“The WA200 is the perfect size”
When most people picture San Diego County they think of an idyllic setting on a Pacific Ocean beach with a clear blue sky and warm temperatures 365 days a year. The unpredictable weather and other natural elements that haunt contractors across the country don’t seem to exist in this postcard-worthy area. While the San Diego Tourism Authority would approve of that description, El Cajon-based KTA Construction, Inc., President Mike Henderson knows that even the best climates come with challenges.
“Every job we handle has a unique element to it,” explained Henderson. “We have to protect against wildfires and mud slides and take the ocean’s tides into consideration as well as the associated conservation regulations. Some of our jobsites are in the mountains while others are on a beach; and yes, it rains. For the most part, the weather is great here, but we still have some interesting circumstances.”
Fortunately for customers in the region, KTA Construction – named after Henderson’s three children – Kristina, Troy and Alicia – has navigated those conditions successfully since 1980.
“We started with utilities for residential, tract-home projects,” he recalled. “We handled the installation of sewer, water, storm-drain lines and all related structures. That has been the main focus throughout our history, but we’ve progressed to agency and public works-type jobs, which have become a high percentage of our time today.”
A family affair
The staff has also grown to accommodate the increased workload. After starting with seven employees, KTA Construction has nearly 60 today, including Henderson’s children, who are each associated with the company to varying degrees.
“It’s hard to escape the gravitational pull of the construction industry,” joked Henderson. “Troy is a foreman who runs some of our biggest jobs, and he is an excellent operator. Alicia works part time in the office. While Kristina isn’t involved directly, she is married to a subcontractor we often work with.”
The family feel also extends to the rest of the staff, like Superintendent Kenny Anderson, who has been with KTA Construction in some capacity since he was 14. Today, his daughter Jessica works for the company as well; she is a project manager.
“Kenny’s dad used to work on my boat,” noted Henderson. “One day, instead of charging me for a repair, he asked me to take Kenny skiing. It was a perfect match, and Kenny’s been like a big brother to my kids ever since. He’s held about every title a person could have here. In fact, some people thought he ran the company because of his initials.”
It’s long-tenured employees who enable KTA Construction to stand out from the competition.
“We have people, in addition to Kenny, who have been here for more than 20 years,” said Henderson. “We treat them well, and we’re stronger because of that. Our staff has a wealth of knowledge to pull from when they are on a job, which makes a huge difference.”
Henderson didn’t start KTA Construction to collect trophies and plaques, however the company has received numerous accolades. The firm has earned eight American Public Works Awards (APWA), including three in 2017.
“Our goal is to do quality work on every project,” declared Henderson. “I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to do that consistently.”
The Avenida De La Playa project – an 18-foot wide, by 5-foot tall, by 600-foot long box-culvert replacement for the City of San Diego – was KTA Construction’s most recent award-winning endeavor. To complete the six-month, $5 million project that stretched from the heart of downtown La Jolla to the Pacific Ocean, the company called on all of its expertise.
“We negotiated a lot of factors in a short time,” stated Henderson. “There was a hard deadline, so we worked rain or shine – and there was quite a bit of rain, since it was an El Niño year. We also accommodated the businesses, traffic and residents of La Jolla and worked around the ocean’s tides. At times, we operated around the clock to complete the project.”
In addition to the size and elements associated with the Avenida De La Playa job, the project received intense public scrutiny.
“The previous structure failed after just two years of service because of the pressure from rain and the ocean,” Henderson explained. “It was a mess. The 40,000-pound tops of the culvert were ripped off, and the street above it caved in. Clearly, people weren’t very happy about that, so there was a lot of negativity around the job before we started. It was the most high-profile project that we have done.”
Fortunately, KTA Construction was able to assure area residents and business owners quickly that the endeavor would succeed.
“Taking care of this job was a huge feather in our cap,” shared Henderson. “The City of San Diego was ecstatic that we were able to deliver it on time and under budget. We could only have done it with our experienced and dedicated crew.”
33 years of Komatsu
When KTA Construction rolls up to a jobsite, one thing is certain, it has its Komatsu fleet in tow. Considering the company has worked with Clairemont Equipment since 1985, it’s clear that Komatsu is KTA Construction’s predominant equipment brand.
“We rarely use anything other than Komatsu because it’s the best,” declared Henderson. “In the beginning, we rented quite a bit, but as we grew, we needed our own fleet. After demoing multiple brands, Komatsu was the clear winner, and that remains the case to this day. We routinely get tens of thousands of hours of production from our Komatsus. Plus, Clairemont is amazing to work with. We’ve been with them for 33 years for a reason – we trust them.”
KTA Construction’s go-to machines are tight-tail-swing excavators and smaller wheel loaders for their ability to complete jobs in the tight spaces where the company typically works.
“We have everything from skid steers to 80,000-pound excavators from Clairemont, and we especially appreciate our Komatsu compact utility machines,” offered Henderson. “They are nimble and versatile. We can take them to a site and get everything done.”
KTA Construction added two more utility pieces this year when it purchased a PC238USLC excavator and a WA200PZ wheel loader.
“The PC238 is great because we can get into a spot, and our operators don’t have to worry about hitting something with the machine’s back end, because there isn’t one,” stated Henderson. “The WA200 is the perfect size. We may only have 40 feet of space to work with on a job, and the WA200 can get into those areas and be productive.”
For KTA Construction, the combination of Clairemont and Komatsu is a special one.
“Komatsu makes a great machine, and Clairemont goes above and beyond for us,” shared Henderson. “Clairemont will drop everything to help out, and that makes a big difference. We value the relationship. Even after more than three decades, they are still committed to earning our business.”