Site Preparation Becoming More Complex
Mecklenberg County was among the first in North Carolina to enact strict regulations controlling soil runoff from building sites. 'Mecklenberg County has taken the stand that soil is going to stay on your site,' says Chris Anderson. Developers pay up-front to keep runoff to a minimum, saving the city of Charlotte and the county future expenditures for dredging streams and rivers. Such regulations are starting to be enacted across the state, all the way to Raleigh, and during the past year, Anderson Aggregates has been building ditches and settling ponds, and installing silt fence and basins. 'This goes hand-in-hand with clearing land,' Anderson says. 'We couldn't start a job until the silt fence was in, so we got into that, and here we are.'
At the site of a future townhouse development on the outskirts of Charlotte, Chris Anderson points out earthworks and silt fencing erected on the site. A three-foot-tall dike at the low end of the gently sloped property runs along the site parallel to the property line. A riprap-filled drainage opening in the center of the dike allows water to flow out of the low area. Beyond that, a silt fence filters all water flowing from the site. 'This is city logging,' Anderson notes. 'Soil is not going to leave this site.' A CAT 320B equipped with a root rake pulls up and stacks small trees and brush while a front-end loader pushes material into piles awaiting the arrival of Anderson Aggregates' Morbark Model 1300 Tub Grinder in a few days. Even though most of the site will be made level with up to seven feet of fill dirt, Anderson's crew carefully clears the land of trees, roots and brush to prepare the ground for construction.
Anderson points out that high population growth in North Carolina is opening development of land that was previously passed up for building because of drainage problems or other costly preparation work. While no one is a fan of increased regulations, the new rules will save taxpayers money down the road, while maintaining the beauty for which the area is so well known. And Anderson is glad that he is able to increase his value to his customers by offering the services that they need. 'Service. That's all the business is about,' says Anderson. 'Working for good people has gotten us where we are.'
Chris Anderson's grandfather was a logger, and so was his father, Jerry Anderson, before Jerry founded a sawmill and pulpwood yard as Anderson Chip and Pulpwood. Bans on burning were being enacted throughout the area, so the company bought a new whole-tree chipper, a Morbark Model 20 Total Chiparvestor, in 1987. Jerry Anderson was familiar with Morbark since buying a debarker in the early 1970s and Morbark conveyors for his chip mill ten years later. Business grew along with the company's reputation, and soon evolved exclusively to land clearing for housing subdivisions and commercial and industrial development. 'We moved strictly into cutting trees for a reason other than to produce material,' says Chris Anderson. 'It was to reduce material.'
Anderson Chip and Pulpwood grew along with the economy and in 1996, added stump removal and grinding. Chris Anderson became a 50-50 partner with his father in the company, Anderson Aggregates, L.L.C., and last year, the companies were merged under the Anderson Aggregates name.
Productive Equipment And Employees
Anderson Aggregates' land-clearing fleet includes a newer Morbark Model 20 Total Chiparvestor, a 2001 Morbark 1300 NCL Tub Grinder and a 1998 Morbark 1300 with cab and loader. Most felling is done with a Hydro-Ax 511E, while cut trees are pulled to the chipper by CAT 525B skidders. A Prentice 210E knuckleboom loader sits at the center of Anderson Aggregates' chipping operation, placing lumber-grade logs onto a hydraulic chainsaw for cutting, feeding trees into the Morbark chipper and loading cut logs onto trailers for hauling to a local sawmill. Excavators, wheel loaders and track loaders keep the Morbark 1300s fed at stump-grinding sites and service trucks are kept at all work locations.
Both Chris and Jerry Anderson spend most days on the job at chipping sites. Chris Anderson explains, 'I've got some good employees on the grinders and I don't have to see them every day.' On a warm winter day, Anderson Aggregates' chipping crew is set up in Stone Bluff, a new subdivision in Charlotte. After a day and a half of work, most of the trees are felled and are being skidded to a pile beside the Prentice loader. At the loader's controls, Jerry Anderson expertly feeds the Morbark Model 20 Total Chiparvestor, which fires a steady torrent of chips into a chip truck. 'This isn't Morbark's biggest whole tree chipper, but it does a great job,' says Chris Anderson. A fuel truck and a service truck are parked nearby.
Anderson says that his chipper crew easily produces 10 loads of materials in eight hours. 'We'll do 10 loads of something every day. Maybe two loads of logs and eight loads of chips, or five chips and five logs.' He emphasizes that the company's money is made on efficient land clearing and material reduction, not so much on the sale of products trucked from clearing sites.
Anderson Aggregates markets 90 percent of its wood chips to plants for power generation. The remainder is sold for coloring and further processing. Stump grindings that can not be left on-site or hauled elsewhere are brought to Anderson Aggregates' yard, where they are stockpiled for screening three or four times a year. When wet weather doesn't permit chipping, Chris Anderson keeps his crews busy and cash flow coming in grinding materials at three municipal sites and at other wood grinding jobs. The Southeastern United States has been hit by a long stretch of dry weather, but it still rains occasionally, says Anderson. 'When we can see a big-enough rain front coming in, I'll mobilize everything to one of our municipal sites. Let it rain, we're still grinding.'
Anderson has been able to weather economic rainy days, as well, as a result of subcontracting out excess chipping and grinding work over the past six years. 'We were making little or nothing on subcontracted work, but we were taking care of our customers,' Chris Anderson explains. 'And then there was a downturn in the economy. My subs aren't busy, but we are busy. We wondered for a long time whether subcontracting was worth the trouble. This downturn in the economy says yes, it was worth it.'
The Best Equipment Backed By The Best Service
Chris Anderson depends on his equipment as much as his customers depend on him. 'I don't mind going to work if I have something to work with,' says Anderson. The company's equipment is mostly later models covered by extended warranties. 'You can either pay for a machine or you can pay to fix it,' Anderson observes. 'A warranty says a lot about any piece of equipment. For example, the two Morbark 1300s have extended warranties. If they weren't good products, Morbark wouldn't guarantee them for that long.'
Anderson Aggregates is well served by a Morbark service facility in Ashland, Va. Until about two years ago, parts were shipped overnight from the Morbark manufacturing facility in Winn, Mich., and are now available even more quickly. 'We have driven to Ashland and gotten parts the same day, and it's been a big help,' says Anderson.
Chris Anderson knows of no other contractors offering the full range of services provided by Anderson Aggregates. Even so, Anderson strives to keep his customers more than satisfied. 'When you build these relationships, when you work with these people, they know that you're going to do the work, and you're going to do it fairly,' says Anderson. And he knows that as long as he serves his customers as well as he can, they will not look for somebody else to do their work.