“Komatsu makes a machine that is dependable day in and day out”
Since 1977, Brad Cole has worked diligently to grow his successful Carrollton, Ga., company. He started by taking right-of-way clearing jobs and grading substations with a three-person crew, and today he deploys nearly 300 employees to complete intricate industrial site-development projects. While that growth is a testament to the company’s reputation, Cole continues to manage his firm the same way he did 40 years ago.
“Anyone who thinks the heavy civil construction business is easy, probably has never worked in this business,” suggested Cole. “When we first started, we took any job we could get our hands on. Today, we have some solid relationships with larger customers and stay consistently busy, but we don’t take anything for granted. We work hard each day to deliver a quality product for our customers.”
Brad Cole Construction carries out projects for various companies throughout the Southeast, specializing in building earthen dams. The company’s service list also includes the construction of ash ponds and landfill cells, in addition to some light work for the department of transportation.
“Brad Cole Construction can handle anything that our customers need related to heavy civil construction,” noted Cole. “We are licensed in 10 states, where we perform work for power companies as well as industrial and commercial clients. We are also known as one of the premier builders of high hazard earthen dams in the Southeastern United States.”
His business has grown steadily for the last four decades, at levels that surpassed even Cole’s ambitions. He lists two factors for the firm’s success today: employees and safety.
“We pride ourselves on being one of the most reliable, dependable and capable sitedevelopment contractors in the region,” said Cole. “I am confident with any job we take that our employees can complete it in a professional manner. We have great people here who know what they are doing.
“Another thing that sets us apart is our dedication to safety,” he added. “To be involved with power company projects, you must have an impeccable safety record, which we have. Safety is our top value. We like to say that we don’t have a safety program – we have a safety culture. It’s a livelihood for us, and we’re proud of that.”
For 10 consecutive years, Brad Cole Construction has been the only contractor in the Southern Company energy system to have earned the Triangle Safety Award, given annually by Southern Company to contractors with at least 100,000 man-hours and zero safety incidents.
Earthen dam projects
Currently, the firm is in the midst of one of its largest and most challenging efforts to date, a massive earthen dam and reservoir in Paulding County, Ga. Constructing the 125-foot-tall dam, which is 800-feet wide at its base and 30-feet wide at the top, has been quite an undertaking.
“When we arrived at the site, it was forest land,” recalled Cole. “We had to clear 600 acres of trees. Then we began excavation. We excavated approximately 40 feet and removed almost a quarter-million yards of material for the left abutment and another 200,000 yards for the right abutment. We then used that material to build up the embankments. In addition, we are removing approximately 8,000 to 10,000 yards of material per day from within a 350-acre pool.”
Brad Cole Construction’s next step was building the structure’s unique drainage features. The dam includes a complicated blanket drain that picks up seepage and routes it to various outlet pipes.
“The blanket drain is made of several layers of material stacked on top of each other,” explained Cole. “It has a nine-inch layer of sand topped by a nine-inch layer of #89 stone, covered with a 24-inch layer of #57 stone. On top of that is another nine-inch layer of stone and an additional nine-inch layer of sand. When finished, the drain will consume nearly 100,000 tons of aggregate material.”
The company is installing a chimney drain that is a four-foot wide trench running from the residual soil to water elevation, which collects any seepage and conducts it away from the dam. The two-and-a-half year project, which began in July 2016, is the type of job on which Brad Cole Construction has built its reputation.
“This is a completely earthen dam, but it requires more than pushing dirt around; it’s very intricate,” detailed Cole. “This is a specialty contract, and we had a six-month prequalification process just to be approved to bid on it. There is a great deal to account for on this dam, and we are set up to do it the right way. We’ve done roughly 25 dams that were similar, but this one is easily the biggest.”
Cole noted that the project involves some specialized items which other companies handle. North Georgia Concrete built a concrete intake tower, and Nicholson constructed a grout curtain/cutoff wall.
To complete large projects, Brad Cole Construction needs equipment and a distributor it can rely on. That’s why the firm turns to Komatsu equipment from Tractor & Equipment Company (TEC) and Calhoun Branch Manager Andrew Pettit.
“Everyone we’ve worked with at TEC treats us right,” noted Cole. “They are honest, and they bend over backward to help. We’ve been buying Komatsu equipment from TEC from the time they started selling it. Our first Sales Rep, Tommy Howell, was great, and Andrew continues to be there for us. We consider them a strategic partner.”
That relationship has led to Komatsu machines becoming stalwarts of Brad Cole Construction’s fleet. The company has several excavators ranging from a PC290LC to a PC490LC, HD465 rigid-frame trucks, as well as HM400 articulated trucks and D61 dozers.
“Komatsu makes a machine that is dependable day in and day out,” said Superintendent Ricky Miller. “Komatsu equipment is very safe and has a lot of the creature comforts in the cab that our operators really like. We know what we are going to get with Komatsu, and we trust TEC will be there to support the machines.”
Recently, Brad Cole Construction upgraded its fleet and added several Komatsu intelligent Machine Control pieces – PC490LCi excavators and D61PXi dozers. The machines feature integrated GPS technology and semi-automated machine control without the masts and cables of aftermarket GPS systems.
“We’ve been highly impressed with the intelligent Machine Control equipment,” said Senior Project Manager Jason Hoffman. “There are a lot of advantages. Not having the masts and cables saves us time and money. With the deletion of external components, we don’t have to take the time to install/uninstall, and we also have a reduced risk of theft or damage to the components. We are able to use our crews more efficiently and safely by not needing a man on the ground. Jobsite safety is also improved due to eliminating the need for operators to climb around on the machine dealing with GPS components.”
The operation of the machines has been noteworthy as well.
“I’ve been very pleased with how you can pull a slope in the PC490LCi,” shared Hoffman. “The technology eliminates overexcavation, as well as the need for grade stakes. We’re on-grade all the time with the intelligent Machine Control pieces. We have the ability to put inexperienced operators in the excavator and make them superstars because of this technology.”
At age 67, Cole remains active in the firm’s day-to-day activities, but plans for his succession are beginning to take shape. Ron Cryer was named President of Brad Cole Construction earlier this year. Wade Douthit, Cole’s son-in-law, is Director of Corporate Operations, and Cole’s wife of 45 years, Melissa, is Secretary/Treasurer.
“Our future is really bright,” predicted Cole. “We have plans in place to go on for another 40 years, hopefully. I think we’re set up to continue to succeed as a company with our staff and the reputation we’ve earned.”