Case Studies

Mountain States Contracting Inc.

Keeping Materials Companies Rolling

Mountain States Contracting Inc. (Mountain States) has been providing railroad design, construction and rail line operation services throughout the western United States since 1983. Along the way the company has become known for its commitment to quality work.

“The only thing we do is design and build railroads,” asserts Vern Van de Loo, president of Mountain States. “It might be cliché, but we believe in taking care of the customer and providing them with the best possible service to earn their business in the long run, so we focus all our energy into our strengths.”

The company performs on-site meetings, provides professional engineered rail layouts through computer-aided design, provides a construction estimate, prepares railroad exhibits and handles construction material procurement. After the approval process is completed, Mountain States maintains teams to efficiently construct rail spurs, lead tracks, unit train facilities, intermodal yards and ports. Not only does the company specialize in designing and constructing railroads for private clients, but the firm also offers extensive maintenance, emergency services and switch/rail repairs, including tie and rail gang operations, track surfacing and vegetation control services to keep rails running smoothly.

Currently, the company operates from its headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz., and a second branch in Ogden, Utah, in order to support the area’s rail projects. To support its services, the company has a 6,000-square foot full-service fleet maintenance facility and machine shop to maintain a fleet of over 60 vehicles and 250 pieces of railroad construction equipment.

“We have a number of smaller locations to support our operations, but those are our primary offices,” explains Van de Loo. “At our headquarters we house all of the engineering office, and that’s where we keep our main equipment repair facility. In addition, we have a five-acre material storage yard in Kingman, Ariz., for distribution, as well as another shop and storage yard in New Mexico to support the crew that works out there. Just in case we need them, we also have a number of other rented yards where we can stage material and crews from if required.”

Though the company’s operations are concentrated throughout the Southwest and Mountain Region, the company will work throughout the Western U.S. if necessary. “The thing about this kind of work is that there are almost no other companies doing design-build in this industry,” explains Van de Loo. “So if we need to, we will expand beyond our normal region of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, where we do about 90 percent of our business.”

Seamlessly Transferring Concept to Completion

Mountain States’ ability to succeed within its chosen sector is due in part to the depth of proactive insight management brings to the field. Van de Loo, for example, has been at Mountain States since 1988 and has been in the Industry for over 30 years.

“I had been working for another company that eventually acquired this company, and my partners and I bought it from them,” explains Van de Loo. “The work we do is very specialized, and it’s all we do and there isn’t much room to diversify without going off into a totally different arena of work, which is just not for us.”

Despite working within a defined niche, Mountain States was relatively untouched by the recession and maintains a wide client base with which it works. “We just finished outfitting a new cement plant in Arizona with a rail, which was a bold move on the part of the client because the construction industry has been hit very hard and it seemed, to many people, like they were taking a very risky bet that the construction industry would pick up again,” explains Van de Loo.

“We also finished work on a new industrial park in Arizona that’s kind of in the middle of nowhere and needed rail service, which was also a very unusual thing to build at the time they decided to move forward,” continues Van de Loo. “In any case, we were really happy to work on such challenging projects, because they were very different projects and we like to keep a good mix of clients that we work for.”

Mountain States’ professional engineering staff and established relationships with the major railroad’s industrial development, engineering and operations departments make the company the perfect liaison for a diverse client base. “In our business, we deal with companies from a variety of industries; really anyone who needs rail service. On the one hand, we have done a lot of work for building material companies, which has been very hard hit by the recession, as well as for mining companies, who are working at full steam right now,” says Van de Loo. “We try to diversify the work we have so we don’t put too many eggs in one basket.”

Prepared to Assist Simple Requests to Complex Projects

Currently concentrating less on a straggling economic recovery, Van de Loo sees regulation as a big hot button issue for the industry and something that could potentially impact Mountain States. “Right now, even though things are slow, we’re seeing a lot of interest in building railroads,” asserts Van de Loo. “Even though most people are just inquiring and not actually buying a lot yet, it is encouraging that we are receiving so many requests for information and consultations.

“But the regulation is a big item for us at the moment,” he continues. “We see it very clearly in the railroad industry and in the mining industry that regulation has gotten very tight and it sometimes seems like the government is creating jobs just by adding more regulation, which doesn’t necessarily mean things are safer or more productive. So for the foreseeable future, we will be very cautious and focused on providing the customer with the kind of service we have become known for.”

With a team of experienced professionals eager to keep projects on track for clients across all industries, Mountain States Contracting Inc. is set to continue providing the most tried and true solutions to industrial railroad clients.

Published on: March 9, 2013

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