Zoladz – New York Company Benefits from CBI Grinders
ALDEN, NEW YORK – It didn’t take cousins John Zoladz and Tom Dougherty long to recognize an opportunity to start their own business just a few years after they graduated from high school.
The business is Zoladz Construction Co. which now operates four major business segments throughout the Buffalo area, employing over 130 people and utilizing a fleet of trucks and about 150 pieces of heavy equipment. John is company president and Tom is vice president.
About 40% of the company’s business is large-scale excavation and earth moving for constructing developments, wetlands and landfills. Another 15% is demolishing commercial buildings and 25% is trucking, hauling trash, municipal waste, wood chips and mulch. The additional 20% of the company’s business is land clearing projects.
Zoladz has 20 acres with a 16,000 square-foot shop and an office comprising 6,000 square feet of space. The company also has a storage building with 10,000 square feet and a secondary office with 3,000 square feet. Zoladz operates two yards where it grinds wood material into mulch — one in Lackawanna (south of Buffalo) and the other in Avon, just south of Rochester.
Tom reported that the company produces about 100,000 yards annually of wood grindings; about half the volume is sold as mulch through brokers and the other half is sold to power plants for hog fuel. “The market is changing tremendously now with the fuel situation,” said Tom. “We figure in the next few years, more of our wood grindings will be headed to plants for fuel and a lot less will be sold for mulch.”
The company’s logging equipment includes a John Deere 759 feller-buncher, two Hydro-Ax feller-bunchers, a Timberjack (now John Deere) forwarder and two John Deere 648 skidders. For grinding and chipping operations, the company has two Morbark 18-inch chippers, a Peterson-Pacific grinder, and three Continental Biomass Industries (CBI) grinders. It also has several excavators, stump shears, and bulldozers.
In addition to earning revenues for providing services for land clearing, grinding and trucking, the company generates revenues from the sale of wood products. Besides selling wood grindings for mulch and hog fuel, marketable logs are sold to sawmills or pulp and paper mills.
In late September Tom was headed with Jon Burgess, director of recycling operations, and a group of 16 employees to Galveston, Texas to do cleanup work in the wake of Hurricane Ike. The trip was shaping up to be a repeat of a trip to New Orleans to do cleanup work following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They planned to set up operations with their three CBI grinders plus excavators, loaders and bulldozers. The group took their own campers, generators, mess tent, food and a cook.
Make Business Start
Zoladz is a very familiar name throughout the Buffalo area. John’s grandfather and his brothers arrived there from Poland during the early 1900s. A few brothers went into the lumber business while other brothers operated their own gas stations and oil distributorships.
When John grew up, he was more interested in construction as a career, and he and Tom decided to work together on a pipeline construction project when they were both 19. “John’s mother and my mother are sisters, so John and I grew up like brothers,” Tom explained.
The year was 1983. While working on the pipeline, John spotted a good opportunity for the young men. “John was always very business savvy,” Tom said. “So he approached the bosses and convinced them to let us do the landscaping after the pipeline cleanup work was all done.”
They borrowed a tractor from John’s father to do the work, and the two young men got a real taste of what it is like to be in business. They liked it. They started saving money and a year later were ready to buy their first piece of equipment, a bulldozer. “We started our business right then and incorporated, and we have been growing ever since that day,” said Tom.
As their company grew, the two did a lot of trucking for Waste Management. “They asked us to also haul garbage for them because we had our big tractor trailers,” Tom said. “Then they asked us to start hauling demolition debris. Since we had the excavators, bulldozers, and trucks, we decided to do the demolition ourselves. Once we did the demolition, we hauled the material off to landfills, and then the landfills hired us to do the trucking. So we are always looking for ways to integrate our services with the needs of our customers. This helps us continue to grow.”
As larger and larger projects came their way, Tom and John invested in two concrete crushers. With this equipment, they could recycle concrete and stone demolition debris, crushing it to a gravel-like composition and selling it for use as substrata for parking lots and building pads. “This kind of work continues to grow for us,” said Tom. “We are doing all kinds of site work.”
They sub-contracted loggers to remove trees on land-clearing jobs, but in 2004 they added their first grinder, Peterson-Pacific. In 2005, after Katrina struck, the company deployed to New Orleans for 14 months with its grinder. As the company obtained more land clearing contracts, Tom and John expanded into grinding, adding three machines from CBI.
Three CBI Grinders
While working in New Orleans, Tom and John noticed the operations of other contractors who were running CBI grinders. “We were impressed by how well they worked and how well-built they were,” Tom said. “I talked to the owners, and they told me the maintenance was minimal, which was another reason we went with our CBI grinders.”
They bought their first CBI in 2005, a Magnum Force 6400, which is a horizontal grinder. The CBI Magnum Force 6400 gave them the option of producing either hog fuel or mulch by changing the rotary head. “This machine fits into our business plan to expand into the wood fuel market, and we want to be on the cutting edge of that expansion,” said Tom.
