PC138 “has great power and balance’”
Adam Strubhart always knew he would work in the construction industry, even if his pathway there wasn’t quite linear.
“I love this job; it’s what I was born to do,” said Adam, who is President of Chattanooga-based Alpha Excavating, Inc. “My dad had a skid steer and other smaller pieces of equipment. When I was a teenager, we would do residential side projects together – mainly digging and pouring basements.”
They progressed to a full-time operation in 2006 when Adam’s father, David, started Strubhart Contracting. The young business was thriving until the market collapsed in 2008.
“We were doing 100 houses a year and had four months of work lined up,” recalled Adam. “Then it was all gone overnight. I caught on with some larger companies for a while, but they were out of work too. After a year of that, I had to find something more stable.”
That realization led to a position at Chattanooga Coca-Cola. While he was stocking coolers and loading trailers, Adam always believed that he would be on a construction site again.
“I was there for three years, it was a great position, but it wasn’t for me,” he said. “Then, one day a friend called with the opportunity to return to construction. I went to my boss, turned in my notice and was at a jobsite a week later.”
After a year back in the industry, Adam made another jump and formed a partnership with Jerry Hughes, who owned Landmark Concrete Walls, to start Alpha Excavating in 2013.
“I owe a lot to Jerry,” shared Adam. “I knew a great deal about the job, but he taught me so much related to the business. His mentoring gave me the education and confidence to take the next step. In March 2017, I was ready to start growing and expanding the business, so I bought Jerry out. I still do a lot of work with him, and we have a good relationship.”
Today, Adam owns the company with his wife, Ginny, who is Vice President. The business has seven employees and tackles residential and commercial excavating within a 50-mile radius of Chattanooga.
Growing project list
Adam estimates that Alpha Excavating handles 40 houses a year, providing light grading and excavation services for several area firms.
“We have built a solid reputation with some well-known contractors, which has certainly helped us thrive on the residential side,” noted Adam. “We have really good operators, and that lets us divide and conquer. We can handle multiple projects at one time, which is essential for a small company like ours.”
The firm doesn’t box itself in when it comes to residential assignments either as it handles homes of all sizes. Its largest project to date was a $10 million, 32,000-square-foot home. On average, jobs are in the $500,000-$1 million range.
In addition to residential construction, Alpha Excavating also takes on a handful of larger commercial endeavors each year. This is an area that Adam is aggressively seeking out for the future.
“I’d like to increase the number of commercial projects we do,” he said. “The bid process is cutthroat, so every time we win a bid and complete a job, we earn more credibility and gain additional knowledge. In the future, this will be a very competitive area for us.”
For Alpha Excavating to build its name within the industry, it needs dependable equipment that performs each day at a high level. Komatsu equipment from Power Equipment Company and Sales Rep Heath Smith deliver on all fronts.
“We have several Komatsu pieces from Power Equipment, and they are all great,” noted Adam. “It’s a relationship that started when I was working with Dad. We purchased a used PC75 excavator with a ton of hours on it, and it still performed great. Since then, we’ve been believers in Komatsu.”
Alpha Excavating’s fleet is comprised of three excavators, two of which are Komatsus – a PC45MR and a PC138USLC. Getting a lot of production from those compact pieces is extremely valuable to the firm. It also has a Komatsu D37EX dozer and two Takeuchi skid steers.
“In residential developments, space is limited, so having machines that can fit in there and get the work done is awesome,” said Adam. “The PC45 is very practical for us. I use it to dig footers, and I can load it onto a trailer and tow it with my truck to another customer later the same day. It’s the perfect fit.
“We bring out the PC138 for bigger jobs,” he added. “It can move a lot of dirt in a timely manner. It has great power and balance, and with the tight tail swing, I don’t have to worry about hitting anything behind me.”
Alpha Excavating also rents frequently from Power Equipment when the work requires more muscle. Adam says this strategy allows the growing company to pursue large projects without any worries about long-term payments on machines.
“Right now, we don’t consistently have enough big assignments to justify buying three or four new machines. We may need them for two months for a particular job, and then we’d be stuck trying to figure out how to pay for them after that. Renting provides the opportunity to grow at a pace that works for us.”
In addition to great equipment, Adam appreciates the attention to detail he receives before, during and after the sale from Power Equipment.
“They’re good, honest people,” he remarked. “When I have equipment questions, Heath doesn’t try to pressure me into something that I don’t need. When we rent a machine, it is clean and new – the last one had roughly 10 hours on it. I felt bad stepping in there with my muddy boots. If we need parts or service, they arrive quickly and get the work done. Power Equipment treats us like we’re their most important customer.”
Just scratching the surface
After marking the company’s one-year anniversary this spring, Adam is happy with how things have progressed so far and is very excited for the future.
“We’ve had a good start, and that’s important,” he noted. “We’ve found a niche with footings, grading and basements. Growing is something I can definitely see in our near future, but we’ve a long way to go. I think the market and our customers will determine how we grow and what we move into. As long as we continue to deliver quality results, we’ll be in good shape.”