Case Studies

Harris Construction Inc.

A North Dakota Family Affair

Tim Harris began working for his father’s company, Harris Construction Inc. (HCI), when he was just 13 years old. “Two of my older brothers [one of which, Kirk, is now president] were working here before me, so I just sort of fell into it,” Tim says. “I was just picking rocks and shoveling at the time.” He has since dropped the shovel and picked up the briefcase, serving as the vice president of the company with the same youthful energy today as he had when he was in his teens.

Tim’s father, Ron, started the Kenmare, N.D.-based company in 1964, and the business is fast approaching its 50th anniversary. HCI owes its longevity to an openness to evolve with a changing marketplace. “Our willingness to change with the times sets us apart from the competition. We always just do what we can to keep busy, and that includes changing if we have to,” states Tim.

Excavation across Northwestern North Dakota

HCI is an earthmoving company that employs around 45 people and generates $12 million in annual revenue. “We’re primarily an excavating and base-work company, but we also crush gravel and rocks,” says Tim. “The only things we sub are seeding, erosion control, paving, signing and painting. We try to use the same subcontractors every time, and those relationships are very important to us.”

The firm’s geographical footprint extends across the northwestern part of its home state, including, but not limited to Burke, Mountrail and Ward counties. And the family-owned and -operated company maintains a close-knit atmosphere that permeates the workforce and corporate culture. This helps with trust and reliability amongst coworkers, while also producing a richer work environment and directly affecting the quality of the work performed.

Working on Greens, Blacktop and Pipelines

Even though the area from which the company operates is not densely populated, the firm has been working a number of interesting projects lately around the region. “We’ve done a lot of work with golf courses around here,” says Tim. “The one for Rose Creek [in Fargo] started as just 110 acres of farmland. It was pretty much perfectly flat except for where Rose Creek ran through.” The course, which took six months to build, is now open to the public and features a full, beautiful 18-hole course of varying elevations and obstacles.

The other course that HCI worked on was Prairie West Gold Course. It’s the pride of Mandan, and one of the premier courses in the state. It totals 6,681 yards, 40 sand bunkers, and three lakes. In addition, Prairie West is outfitted with a driving range and practice green to get ready for the challenging course ahead, as well as a clubhouse in which to take a rest after completing all 18 holes.

All of HCI’s most recent projects haven’t been for such fun and games, however. “We’ve found ourselves staying closer to home recently, doing work for the oil fields, and the Department of Transportation,” says Tim. This work has included a number of projects for Highway 52. “We’ve been doing 34-mile stretches,” Tim says. “We do everything from stripping the pavement, grinding it up, widening the road, and mixing the pavement with the gravel to lay it down on the newly formed road.”

There’s a burgeoning oil industry in the region, as well, and HCI has seen an increase in work in that field as a result. “For this one oil company in Stanley we built a hauling facility, where they load the oil off into the trucks into 60,000 barrel tanks. They pump it into them, and from there they load it into rail cars. It covered about 120 acres,” Tim says. “We also built a circle track that was about 5,000 feet long, as well as the bed for the rails. In total, that took us a little over half a year.”

Even with these showcase projects in the company portfolio the highway work has slowed down some, but the oil field work has increased. The firm is currently facing a few challenges, notably the lack of aggregate material. Because of what he sees in rising costs, a shortage of material, and increased competition, Tim is realistic about the national economy. “The economy probably won’t be so hot in the next one to two years. It’s coming, but it’s going to take a while. It’ll be a slow start, but will maybe turn around in five years. From what I hear, though, North Dakota is doing better than most other states,” he says.

Drawing from a loyal family of employees and extensive earthmoving experience, Harris Construction Inc. is weathering the storm, transitioning through these tough times and into a second half-century of activity reinforcing the infrastructure of North Dakota.

Published on: February 10, 2012


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