George J. Igel & Co., Inc: Long-Term Vision Delivers Durable Success


George J. Igel & Co., Inc. has been a part of developing Columbus, and surrounding area, infrastructure for more than a century. The company, which is currently led by the fourth generation of Igel family members, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011. 

Founder, George Igel II, started the business using teams of horses to haul and do earthmoving, but within a few years he had invested in a couple of Packard trucks. The Packards were such a new product that those purchased by Igel had four-digit serial numbers. The trucks were the start of a fleet that today includes more than 150 pieces of earthmoving and related equipment. Throughout its history, Igel has systematically employed new technologies and stayed abreast of changes in the industry, readily acquiring new equipment that could help do the job faster, or better.

Along with expanding its fleet, Igel has expanded the range of services it offers. In the 1930s and 40s, the company concentrated on excavating basements for houses around Columbus—it reportedly dug more than 1,000 basements a month during the post-War housing boom—but today its services go way beyond simple site development. The company is a large municipal contractor, for example, that is prequalified with ODOT for projects over $80 million. Recent work has included a new clinic at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, a $1 billion project where Igel excavated, did utility work and installed a park and hardscapes. Igel also worked on a runway relocation project at Columbus Regional Airport, a $30 million project that included two miles of runway.

“People think of us primarily as an earthwork contractor, but we provide a wide variety of services,” said John Igel, president. “Our concrete group is growing quickly and is doing some pretty unique projects, for example.” Igel has installed more than 200,000 cubic yards of structural concrete in the past decade, including the pool and aquatic facility at Denison University.

Igel works in a variety of sectors, including commercial, institutional, manufacturing and warehouses. While the company used to do more private work, since 2008 business has shifted more into the public sector, Igel noted, mostly because less private work is available due to the economy.

“Every contractor wants to find a better way of doing things,” Igel said of his company’s history of trying new technology. Igel Co. was an early adopter of radio- dispatched equipment and GPS mapping, for example. For nearly six decades, one of Igel Co.’s partners in keeping equipment up to date has been Columbus Equipment Company.

“My father was good friends with Joe and Bill Early, and Columbus Equipment was a Grove Crane distributor,” Igel recalled. Igel Co. was an early user of cranes as a tool for construction starting in the 1940s, and it became such a well-known customer that manufacturers would seek the company’s opinion on crane design. “We were a very large crane purchaser and rental house in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. There were a lot of engineering developments in those years. The Grove people would come with Mr. Early, and they and my dad would talk about how they could improve their product.”

In the mid 1980s, after Columbus Equipment became a Komatsu distributor, Igel Co. made a commitment to buy Komatsu excavators, “and that commitment still applies today,” Igel said. “I remember talking to my dad about it, and our relationship with Columbus Equipment Company helped us to decide to buy Komatsu.” 

Back then, Komatsu was not a well-known brand, and purchasing the excavators was a bit of a leap of faith. Today, Igel has 25 Komatsu excavators in its fleet, ranging from the PC35 to the PC800 “and just about everything in between,” said Fleet Manager Brian Ganson.

The machines have certainly proven themselves as reliable over the years. “We have had very few problems with them,” Ganson noted. “Our operators like how smooth the excavators are. They like the power and the speed.” But today, as it was in the 1980s, dependable service from Columbus Equipment Company is a key reason Igel continues to purchase Komatsu equipment.

“Columbus Equipment’s service is second to none. They have taken parts off of machines sitting in the sales yard to get us up and running. You are not going to get very many dealers to pull a computer out of a new machine to put it on my machine to get it going for me,” Ganson said. 

Igel has a staff of 10 mechanics, but it relies on Columbus Equipment for “warranty repairs and some of the high-tech troubleshooting—their technicians are very knowledgeable,” Ganson observed. The dealership’s parts support is equally reliable, he said, and that’s important because “downtime costs money.”

John Igel agrees that the quality of support from Columbus Equipment is a deciding factor in selecting equipment. “The specs on products from different manufacturers are really close. What makes the difference is the service that the dealership provides, and how they treat you when things don’t go so right. We’ve taken the long view on that, and that is one reason we are happy to do business with Columbus Equipment Company.”

The management team at Igel includes descendants—John, George Igel V, and Joe Igel Jr.—of the founder. With between 200 and 300 employees, Igel continues its commitment to the Columbus area and has been involved in building local landmarks such as Nationwide Arena, as well as doing site work on industrial and commercial complexes throughout the area. Most of the company’s work is within a 100-mile radius of the city.

While the founding Igel might not be familiar with some of the services the company now offers—GPS grading, dynamic compaction, wetlands development, LEED-certified employees—he would recognize that the company has followed the example he set. Igel Co. is using today’s technology to ensure the project is completed as quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively for the customer as possible.

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