Prior to developing Dakota Concepts in 2006, Jeran Harmon, was a property manager in Bismarck, North Dakota, who was simply looking for someone who had the time and capabilities to do some parking lot maintenance. Ironically, his failure to find the needed assistance opened a door for Harmon that has since led into a full-fledged business that specializes in every aspect of asphalt and parking area maintenance.
“When I wasn’t able to find the help I needed to do some simple parking lot maintenance, I realized there was a need and an opportunity,” he explains. “That’s when I started purchasing equipment so I could take care of the problems myself. Then the phones started ringing and it kind of snowballed from there.”
Harmon notes that the business first started as a parking lot maintenance service that offered line striping, crack sealing and parking lot sweeping.
“However, it seemed that every parking lot we got into needed some kind of repair work,” he adds. “So we slowly started doing some asphalt patchwork, which was mostly limited to areas of five by five feet and smaller. Today, we’re to the point where we can do everything from dirt work and designing and paving an entire parking lot down to parking lot maintenance and snow removal,” he continues, noting that he expanded into paving services five years ago.
As the business grew in size and scope, so did Harmon’s equipment fleet. One Cat® skid steer loader soon led to the purchase of several more machines. And the need for one truck soon led to the purchase of more and bigger trucks. Naturally, the addition of paving services led to the purchase of a compactor and a cold planer.
Currently, Harmon’s inventory includes two Cat 262C high-flow, two-speed skid steer loaders, a 272C skid steer loader and a 262D skid steer loader, which Jeran says is “his personal machine”. Other Cat machines commonly found on the job include a Model 924G wheel loader, a 305.5 mini excavator, a CC24B compactor roller and a PC206 24-inch cold planer and asphalt mill.
“The 262C skid steer I bought in 2010 was the first new piece of equipment I ever purchased,” Harmon relates. “It’s a great machine and we’re still using it to this day. I think it’s up to around 5,500 hours. Up until I purchased that machine, everything had been used.”
Although two of the skid steer loaders generally serve as back-up machines during the summer, Harmon notes that all four skid steer machines, as well as the wheel loader are used during the winter for snow removal.
Harmon says there are several reasons he chose Cat and Butler Machinery for his current inventory. Obviously, advice from friends who “couldn’t find a bad word to say about Cat” played a key role in his decision. However, he says he also looked at all the different paving and construction companies around the area and found that nearly all of them ran Cat equipment.
“When I started looking around, it seemed like Cat equipment was the one company that was geared for the construction industry,” he says. “If you look at any heavy construction company that uses their equipment every day, you’ll find that most of them are running Cat.
“The thing I heard most often from everybody I talked to, though, was how much less operator fatigue they experienced with Cat equipment,” he adds. “We had a Bobcat when I was still running used equipment and I can definitely attest to that now. Operator control is so much easier and less strenuous in a Cat machine, in part because the controls are right there where you need them. You can tell Caterpillar® put some thought into the design and layout of the operator station. To me, that just makes for a safer work environment, due to less fatigue and better control.”
Chris Olhouser, one of two project managers for Dakota Concepts agrees, noting, “Hands down, Cat equipment is probably the best equipment I’ve ever sat in as far as operator control, ease of use and comfort. The other thing is it doesn’t break down. It goes at 100 percent.”
In the meantime, Harmon says Butler Machinery and Lowell Malard, his Butler customer account manager, have provided fantastic sales and service support.
“Anytime I need something, I can call Lowell and if he can’t help me, he will either find out the answer and get back to me or connect me with somebody who can help,” he says. “The parts department at Butler has been just as awesome,” he continues. “If they don’t have a part in stock, they can generally have it to me by 10 o’clock the next morning. Worst case scenario is within 48 hours.”
On the other hand, Harmon says he hasn’t really had to use the Butler service department. Part of it is because the crews at Dakota Concepts do their own maintenance. However, Harmon also credits it to his meticulous service schedule. Even if a machine calls for oil changes at 250 hours, Harmon has his employees change the oil and filter at 100 to 150 hours … particularly on skid steer loaders during the winter.
“Oil is cheap compared to a new motor,” he says. “When those machines are running, they’re usually running at maximum capacity. Fortunately, Cat equipment and Butler machinery have never let us down.”