“My dad was pretty easy to get along with, but he had pretty high expectations,” says Scott Bergkamp, the company’s current President. “I remember him with an old John Deere scraper and a stopwatch, trying to get the work done two seconds faster… He honed in on being more efficient.”
Scott has worked with the firm for more than 40 years. He started running a dozer in seventh grade and a scraper in eighth grade and later earned a degree in business management. He now runs the company, and is still moving dirt, just like his father.
The company has grown exponentially over the years. Bob Bergkamp Construction Co. works throughout the Midwest and travels to other states including Arkansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma. The company employs about 150 people and works with various departments of transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on industrial sites and railroads, performs demolition and clearing, and operates five quarries. Work is plentiful and private money remains strong. “It’s a high-risk, low-return, capital-intensive business,” Scott says. “Some years, you hit home runs, but sometimes you strike out. We have won more than we’ve lost. It helps to be good at a lot of different things,”
“All market segments seem to be firing hard right now,” adds Chris Snook, CEO, a grandson of the founder and Scott’s nephew. Snook began working at the company in the shop at age 10 and worked in the field during high school.
Bob Bergkamp Construction Co. broke ground in spring 2021 on Highway K-14 and is approximately halfway complete on the $83 million project.
The work takes place in Reno and Rice counties and includes construction of five overpasses; 10 bridges, including a railroad bridge; 30 box culverts; three diamond interchanges; and two lanes with 8-foot shoulders on both sides. About 8 miles are under construction in each county. Bob Bergkamp Construction Co. has subcontracted the bridge construction to Dondlinger Construction of Wichita and King Construction of Hesston, Kansas.
The new alignment replaces the existing one, which was designed in 1919, and offers faster highway travel – particularly for the truck traffic. Motorists will no longer pass through the communities of Nickerson and Sterling, as the road will run from east of Nickerson to north of Sterling.
Crews are removing the dirt and sand from four 25-acre borrow pits, which were strategically placed by having one at each end of the project and two spaced between them to make it more cost effective. “We dug about 10 to 12 feet deep with excavators and opened up a big chunk of the pond and then started in with the dredge and pumping,” says Loren Schroeder, Project Manager for Bob Bergkamp Construction Co.
A refurbished dredge, which is pumping sand to 50 feet deep, puts out about 5,000 cubic yards of sand during each of the two shifts. The water table is 5 to 10 feet deep, below a layer of clay. Beneath the water is a layer of sand. The company chose to go deep, rather than wide.
“You either go deep or you buy a lot of land to go shallow,” says Schroeder. “We go as deep as we can in the borrow pits, but the water rights dictate how much surface area we will need.”
Michael Brown, Assistant Project Manager for Bob Bergkamp Construction Co., credits the company’s success in securing the project to its ability to find land with water rights. “That is what made us the most competitive on this project, to get the dredge with minimal borrow pits,” Brown says. “Scott had worked in this area before and knew a lot of the farmers in the area. We were able to secure rights before the bid.”
The pits will fill with clean, clear water and become lakes once the construction is finished. Bob Bergkamp Construction Co. plans to grade the slopes and add a berm. “It will be a really nice lake when we are done,” Schroeder says. “It might be a nice fishing hole.”
“You can do just about anything with the right piece of equipment,” says Scott. “We try to get the right piece of equipment in the right place with the right people.”
Much of Bob Bergkamp Construction Co.’s heavy machinery still comes from Foley Equipment. Founded more than 80 years ago, the Caterpillar dealer operates 15 offices in Kansas and Missouri and employs more than 1,000 people.
Bob Bergkamp Construction Co. is using a combination of excavators, graders, scrapers, articulated trucks, and other equipment on this project. Although the company has two mechanics on site continually, “Foley sends technicians quickly as needed and does a good job,” Schroeder says.
Many of the heavy machinery pieces are equipped with GPS and use total stations. Snook adds that Bob Bergkamp Construction Co. was one of the first in the area to employ GPS technology and stringless grading.
“If it is the most efficient way to do it,” says Scott. “We are going to use that technology and go all in on it. Technology enhances the operators’ skill. It’s not a substitute for skill.”
“We like challenging projects,” says Scott. “We have fun doing what we do.”