V. Lopez Jr. & Sons Inc.
- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Since 1979, V. Lopez Jr & Sons Inc. (VLJ&S) has been providing professional general engineering contracting services throughout California and the Central Coast. Headquartered in Santa Maria, California, VLJ&S’s 36 years’ experience in the industry enables the company to provide top-quality service throughout the state of California. VLJ&S is fully licensed and equipped to offer a complete range of general engineering contracting services due to its diversely skilled equipment operators and laborers.
Founded by Vince Lopez, VLJ&S began as a backhoe service company that focused primarily on completing projects for Southern California Gas Company. As time went on, the company began venturing out to other clients and adding services such as excavation work. Soon VLJ&S became able to handle jobs of all shapes and sizes with a focus in underground infrastructure and utilities. With an emergency response service available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, VLJ&S is able to provide peace of mind to its clients as well.
An expanding market
In 1991, Vince’s son Vince Lopez III, who is now the company’s president, began working for the family business. After leaving to serve in the military for six years, Lopez returned to California and resumed employment with the company as it was beginning to expand even further into public works projects. Vince’s other son, Butch Lopez joined the company in 2002 and now works as a project manager. VLJ&S began stretching out into public works projects and was soon working for various cities and counties throughout California. The company also gained private clients such as Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).
“Diversity has been the key to our success,” says Lopez. “We don’t just provide one type of service nor do we have one type of customer. I think that is why we have been able not only survive, but thrive when so many other companies have gone out of business.”
When the housing market crashed in 2008, VLJ&S relied on its diversity and reputation to stand out from the crowd. With many contractors forced to cross over from the private sector into the public market, VLJ&S found itself bidding against 15 to 20 companies instead of five. Fortunately for VLJ&S, the company had its foot in the door with clients in the oil industry as California was experiencing an oil boom at the time as well. “We’re pretty busy with everything else right now,” says Lopez. “We have several different contracts with the government and the private market has also gone up quite a bit as well.”
With the ebb and flow of the construction industry, VLJ&S employs between 15 and 25 people. In a market where qualified workers can be tough to find, VLJ&S is able to recruit and retain skilled employees by offering job security and an excellent benefits package. “We try to pay more than the competition and we treat our employees like family,” says Lopez. “We have an open-door policy so they know that if they need something they can come talk to us.”
Multiple utility projects
With its focus primarily on underground utility projects, VLJ&S constructs a fair number of water plants from the ground up. “We build water plants for the agencies that have a lot of sites,” Lopez explains. “We also install equipment for the filtration and chemical feed systems — basically whatever they need to get the water clean before it goes out to the customers.” VLJ&S has worked with agencies such as Golden State Water, Ventura County and the City of Delano.
Lopez says that a job called the Mission Creek Fish Passage has been one of the more interesting projects that VLJ&S has completed in recent years. The primary goal of the project was to construct a channel through the existing creek in order to improve the upstream migration of the endangered steelhead trout. The new channel provides access to the historic spawning grounds with the hope of restoring a healthy population of steelhead in Mission Creek.
As a unique project for VLJ&S, the Mission Creek Fish Passage created challenging opportunities for the company.
“It was a challenge because the concrete tolerances were very strict in order to allow the fish to swim upstream,” says Lopez. “It was more difficult than we were used to, but it was a great learning experience.”
The fact that his family’s business has been in existence for 36 years creates a great sense of pride for Lopez. “We’ve seen a lot of companies come and go,” he says. “We’re very proud to still be here; my father gave us a stable working base to build from.” Lopez also credits C&D Bonding, the bonding company that VLJ&S has worked with over the years as contributing to the success of his family’s company. “We’ve been with them for many years. They have made it possible for us to grow as a company.”
Lopez is looking forward to the future as VLJ&S is maintaining a solid backlog of work. With the oil market picking back up, the company will be seeking more work with its clients in the oil industry. With its strong presence in multiple sectors for 36 years, V. Lopez Jr & Sons remains an example of how diversity in the industry can be such an important asset.
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