Growing up, Jeremy Frazee knew that life spent working in a cubicle wasn’t going to work for him. He spent his high school summers working as a laborer for the company his grandfather started, Frazee Construction, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he realized his passion for the industry.
Today, the company has been passed down to its third generation, with Jeremy Frazee as co-owner, CEO and director of field operations.
“Working outside in such a beautiful place like Colorado…it’s just hard to beat. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. The cubicle life just isn’t for me.”
That seems to be the way of thinking for many in the Frazee family – Jeremy’s cousin Bobby Frazee is co-owner of the company.
“Bobby and I both started as laborers in the field for our fathers when they were running the business, and now we’re full owners. It’s kind of a rare thing. We’ve got a lot of pride in our family name in this town.”
Pride in the name
That pride in their family name revolves around the integrity in which the business operates, and the reputation for quality work. To get their jobs done right, they trust one brand name when it comes to excavators: Hitachi.
“We started running Hitachi excavators about four years ago. Now, we have eight of them. We continue to choose Hitachi because we’ve had great luck with the equipment.”
Their fleet ranges in size, with six ZX470LC-6 excavators that are their production workhorses, down to a ZX245USLC-6 and a ZX135US-6 for excavation and compaction in tight spaces. This versatility is important for the wide range of utilities that Frazee typically installs.
The smoothness of the Hitachi machines is another big factor for why the company is growing its Hitachi fleet.
“I think the smoothness and overall operation of the machine is huge. Operator comfort and Hitachi machines have always been great. And they’re quiet, which is another bonus.”
Frazee noted that there’s just something about the excitement of having a new machine on a jobsite that energizes the team.
“These guys will fight over who’s going to run the new 470. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like to run the equipment myself, especially new machines. That is the kid in me. Even though I’m not digging all day every day, I’ve always loved running an excavator.”
At a recent residential jobsite in Colorado Springs, Frazee Construction laid more than 500 feet of new water lines. When jobsites have big expectations and fast turnarounds, productivity is paramount.
“Productivity is everything. When one of our machines goes down, it’s a lot of guys standing around and it’s a lot of money. With our Hitachis, that rarely happens. We get great support from our dealer 4Rivers to keep us up and running.”
You can’t have productivity without durability. And the Colorado terrain demands machines that can conquer the variety of rock and soil conditions over time.
“Durability of the machine is huge, especially in Colorado where we’re dealing with a lot of different soil conditions. It has to dig through solid rock, granite, sandstone, clay and even frost in the winter. We’ve found that the Hitachis can handle the terrain the best.”
And when maintenance is needed, Frazee noted that parts availability is critical.
“We get mechanics and parts extremely fast. Some of it can even be done remotely. Having trust in our dealer to support us in that way is huge. We keep that relationship and continue to choose Hitachi because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Accuracy with utilities
With the growth that Colorado Springs has seen as a city in recent years, more and more projects Frazee has tackled have been utilities installations. While productivity is key for installing utilities, so is attention to detail. Water lines, in particular, require high attention to detail and accuracy.
“Everything is inspected, which means we have to be even more precise. So, it takes another layer of quality control, more training and more sophisticated equipment.”
Municipalities have stringent guidelines and utilize video equipment to test the pipes before contractors get the green light. Because of this, the training and experience of each operator and crew member is critical when it comes to quality. It’s also very important for the crew’s safety.
“There’s a lot of training involved in the way we install utilities because it’s large equipment very close to people on the ground. You’ve got a 120,000-lb. excavator that’s digging literally a few feet from people. There’s a mutual trust and respect, and continuous training to make sure our team is always safe.”
In it for the long run
Frazee Construction has built a culture of longevity, not only with their machines, but also with their employees.
“My grandfather started this company back in 1946, and as it has been passed down, we’ve had employees who have been here for decades. I think the one thing that makes our company unique is almost all of our employees, foreman, superintendents and project managers all started as laborers and worked their way up. It really is a family culture here.”
Frazee is hopeful that the company continues with a fourth generation of the Frazee family at the reigns.
“So far we’ve been able to build upon the company. Hopefully my kids and Bobby’s kids can build on what we hand over to them.”
If the kids decide they’re interested, they’re going to have to work their way up like everyone else.
“You don’t want the boss’ kid to come out of school and just all of a sudden be in charge of people. Our dads’ idea was to put in the work, so that’s what they can do, too,”
The article first appeared in Hitachi’s BREAKOUT magazine, Fall 2020 issue, and it was written by Caroline Schweitzer