Client Feature: Premier Construction Corp

Place in the Sun

Contractor finds niche installing playgrounds

Fifteen years ago, Alex Kimminau was a Tucson area general contractor, building schools, restaurants, retail buildings and offices in Old Pueblo.

But he grew tired of managing the same routine and a company that grew a bit too large for his taste, so he elected to start a small, family-run business installing playground equipment.

Kimminau started putting up shade structures and ramadas, and later became a certified installer of playground equipment. He quickly discovered that his specialty was in demand.

“I was intending to just stay a small family business, and we kind of fell into park work,” he says. “But once we got certified with a bunch of playground equipment manufacturers, it was just a case of ‘away we go.’” 

Kimminau’s company, called Premier Construction Corp., performs all phases of playground installation, starting with excavation all the way through to finish painting. A typical job involves tearing out an old playground structure and installing a new one. Each job takes about a week, and the 12-employee company typically has two and sometimes three jobs working at the same time. 

 

Premier has 50-plus years of construction experience ranging from the smallest residential and commercial project to $10 million new construction projects. The company offers “turnkey” playgrounds at very competitive pricing, and is the only certified installer of Gametime products in Arizona.  Premier is certified to install the leading brands of playground equipment, and can also install equipment from any other manufacturer.

About 50 percent of Premier’s work is derived from city, county, state or federal entities.  The rest of the work comes from homeowner associations, churches or charter schools. 

“Most of these jobs are specified, where the equipment I’m installing is spec’d and I’m a certified installer, so that’s how I get the jobs,” Kimminau says.  

“It’s a niche market,” he continues. “There aren’t very many people that do what we do.  There are three or four of us here in Arizona that do it. And none of them that I know of handles the entire project. They might do the playground equipment, or they might do the shade structure or the ramada, but not all of them. Or they won’t excavate the pit. We do it all, start to finish.” 

Doing it the right way

One of Kimminau’s principal challenges in operating the business is finding and keeping qualified employees.

“I’m fortunate because right now I have a good crew, but it keeps me up at night hoping that I can keep that good crew,” he says. “We spend quite a bit of time training and having them do the work the way I want it done.

“We are installing playground equipment which is used by young children at schools and the public at parks, so I am always vigilant that everything is done correctly and that we don’t end up with any loose ends,” adds Kimminau, who has multiple certifications in playground installation and safety.

Premier started out as a family-run business, and has since expanded to a majority of non-family employees.

“The strength of our company is our dedication to quality, and concern for our employees,” he says. “We treat our employees well, and in return they do a bang-up job for us.”

Foreman Zach Dumes is a core member of the team. Kimminau’s wife, Leslie, is vice president and handles all the books and paperwork. Occasionally, she helps out in the field. Son A.J. has a constant presence in the field, and performs all aspects of playground installation. Alex and Leslie’s daughter, Jessie, has moved on to other pursuits, but still comes back and works part-time. 

“She works just like anyone else and uses all the equipment,” Kimminau says. “Most of the other employees say that she runs all the equipment better than they do, so it’s always fun.”

 

The Cat® difference

Premier performs its work with a Cat® 259D Compact Track Loader, a 289C 2 Multi Terrain Loader and two 302.7D CR Mini Excavators. Kimminau acquires all of his machines through lease-purchase agreements, then trades them in for new pieces of equipment every three to four years. 

Because he works all over the state and beyond, transporting the Cat compact machines makes his business more mobile and easier to manage. He also appreciates the ability to work in confined spaces with the compact track loaders and mini excavators, and the low ground pressure they exert.

“We’re working in a lot of pre-existing parks or schools where you have vegetation or sidewalks, so there is hardscape that you have to be careful with—you can’t break it or mark it up,” Kimminau says. “Big machines tend to mark up or break concrete sidewalks, and my smaller ones don’t wreck the grass or harm the curbs and driveways.”  

Premier gets the most out of its Cat machines by utilizing a variety of attachments, including forks, an auger, a boom lift, a breaker, a pole grabber and a landplane.

“Without utilizing the different attachments I could not do the job start to finish like I do without hiring out a bunch of different services,” he says. “And that would cost me jobs if I had to bid it to hire someone else every time. When I can do it myself, I can bid it tighter and do the job quicker. So the attachments definitely increase my ability to do the work.

“I’m a big believer in working smarter and not harder,” Kimminau adds. “One of the reasons I got through the recession is that I didn’t have that many employees that I had to take care of. I could stay in operation with my three or four people or five people and still get the work done and I could weather the storm. The durability and the versatile nature of Cat equipment helped me do that.”

In a tough economic climate, a professional image is important to a contractor.

“When you show up on a jobsite and you have a decent looking truck and a fleet of nice Cat equipment on your trailers, people pay attention to that,” Kimminau says.

“I’ve had multiple people tell me that Cat yellow never fades, and I believe that. It’s a definite boost to our image.” OTJ

 

COMPANY PROFILE

PREMIER CONSTRUCTION CORP.

Employees: 12 (plus 3 part-time) 

Location: San Tan Valley, Ariz.

Cat® equipment:  259D Compact Track Loader, 289C 2 Multi Terrain Loader, 302.7D CR Mini Excavator (2)

 

WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT CAT® EQUIPMENT

“I used to use other manufacturers, but I have switched to all Cat equipment, and it has never let me down,” says Alex Kimminau, president of Premier Construction Corp. “In the environment out here we run into quite a bit of rock.  But the Cat machines handle the load that we give them. Some of the competitors’ equipment that I’ve used in the past did not handle it. I was always having parts and pieces break, or it just couldn’t get the job done. 

 

“I have not had that problem with the Cat equipment, and that’s why I switched all my fleet to Cat machines,” he says. “It does the job I need it to do every time. The Cat equipment practically operates itself—the controls on all the equipment I have are significantly better than other brands. All I can really say about Cat equipment is, it just runs. It gets the job done.”  

 

WHAT HE LIKES ABOUT EMPIRE

“Empire always takes care of me if there is some little issue,” Kimminau says. “They jump on it right away. 

“They’re very amenable to the small contractor,” he adds. “They don’t look down on you at all, cause you have one little machine, so they’re very easy to work with.  I’m sure they are great with the big mining companies too, but they’re good for the little mom and pop operation also. They make you feel like you belong.” 

 
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