It’s unusual to hear a contractor link his company’s growth to The Great Recession, but Steve Oliver, president of Geddis Paving & Excavating Inc., does just that.
Oliver and Bob Geddis, owner of the Toledo-based company, shared a desire to grow the company. During the recession, “we knew that the government was going to try to stimulate the economy through construction contracts, so we focused on that,” he explained. “Moving in that direction contributed to 90 percent of our growth. By focusing on the public sector, we had no option but to grow.”
In the years since, Geddis has worked primarily in the public sector, which accounts for about 80% of its business in most years. “This year, it’s about 60% public. There seems to be a little more money in the private sector this year,” Oliver said.
The company has grown over 400 percent since 2004, and employment in field operations has grown from about 10 people then to about 50 now.
As the company name suggests, Geddis does everything from the initial digging to the final course of asphalt. One of its specialties is complete road reconstruction. “We remove the existing road, put in all the underground utilities, storm drainage, water lines, sanitary sewers and rebuild the road,” Oliver said. Currently, Geddis is wrapping up the total reconstruction of South Avenue in Toledo.
The company also provides complete site development. Recent projects include an expansion at St. Ursula Academy in Toledo, including new parking lots. The company has also worked for the University of Toledo, Kingston Healthcare, and Hunger Hydraulics.
Geddis has been strategic about making purchases that will help it grow and execute effectively. For example, it operates a quarry and crushing operation in St. Marys.
Buying the right construction equipment for the job has also been a priority. The contractor owns more than a dozen pieces of Komatsu equipment, including five wheel loaders, four excavators, and two intelligent dozers. They’ve purchased Komatsu equipment since about 2009.
“We are really happy with our Komatsu equipment,” Oliver said. “We’ve seen what Komatsu has done with their program. All the equipment we’ve bought has performed really well.”
One area where Komatsu really stands out is reliability, he added. “I’m seeing that we’re putting hours on equipment that exceed what we’re used to. We used to replace excavators at 8,000 to 10,000 hours. Now, we have some older pieces with 12,000 to 14,000 hours, with more years of useful life in them. That used to be unheard of.”
It’s not just the excavators. “I’m totally impressed with the loaders. They are good pieces,” he said. The company owns three WA270s, a WA500, and a WA250 with more than 10,000 hours.
Oliver also believes it’s important to keep up with changing technology in the industry, and he’s a proponent of Komatsu’s integrated machine control system. Geddis purchased its first Komatsu intelligent Machine Control dozer, a D51i, in 2015. A smaller D39PXi dozer was added to the fleet in 2018. “We
use the Komatsu i-machines on pretty much all of our site projects. We really rely on them.”
Another piece of Komatsu technology, KOMTRAX, is very useful too, he added. “The data helps us to understand our operating costs, that’s the most important part of it. We look at burn rates and things that affect our operational costs.”
Oliver also likes that KOMTRAX and Columbus Equipment Company are proactive in alerting Geddis of any cautions or codes that indicate problems in a machine. “It’s kind of nice to get an email where someone has diagnosed your problem. It’s like someone knows you’re sick before you even feel sick, and that has saved us a lot of money.”
“Geddis Paving & Excavating is smart about using KOMTRAX reports to keep small problems small,” noted Luke Matheson, Columbus Equipment Company sales representative. Taking care of small issues when they crop up prevents them from snowballing into big issues.
Geddis has been a customer of Columbus Equipment Company for decades. In earlier years, when Geddis was primarily a paving contractor, the firm bought all its paving equipment from Columbus Equipment, Oliver recalled. Today, the company relies heavily on Columbus Equipment Company’s service knowhow.
“We have some mechanics, but we outsource quite a bit of work to Columbus Equipment Company. We’ll do service things like replacing hoses, but if anything major goes wrong, we rely on Columbus Equipment Company to service it. We are extremely happy with their service. They respond in a timely manner any time we have issues.” When there was a problem with the WA500 at the quarry, for instance, Columbus Equipment technicians responded very quickly. “That’s important because that operation can’t stop,” Oliver said.
Geddis began business as Geddis Brothers Paving in 1946, when company founder Robert Geddis Sr. started with one backhoe and a dump truck. Originally, the company paved residential driveways, but by the 1970s he had incorporated it as Geddis Paving & Excavating, reflecting the company’s growing diversification.
Today, his son Robert Geddis Jr. owns the company. Robert Jr.’s son-in-law, Kurt Rasmusson, and Steve Oliver’s son-in-law, Richard Crace, work as project managers for the company.
It’s easy for family-owned businesses to rely on tradition and to stick with the familiar. The growth of Geddis Paving & Excavating, however, demonstrates the value of seeking new markets and employing new technology while honoring the family tradition of providing quality work to every customer.