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McCullough Excavation Prepares a Major New Subdivision in Wichita

by: D.L. Anscombe
A Komatsu PC490LC-11 Excavator is used at the Taliesin jobsite.
A Komatsu PC490LC-11 Excavator is used at the Taliesin jobsite.
Water and sewer contractor McCullough Excavation, in Wichita, Kansas, is working at Taliesin, a master-planned residential community in West Wichita.

Taliesin, about 15 miles from downtown Wichita, features nearly 200 home sites, a clubhouse, an indoor gym, soccer fields, a dog park, walking trails, a swimming pool, and other entertainment options for the entire family.

McCullough Excavation has completed the sewer mains and is now working on a lift station adjacent to the development for the City of Wichita. The company subcontracted the directional drilling.

The launch pit was 27 feet deep, and the lift station will be 34 feet deep. The entire subdivision’s sewer lines gravity drain to the lift station. When the tank starts to fill, it pumps the sewage about 2,500 feet to a city sewer main.

Drilling subcontractor Brad Atkinson of Atkinson Road Boring Inc. in Derby, Kansas, performed a 390-foot pilot bore for the sewer line. The auger is set up on a track system which must be level so the accuracy of the bore is ensured.

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“You have to be accurate, because sewage only flows downhill,” Atkinson says. “After which, a laser at the end of the tube was visible through the entire length of the bore.”

McCullough Excavating will push the sewer line through a steel casing within the bored space and then fill with sand around the pipe.

The Right Equipment for the Job
McCullough Excavation relies on Komatsu heavy equipment purchased from Berry Tractor & Equipment Co. in Wichita. Berry Tractor – a subsidiary of Berry Companies Inc. – has four locations in Kansas and Missouri and is a full-line heavy construction dealership, which has served its markets since 1957. The company rents and sells new and pre-owned equipment. Walter Berry, son of company founder Fred Berry, now serves as President and CEO of Berry Companies Inc. Walter’s son Jon Berry serves as Division President of Berry Tractor.

“We have a fantastic relationship with Berry Tractor,” says Jess McCullough. The equipment dealership “has always been responsive to our needs.”

McCullough Excavation has been purchasing from Berry since the early 1990s, shortly after the equipment company began carrying Komatsu Construction products. McCullough Excavation has built an extensive fleet that is primarily comprised of Komatsu iron.

“We fell in love with Komatsu machines,” says Ryan McCullough, Vice President of McCullough Excavation. “Not just Berry’s service, which is a huge plus.”

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Ryan McCullough praised Berry Tractor’s service staff members for assisting with equipment issues without having to take the equipment to the shop. The service staff at Berry Tractor can walk McCullough Excavation through troubleshooting problems without always having to bring the machinery into a repair center.

At the Taliesin project, McCullough Excavation is using Komatsu PC228USLC-8 Hydraulic Excavators, Komatsu PC490LC-11 Hydraulic Excavators, a Komatsu WA270-8 Wheel Loader, and a Komatsu WA320-7 Wheel Loader.

A Company Evolution
Jess McCullough founded McCullough Excavation in 1985 as a residential sewer-service contractor. He had experience in home building and recognized an opportunity for a more niche business.

McCullough Excavation has grown and evolved into a major water and sewer contractor in the Wichita region. The company employs about 50 people, including Jess’s wife, Patty, a CPA and accountant for the firm.

“That’s been invaluable – growing a business and having someone who understands finance,” says Jess McCullough. “She does a great job.”

The company approaches scheduling and project management differently than some contractors, allowing it to start jobs sooner and complete them with fewer mistakes and change orders than its competitors. The company strives to do everything possible and ensure projects are a success for all parties involved. Municipal projects comprise about half of the company’s work.

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“That’s our thing – we keep everyone happy,” Jess McCullough says. “Customer service is our greatest asset.”

After Jess McCullough’s son, Ryan, joined the company about 10 years ago, revenues increased by more than 40 percent. In 2019, the company set a record for market share, volume, and profitability. When the numbers are final for 2020, McCullough Excavation expects this past year will prove even more successful.

“It was the economy improving and getting more aggressive on the types of projects we chase,” Ryan McCullough says. “I love working with my dad. There are hardly any conflicts. We are both easy going.”

Ryan McCullough plans to continue that growth by tackling even larger projects, such as deep sewer work. “Any job, there is a price we can do it for,” Ryan McCullough adds.

McCullough Excavation has taken extra precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, by enforcing that only one driver be in a truck at a time and by providing the necessary personal protective equipment to make sure everyone stays as safe and healthy as possible.

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Ryan McCullough aims for the day when he can oversee projects and the company, without performing the day-to-day work. He’d like for the supervisors and estimators to do more of the hands-on activities, so he can focus on the future and the bigger picture.

“I love it and really enjoy what we are doing,” Ryan McCullough says. “There is something different every day, constantly solving and figuring things out.”

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