“Komatsu excavators have excellent hydraulic power”
When brothers Joel and Jonathan Gentry teamed up with Chad Yates and founded Benchmark Civil Construction in 2010, they already had customers ready to hire them. “They knew us from our previous employer and liked the quality of our work,” said Jonathan. “It gave us an immediate customer base and a fast start. We still service many of them. In fact, approximately 90 percent of our projects are for repeat customers.”
The trio leveraged their reputation and quickly built upon it. Within a few years, they grew from a three-man start-up to a multi-faceted enterprise that offers a full complement of earthwork-related services in and around the Napa Valley. Based in the heart of California’s wine country, Benchmark caters to the local economy.
“Private projects make up the bulk of our work load, including site work for vineyards,” said Jonathan. “If a builder wants a wine cave, we will cut the portal entrance into the hillside, then turn over the tunneling to another contractor.”
In addition to vineyards, a significant portion of Benchmark Construction’s work is one-off custom home sites for builders and developers. The firm performs mass and fine grading; installs underground lines and associated structures for water, storm, sewer, gas and electric; and puts in septic systems.
“We also handle asphalt paving for streets, driveways and parking lots, including full construction, overlays, patching and chip sealing,” said Jonathan. “Our customers like that we provide multiple services. They also appreciate our willingness to collaborate with them to value engineer, if that’s what they want.”
Sold on Komatsu tight-tail-swing excavators
Benchmark Civil Construction relies heavily on Komatsu tight-tail-swing excavators, including its original PC78US, which was purchased before the owners started the company. “That machine sold us on Komatsu right away, and continues to reinforce our decision,” Jonathan recalled. “Not long ago, I was using it to dig an irrigation line on a hillside for a winery and had to move a large boulder. Although the 10-year-old PC78 wouldn’t pick it up, it could grab and drag it out of the way. A few days later I had to move it again, but a practically new, comparable-size, competitive excavator wouldn’t budge the rock.”
Benchmark also uses PC88MR, PC138USLC and PC228USLC models. “Across the board, we get excellent production, both in limited-space digs and in open areas,” Jonathan emphasized. “The Komatsu excavators have excellent hydraulic power, so we can also run attachments, such as hammers, a grinding wheel and some rock buckets with ripper shanks. We have confidence that they will perform at a high level.”
Benchmark Civil Construction works with Road Machinery Account Manager Jason Ketchum for sales and rentals, and the firm turns to Road Machinery as needed for parts and service. “Dealer support plays a factor in our equipment decisions, and Jason and Road Machinery have always been very responsive,” said Jonathan. “That’s another reason why we continue to use Komatsu excavators.”
Staying in the sweet spot
Benchmark Civil Construction’s project list varies greatly from year to year, depending on the scope of its jobs. What the owners don’t want to change is the company’s size – currently at about 20 employees.
“We have tried bigger and found that it wasn’t better,” said Jonathan. “Our commitment to customers and being able to ensure that we continue to give them outstanding service is very important to us. We found our sweet spot and plan to stay there.”