Komatsu make customers’ dream projects possible
Lakes, streams and boulders provide some of the most beautiful backdrops in nature, and properties with these exclusive features are in demand, but often difficult to find. Waters Edge, a custom landscaping company in Oakley, Utah, is helping alleviate that problem by bringing these features to its customers’ backyards, literally.
“We design and create waterfalls, ponds, streams and other specialty rock formations, with a focus on residential projects,” explained Waters Edge President Jon Wiberg. “The best compliment we can get is for someone to say that our work looks like it’s always been there.”
The idea for Waters Edge was born in 1996. The company focused primarily on landscape maintenance, but also began creating small water features for some clients. After a while, Jon decided that he liked one aspect of the job more than the other.
“The water projects were a lot more rewarding for me, so I decided to pursue them,” said Jon. “The maintenance business was wearing me down. Every call I took was someone’s problem. I wanted to do something that was more artistic and specialized, so I started Waters Edge.”
In 2000, he turned to his family for assistance. His wife, Jennifer, joined the staff as Vice President. He also enlisted his younger brother, Joe, to help with the creative side of the business. Today, Joe is a partner in Waters Edge, and Jon credits him with crafting natural-looking results.
“I joined the company when I was 16, and Jon was still doing maintenance,” recalled Joe. “I always liked to draw and sketch, so when he decided to go in this direction, I was all in. Once you build and design a waterfall, you’re never going back to cutting grass.”
Today, Waters Edge is one of the area’s most sought-after companies for landscape design, completing projects in Utah and surrounding states. Its award-winning work has been featured in Architectural Digest and on television shows, but Jon says that word-of-mouth has been the company’s best form of advertising.
“About 90 percent of our work is for repeat business or referrals,” he said. “Our customers appreciate that we are able to create something unique and private for them, and they have been awesome at spreading the word about us.”
Roughly 80 percent of the company’s portfolio is residential, and that’s by design. Waters Edge chooses to focus on those assignments for the creative freedom they allow. Jon says he has turned down some larger commercial jobs because the landscaping plans are usually fully realized by the time his company is invited to participate.
“We pursue work that is creative and that we will enjoy,” he explained. “Looking at a site and deciding what to do, where rocks should go and how a stream should flow, is the artistic part. That’s what excites us. If the plan is already on paper, that takes the fun out of it.”
One of the main goals for Waters Edge is for no one to know that the company was ever there once the job is completed. Jon and his team put a great deal of thought into how a customer’s project fits in its surroundings so that it looks natural.
“Most of our customers want to enhance the nature around them,” said Jon. “We want it to look like what we create has always been there. If we put in a retaining wall, we try to accomplish that with rock structures. If we are building a stream, we want it to flow like a real stream would.”
The majority of Waters Edge’s work occurs in the mountains, so selecting and placing boulders – some of which can weigh as much as 60,000 pounds – in a way that they appear natural is a specialty of Waters Edge.
“We don’t just take a bunch of rocks and dump them,” Jon explained. “Joe and I will pick boulders specifically for jobs and decide how each should sit, which side should face out and what kind of stain or coating to use to make sure it always looks its best. After that, we will use concrete or anchors for the rocks to ensure that they are secure. We are able to control all the material involved from start to finish. It gives us a consistent product, and we think that’s what sets us apart.”
The material that Waters Edge uses serves as more than blissful ambiance. It also has a functional purpose.
“One boulder can change the entire flow of a stream,” explained Joe. “We may use it to direct the stream, but also to control the speed, which affects the sound level of a waterfall. The boulders look good, but they are also important to the overall working of a project.”
Waters Edge put all of its artistic and engineering knowledge to the test on a recent two-year venture, a master-planned community called Daybreak, which features a residential neighborhood built around a lake that was created in South Jordan. The company fashioned streams that flow from the nearby mountains into the lake and landscaped the area around the dock. It also constructed a 15-foot climbing wall.
On one of its more intricate residential contracts, Waters Edge designed a stream that feeds a waterfall and a trout pond. The site also included a 15-foot retaining wall and a BioNova system for a 130- by 40-foot natural swimming pool, one of the largest in the nation.
“This isn’t something that you see everyday,” said Jon. “We placed all the rocks for the pool so it looks natural, just like something you’d see in a canyon. Usually these pools are made with gunite or fiberglass, but we used concrete, a liner and rocks to give it an authentic feel.”
Equipment grows with projects
When Jon started Waters Edge, he needed to trade in his lawn mowers for some heavier equipment. To do that, he turned to Komatsu Equipment Company (KEC) and Territory Sales Manager Garin Humphrey. Waters Edge has purchased a dozen Komatsu excavators, ranging from a PC27MR-3 to a PC330LC.
“Our first pieces were the Komatsu compact excavators, and they are awesome for our smaller jobs,” recalled Jon. “However, as our company grew, so did the size of the assignments, so we required bigger machines. Most of our projects involve boulders in the 20,000-pound range, so we needed machines that can handle those. Our Komatsu excavators make it possible to do the jobs our customers dream up.”
The two most popular excavators in Waters Edge’s fleet are its Komatsu PC138USLC-10 excavator and PC228USLC-8. These tight-tail-swing excavators allow the company to operate in tight spaces while maintaining the ability to maneuver with the boulders.
“We work in close quarters, usually around trees or an existing house, so being able to turn around and pick up rocks and not worry about hitting anything is fantastic,” shared Jon. “We don’t sacrifice power for mobility, and the excavators are reliable. We run them 10 hours a day, all season.”
Other important tools for the company are its Rototilt attachments, which are grapples that rotate 360-degrees, also purchased from Humphrey and KEC. Both the PC138USLC-10 and PC228USLC-8 are equipped with Rototilts.
“That attachment is our bread and butter,” noted Jon. “We used to chain or strap a boulder to lift it, then we would have to set it into place manually. With the Rototilt, we can pick up a rock, move it into any position and set it. It increases our efficiency and safety.”
This year, Waters Edge also added PC160LC-8 and PC210LC-11 excavators in addition to a WA100-7 wheel loader, plus several attachments from KEC.
“KEC has been huge for us,” said Jon. “We are able to get whatever equipment we need and having Komatsu assist with the financing has certainly helped. Also, when we need to rent a machine or find a part, Garin gets it for us quickly. It’s a great relationship.”
Focus on quality
Success inevitably leads to growth in any business – and Waters Edge has experienced this first-hand.
“I never thought we would get to this size,” explained Jon. “I just wanted to do something that I enjoyed. Fortunately, customers kept coming up with bigger and better projects, and we were able to grow with them. It’s been very rewarding.”
“Our main focus is on taking jobs that challenge us and keep us interested and excited,” he added. “For what we do, it’s tricky to maintain an exceptional level of quality with too many people involved. My goal isn’t to get bigger; it’s to get better. We want our employees to be happy and excited about what they are doing. I think we’ve done a good job of that so far, and that’s what we’ll focus on for the future.