The CBI Magnum Force 6400 is available as a portable machine, track-mounted, or stationary. (John and Tom bought a track model.) CBI offers five power options – three Cat diesel engines ranging from 785 hp to 1,050 hp or electric motors from 500 to 1,000 hp for stationary applications.
The Cat diesel engines are equipped with extra-large radiators and Flexxaire® auto-reversible fans to clean the radiator and cooling system. Fan pitch is tied to the engine temperature to reduce horsepower and warm-up time, increasing fuel savings. The engines are equipped with PT Tech extra-heavy-duty hydraulic clutch with a pump drive.
The discharge conveyor is hydraulically driven and is 60 inches wide and 33 feet long. It is equipped with a heavy-duty belt, head, and tail pulleys. The cleated belt runs at variable speeds to accommodate high throughput and trailer loading.
Four rotor options are available: a solid-steel rotor for grinding material such as demolition debris and railties, a forged drum rotor for forestry debris and producing mulch, a two-pocket chipper rotor for producing fuel chips from trees, and a four-pocket chipper rotor.
John and Tom added a second CBI grinder in 2006, a trailer-mounted CBI Magnum Force 8600 Horizontal Hog. “We needed another grinder that was easily portable,” said Tom. “Even though our 6400 is based on tracks, we still have to use a lowboy to move it. We use the 6400 mostly for land-clearing work.”
They chose the CBI Magnum Force 8600 to run in the company’s yards. “We also needed it because of its mobility for grinding trees and brush for municipalities,” said Tom “It’s also good for helping in cleanups after a hurricane.”
The CBI Magnum Force 8600 features a clamshell hog box design that provides full, unrestricted access to major components for easy maintenance and a direct lifting line for removing screens. It is equipped with CBI’s Replace-A-Face™ hammers for quick, easy, inexpensive maintenance and the CBI’s IntelliGrind™ operating system, which automatically adjusts feed speed according to engine load.
The company purchased its most recent CBI grinder in September – a Magnum Force 6800 track grinder. The machine can grind whole trees as fast as a 30-inch chipper. Two Cat engine options will deliver up to 1,000 hp, and the grinder is equipped with CBI’s IntelliGrind operating system and its Replace-A-Face hammers. The machine weighs only 78,000 pounds and is easily transported on a standard lowboy.
“We needed this unit because the land clearing portion of our business has really taken off so well,” Tom said. The machine is being used in conjunction with projects where the company is clearing land for ‘wind farms’ in New York. “We needed a second machine to use off-road in the woods,” added Tom “This machine, with its high-speed rotor, gives us the flexibility of using it either in the woods for land clearing or for using it to make mulch in our yards. It’s an excellent mulch producer.”
They considered the CBI Magnum Force 8600 the best value on the market, said Tom. “It’s also lighter weight but very well-built and durable. It’s very easy to move around to different sites.”
Company crews often work in rough terrain with limited access, and the machine can be moved around easily in these areas. “It’s also very simple to maintain,” added Tom.
Clearing Land, Grinding
A typical land-clearing job might involve preparing land for windmill farms. These opportunities are increasing throughout New York, Tom reported.
First the crews use the Hydro-Ax or John Deere cutter to take down the trees. Merchantable logs are supplied to Wagner sawmills, which buys both hardwood and softwood logs.
The CBI grinders are used to grind up the logging slash and debris. “If the grindings are going to power plants to burn, we will chip it up and then have our trucks deliver the material,” Tom explained. “If it is going for mulch, we grind it up one time and truck it to our mulch yards and let it sit there to ‘cook’ for a few months. Then we grind it again and let it ‘cook’ again.”
The company also produces colored mulch using different brands of granulated colorant. The mulch usually is colored shortly before it is shipped.
John and Tom, both 44, will mark their company’s 25th anniversary in 2009. The company has succeeded because of its diversity, quality employees, and a business philosophy of giving customers what they pay for, said Tom.
John and Tom do not have much leisure time, but when they have free time they like to boat, hunt or ride motorcycles. They are members of the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the Land Improvement Contractors Association (LICA). The company is active in the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
John is a unique business leader, said Tom. “He is always the first one in the office in the morning, and he is always out working with the staff. You can always spot him dressed in a white t-shirt and suspenders. When you are on the job site and someone asks to speak to the boss, John will always point to one of the superintendents. He always likes to include everyone in the success of the company. We continually preach to our men and women that we wouldn’t be the successful company we are today if it wasn’t for the people we have working for us.”
All employees who work in the field are required to take an OSHA 40-hour training course in hazardous waste operations and emergency response; employees receive the 40 hours of training over the course of a year and earn a certificate. “This certificate allows them to do any kind of environmental cleanup,” said Tom. They are required to follow up each year with an 8-hour refresher course.
Other safety courses are required, depending on the position. Employees are paid hourly wages and receive paid vacation; the company offers group health insurance, a 401(k) retirement plan and a cafeteria-style benefits plan.
“In this business,” said Tom “there is always the chance to make that quick buck because you can skimp on this or that…But we preach to our men and women to always give our customers what they pay for and what they expect to receive. This kind of service is what keeps our company growing year after year.”