Case Studies

United States Infrastructure Corporation

Setting High Marks in Underground Utility Locating

United States Infrastructure Corporation (USIC) leads the North American industry in underground utility locating and marking services. The company’s 5,000 employees (4,200 of them field technicians) serve customers at construction sites, excavation sites, commercial sites and residential sites, locating and protecting the assets of gas, electric and water/sewage providers, as well as those of leading telecommunications companies.

Before USIC could provide the best in volume, accuracy, timeliness and customer service, however, Mike Stayton had to dig around and identify quality locating companies to acquire. To form USIC, Stayton and his financial partners purchased and merged SM&P Utility Resources, Central Locating Services (CLS) and Consolidated Utility Services, creating a cohesive new brand and the largest contract locating firm in the nation.

Safety First, Can You Dig It?

You know those “Call Before You Dig” flags found in yards above underground utility lines? If you call the number listed on one, odds are strong that it will be a USIC technician dispatched to your home. “Anyone who needs to excavate – regardless of the reason they are putting a shovel in the ground – is supposed to call their state one-call center and have the utility companies come out and locate their facilities before they dig,” explains Stayton, founder, president and CEO of USIC. “That’s what we do, and that’s all we do, and we do that for over 750 utility companies.”

The company’s locating services usually operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help prevent injury to people and utility lines. It’s a crucial service that prevents millions of dollars in property damage, the interruption of vital services, not to mention bodily harm and possible loss of life. Accurately locating utility lines helps prevent dangerous water main breaks, gas main ruptures, telecommunications cable severing, sewage line breaks, electric line cuts and more; if unchecked, these utility damages can lead to such events as flooding, explosions, data destruction, spread of disease, electrocution and power loss, respectively.

Ever vigilant against such incidents, USIC performs approximately 25 percent of utility locates in the U.S., which amounts to 45 million locates per year. High-tech electromagnetic locating equipment is used to find underground infrastructure lines and then those lines are clearly marked by flags and color-coded spray paint for safety. For example, green for sewers, orange for telecommunications and red for power lines and cables.

The Assets for Expansion

USIC coordinates its workforce from headquarters in Indianapolis providing support to 51 district offices throughout 31 states and a Canadian province. The USIC team is dedicated to providing quality service to its roster of A-list utility clients, which includes many Fortune 500 companies. The work is performed under its operating subsidiary, USIC Locating Services, Inc.

It’s a lot to manage, but no problem for natural corporate leader Stayton, who has headed up various utility service companies, was president of the Indianapolis Airport Authority Board, and once served as the Chief of Staff for the United Nations World Food Programme. Through a combination of fate and foresight, Stayton found himself consolidating his experience and assets in a highly specialized field that has proven highly effective in improving public safety.

“At one time I was with a natural gas company outside Chicago,” recalls Stayton. “They owned one of the legacy companies that USIC ended up buying. We sold it to another gas company in St. Louis. I got out of the business and was overseas for five years with the U.N. Then when I came back, we purchased that same company, SM&P, as it came back on the market.”

Looking at the Data for Success

USIC operates in an interesting niche – the U.S. annual utility locating market totals approximately $1.6 billion per year. The economies of scale, the collection of management talent and the best training in the industry that USIC has brought together through its “roll up” of different locating companies have provided substantial competitive advantages with which to serve its growing market.

“With all the companies that are putting fiber into the ground for the 3G and 4G [cellular/data network] build-out, that’s creating a lot of work for us on behalf of our utility customers,” explains Stayton. “And a number of our utility customers – like AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink – are creating that work. We’ve seen a lot of infrastructure work from both the utility infrastructure side and from the federal stimulus package intended to jump start the U.S. economy.”

While Internet build-out and government spending have been driving business for the past few years, the contract locating future may be fueled by gas distribution and the electric grid expansions. “The U.S. government is applying stringent gas regulations due to various explosions – California and Texas come to mind – and there’s going to be a focus on damage prevention,” says Stayton. “We’re focused on helping our gas distribution customers meet that challenge.”

Another market challenge USIC is constantly striving to meet is that of customers wanting more for less, as the U.S. economy remains uncertain. And though the construction industry and housing markets are still down, USIC has seen that business replaced by local and state government needs, as well as utilities interests, due to its broad scope as the market leader.

USIC will proudly celebrate its fifth anniversary in 2013, and while Stayton is pleased with USIC’s development, he is always thinking about its future. “As utilities are figuring out how to reduce their cost structure, while simultaneously dealing with an aging workforce, they’re starting to outsource work like locating,” he says. “And we greatly appreciate our customers. There’s not much more USIC can do to expand locating services, so we’re looking at diversifying the services that we can offer our client base.”

Based on its success so far, USIC’s future in the utilities world will continue to be based on “providing the best possible service, safely, at a fair price” – which is the United States Infrastructure Corporation mission statement.

Published on: June 29, 2013


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