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Staying Closer to Home, Focusing on Roadwork Pays Off for Baker & Company Construction LLC

Baker & Company Construction LLC Operator Darryl McKinney pushes dirt with a Komatsu D61PXi-24 intelligent Machine Control (iMC) Dozer with integrated GPS grade control.
Baker & Company Construction LLC Operator Darryl McKinney pushes dirt with a Komatsu D61PXi-24 intelligent Machine Control (iMC) Dozer with integrated GPS grade control.
Brad Baker, P.E., President, Baker & Company Construction LLC
Brad Baker, P.E., President, Baker & Company Construction LLC
Seth Houston, Project Manager and Estimator
Seth Houston, Project Manager and Estimator
With a Komatsu PC360LC-11 Excavator, an operator with Baker & Company Construction LLC loads a Komatsu HM300 Articulated Haul Truck.
With a Komatsu PC360LC-11 Excavator, an operator with Baker & Company Construction LLC loads a Komatsu HM300 Articulated Haul Truck.
Operator Darryl McKinney
Operator Darryl McKinney
(Left to right) Baker & Company Construction LLC team members Brad Baker, Cassidy Clark, Meredith Houston, and Seth Houston meet with Kirby-Smith Machinery Inc.’s Jordan Washam and Craig Doran.
(Left to right) Baker & Company Construction LLC team members Brad Baker, Cassidy Clark, Meredith Houston, and Seth Houston meet with Kirby-Smith Machinery Inc.’s Jordan Washam and Craig Doran.
Operator Joshua Cooper cuts grade on a road project in Tyler, Texas, with a Komatsu D51PXi-24 iMC Dozer.
Operator Joshua Cooper cuts grade on a road project in Tyler, Texas, with a Komatsu D51PXi-24 iMC Dozer.
Operator Joshua Cooper
Operator Joshua Cooper
Baker & Company Construction LLC is currently in the midst of the largest state contract the firm has ever done. Throughout 2023 it will widen shoulders and install structures and culverts as part of the safety improvements on an approximately 7-mile stretch of FM 859 in Van Zandt County, Texas.

“The amount of dirt to be moved is fairly small, only about 6,000 yards, but there is 4,000 feet of drainage pipe to lay and over 200 safety end treatments to set,” said President Brad Baker. “There’s probably over 100 rock and asphalt driveways that we’ll be repairing and two bridge-class culverts that a subcontractor will extend for us. The scope of work fits us really well.”

Baker & Company Construction crews expect to be on the $3.8 million job for most of 2023, in addition to about nine other projects. Based in Tyler, Texas, the firm focuses on roadwork with projects typically ranging in size from $500,000 to $5 million.

“We usually have about four active jobs that are real heavy and another four or five that are waiting on a punch list, or we’ll have another subcontractor on them that we’re overseeing,” said Baker. “We’re either reconstructing existing roads or we’re building brand new streets that are part of a subdivision. We do the earthmoving, soil stabilization, rock placement, and we install all the drainage ourselves and all the storm sewer pipe. That’s what we do project to project.”

Baker & Company Construction hires subcontractors to lay asphalt and concrete.

Diversification is Essential
Baker & Company Construction works across multiple sectors, including governmental and private.
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“It doesn’t matter whether we start with a bare tract of land or have to break or mix up an old road and build it back,” said Baker. “Our experience allows us to do either job equally well. The only real difference to us is that the Texas Department of Transportation and municipal jobs are hard bid, and the private ones are basically done for a mix of repeat customers who have come to trust us and new customers who have reached out to us because of our reputation. No matter what, we concentrate on delivering a quality finished product while meeting deadlines and budgets.”

Baker & Company Construction has built a long list of satisfied customers during the past six years. Baker formed the company with a couple of partners in 2016. Three years later, he bought them out and removed their names from the company moniker.

“There was a lot of emphasis placed on design-build early on, and we followed the work wherever it took us,” recalled Baker. “We had projects in Tennessee, New Mexico and West Texas and did everything from pre-engineered metal buildings to oil and gas projects to building railroad spurs. It got to be a grind being out of town so much. We made a conscious effort to stay close to home and concentrate on roadwork within 50 to 60 miles of our home office in Tyler.”

Diversification within the roadwork market was also important to Baker.

“We didn’t want to just concentrate on one aspect such as private,” said Baker. “We intentionally started to go after public works projects a few years ago. It’s essential that we do not have all our eggs in one basket, so if one market goes down, you can easily move into another. Fortunately, they have all been fairly good recently.”

Baker credits his approximately 25 employees for their roles in Baker & Company Construction’s success.

“They are a tight-knit group that is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, whether it’s laying pipe or running equipment,” Baker said. “I believe they are the best in the business.”

New iMC Dozers Reduce Time, Costs
In its earliest days, Baker & Company Construction mainly rented equipment, but during the last few years, it began purchasing equipment from Kirby-Smith Machinery Inc. (KSM), including its new Komatsu D51PXi-24 and D61PXi-24 intelligent Machine Control (iMC) dozers with factory-integrated GPS grade control.

“Our introduction came from a demonstration where we compared an iMC dozer and a competitive model with an aftermarket system,” Baker said, noting that he chose PX models because they have wider tracks and lower ground pressure, which is ideal for working in sand and soft clay. “Komatsu was the clear winner. It was smooth where the other brand was jerky, and the fact that there are no masts or cables to deal with made it a no-brainer.

“We now have four iMC dozers that we rely heavily on from stripping to finish grade on every single job. Our productivity is higher, and our costs are reduced because those dozers allow us to move material once and more efficiently. Operators know exactly where to place, cut and grade because the plans are in the dozer, and it’s automatically doing what’s needed in relation to reaching finished elevation. They have cut our mass grading time by roughly 50 percent.”

In addition to iMC dozers, Baker & Company Construction uses Komatsu excavators for a variety of tasks such as clearing, installing pipe and structures, and loading Komatsu articulated haul trucks.

“They are great all-around machines that give us good production,” said Baker. “Like the dozers, they are dependable, and that’s important to us. We rented a lot of another brand of equipment, and over time, I could see that it wasn’t giving us the value for the price, and it wasn’t as technically advanced as Komatsu. From a service standpoint, I wasn’t satisfied either.” Baker continued, “Kirby-Smith has been outstanding in all aspects. They know how to match the machines to our needs, and they stand behind them with outstanding support. It’s a great combination.”

KSM Territory Manager Craig Doran assisted Baker & Company Construction with its recent purchases. Product Support Sales Representative (PSSR) Jordan Washam helped Baker & Company Construction set up a My Komatsu account, so the firm could track machine data with Komtrax.

“I get a report every morning with information about the machines that I can use to better manage our fleet,” said Project Manager/Estimator Seth Houston, who builds 3D models for the iMC dozers. “It gives us the ability to see trends and adjust things faster. For example, if idle time is high, we can address that right away and reduce our fuel usage. Right now, that’s extremely important. Using Komtrax has definitely increased our efficiency.”

Looking Far Ahead
Baker is not opposed to growth, but he’s not necessarily seeking it either. He said his focus is on stability.

“There’s nothing really appealing to me about being big,” Baker said. “Growing too fast can create problems and headaches, and in most cases, service and quality suffer. I’m committed to not letting that happen. I want to concentrate on continuing to give our customers the best service possible.”

Baker added, “If times get tough, and we need to, we may look at self-performing more aspects of a project. For now, that’s not an issue, and honestly, I hope it never is. We want to maintain those strategic partnerships with our subcontractors. I’m not in this for just the now. I’m taking a very long-term view.”

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