area for 45 years, occasionally shifting its service mix to meet market demands.

Phil Jergens, president, represents the third generation of his family to run a construction company. His grandfather, Henry Jergens, started a construction company in the 1960s. Henry’s son Charles started his own company in 1972, which Phil now heads.

At the start, the company “did sitework, utilities, footers for local general contractors,” Phil Jergens said. Then the company started removing and installing underground storage tanks for gas stations. “At one time, we did the vast majority” of that work in the area, until regulations changed and gas stations switched to fiberglass tanks instead of steel ones. “They last forever now, and the work dried up.” The company also went through a period where it focused on demolition work, thanks to the Clean Ohio program that provided funding to clean up and revitalize old factories and foundries. “You almost couldn’t bid all the demolition work there was,” Jergens said, but when the program ended, demolition work became scarce and the company refocused on excavation.

Current projects include $3 million in sitework for the Bethel School District and sitework and a utilities project at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Jergens likes to make sure his employees always have work, so he also takes on small jobs employees can do when it’s too wet for sitework, such as interior demolition.

The company has 25 to 30 employees, and in 2014 had record sales of more than $12 million. Jergens attributes the growth in sales, in part, to equipment choices. The company has purchased some larger equipment, and it has also concentrated on labor-saving equipment. “If there’s a machine made that does the work, I buy it rather than use a laborer. It’s cheaper to buy a machine that does it, for example a mini excavator with a hoe ram versus a guy with a jackhammer.”

It’s also easier to use machinery than recruit new, younger employees, he noted. “Young people see this as a dirty job, so you have to do more work with less people.” Most of his current employees have at least a decade with the company, and his best dozer operator has been with him for 28 years.

Jergens started using Komatsu intelligent machines in 2015, when he purchased his first D51i. Jergens, who has years of experience running an excavator but not much time in a dozer, found “the D51i was a joy to run. I put 400 hours on it myself that first season. The stress level is lower, you don’t have to constantly worry about grade.” He was so impressed, he purchased two more.

In addition to eliminating grade checkers, the intelligent dozer helps operators perform better. “I can take a guy who wants to work hard, put him in the D51i, and he will perform like my best operator.” He thinks the intelligent machinery might even serve as a recruitment tool. “At some point, the younger generation will see it’s not a dirty, grimy job. It’s more like a video game … you’re looking at the job on a screen with a dozer icon.”

Charles Jergens Construction has been a Columbus Equipment Company customer for decades and the company owns at least one of almost every size excavator Komatsu makes, ranging from PC35 to PC490. The fleet also includes an HM300 haul truck, several Komatsu wheel loaders, and dozers ranging in size from D51i to D85.

While Jergens has purchased many brands over the years, including Cat and John Deere, he is “weeding out the herd” and focusing on Komatsu equipment now. “Mike Early is a great salesman, but the real reason I like Komatsu is service. If I have any problems, Columbus Equipment and Komatsu stand behind me 100 percent. Even if it’s borderline [of when the warranty expires], we have never had to eat anything. Komatsu steps up to the plate, while other manufacturers make you jump through hoops.”

His operators like Komatsu machines because they offer comfort, visibility and ease of use. He likes them because they are durable and reliable. “We have a PC400 with about 25,000 hours on it. It has had one engine put in and the original hydraulic pump was sealed once. Beyond that, we just have not had to work on it. Komatsus just keep going.”

Jergens has two in-house mechanics, and the KOMTRAX system on Komatsu equipment allows them to perform work they can’t do on other machines. “With computers and technology we are somewhat limited in what an in-house mechanic can do. Volvo won’t even sell you a computer to check their codes, but with KOMTRAX, I can call Mike Early, give him the code, and he’ll look it up,” Jergens said. He also uses KOMTRAX data to monitor idle time, fuel usage and other fleet management information.

“Service from Columbus Equipment is better than anyone else out there. If you need a part, Patty [Davidson] in the parts department can get it, fast and accurate. A lot of times at other dealers, we’ll order something and we don’t get what we ordered. If Columbus Equipment says it will be on the shuttle at 9, it’s on the shuttle at 9.”

“Komatsu equipment also has the highest resale value in the Ohio Valley,” Jergens said. “Resale on Cat equipment is nowhere near as good, and the resale on some other brands is terrible. The initial price might be good, but you get so much less out of them when you sell them.”

While Jergens has had as many as 60 employees, he prefers to run a lean operation so employees don’t face layoffs if things slow down. Innovative, durable equipment from Komatsu, and a willingness to embrace change, allow him to maintain staffing at levels he is comfortable with while growing his business by taking on projects important to his community.

For more on Phil’s experience with Komatsu intelligent Machine Control equipment, visit the link below and learn how the technology has impacted his business.