David H. Martin Excavating celebrates its 50th year

By Mike Lewis
Kirk Martin is the third generation of his family to lead David H. Martin Excavating Inc. The business near Chambersburg, Pa., is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Kirk Martin smiles a lot as he walks through the offices of David H. Martin Excavating near Chambersburg, Pa.

“I really enjoy this,” he said of the business, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Martin, 46, is the company president. He is the third generation of his family to lead the company. It was founded by his grandfather, David, in 1968 and later led by his father.

“I’ve worked here all my life, coming up through the family. … It’s basically shaped who I am,” Kirk Martin said.

He’s served a variety of roles in the company, from running equipment and being a licensed blaster to dispatching and calculating estimates.

“I’ve had a good smattering of everything,” he said. “And that’s been helpful, to have done a little bit of everything. … It gives you a little bit of credibility.”

Martin is a graduate of Shalom Christian Academy.

“I’m married to my high school sweetheart (Laurinda),” he said. “We’ve been married 26 years.”

The Martins have two sons.

Martin recently answered a few questions in an email exchange with Mike Lewis of the Crossroads Business Journal.

 

A lot of people talk about work/life balance. How do you juggle your various responsibilities?

Being involved with several companies can be daunting at times and will consume your time in a hurry. I believe the key to balancing work and life outside of work is having the great employees that we do. We truly are a family here at DHM, and everyone pitches in to get projects finished so that we can all spend time doing other things we love to do.

What philosophies or strategies have remained constant since David H. Martin’s founding 50 years ago?

Grandpa started the company with Christian values and principles at the base of the business. Those attributes are still at the core of our business today. Throughout the years we have been able to grow our business in the commercial sector while still maintaining our roots by servicing the agricultural and residential sector as well. The $200 project is still just as important to us as the $10 million project. We have an entire division dedicated to residential work.

Excellence and integrity are very important to us. We expect our employees to represent these same qualities throughout their day and with each project.

On a related note, what have been some of the biggest changes in your industry, and how has your company evolved to meet them?

One of the biggest changes for us has been the introduction of technology into our equipment and office. All of our dump trucks now have GPS in them, which allows our dispatcher to see where they are at all times and has made us much more efficient in planning our routes. GPS Grade Control is installed in many of our dozers, graders and trackhoes. This allows the operator to see where he is on the site and how close to grade he is directly from the seat of the equipment. We can be more accurate with our grading by allowing the machine to control the blade resulting in better efficiencies and allowing us to complete projects more quickly.

What are some of the biggest projects in the company’s near-term pipeline

We are right in the middle of some large residential subdivision work in Frederick, Md., (Spring Bank Farm) and West Virginia (Thistle Landing).

The medical industry has seen steady growth, which has created work for us as well. We are just getting ready to start two medical market projects. One is at State Line (the Summit Health medical office building). The other is Keystone Health Chambers Hill Professional Center on Fifth Avenue in Chambersburg. We have had two retirement home projects that have been keeping us busy as well. DHM has been working on a $5 million project for Homewood in Frederick for over two years on their Independent Living expansion, and we are continuing to work on expanding their Patio Homes. Menno Haven, here in Chambersburg, is in the middle of a major expansion as well. Our first phase of work there is close to finishing up, and we will be starting on another $3 million project on their campus this fall.

What do you think the next five or 10 years will bring to your company and the region?

Our workload right now is heavy, and bidding continues to be strong. It seems as though our clients within our 60-mile radius feel good about the climate we are in right now and are comfortable with spending money on these projects. The Interstate 81 corridor has been a strong driver of commercial business over the last 20 years, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Franklin County is one of the fastest-growing areas in Pennsylvania, and that alone has been instrumental in the success of DHM. Chambersburg alone has been on a steady growth path for many years. We are getting to the point where the residents don’t have to travel as much to the surrounding urban centers just to go out to eat or to go shopping. As the Norland Avenue area grows, and with the extension of Parkwood Drive and Fifth Avenue, I fully expect us to have many projects in our local area over the next 5-10 years.

Like a lot of companies in the area, David H. Martin does business across state lines. What challenges does that bring for your business, and how do you deal with them?

We have been working across state lines for years. While each state or county has its own set of rules and regulations, we have been able to develop our relationships with each and we continually strive to create and maintain positive working relations with the local municipalities and government agencies. I credit our employees for our strong relationships with these agencies and customers. They are the ones out there working with state inspectors, local municipalities and customers, and they are the face of DHM. I am very proud of our employees and the great job they do for us.

What do you wish more people understood about the excavating business?

Most people don’t get to see what we do. Much of our work gets covered up. Whether it is the sewer, water or storm water lines that we install, digging for foundations or the grading of a parking lot, it all gets covered up by something else. We do put a great emphasis on the final placement of topsoil, since it is the last thing to be completed and is what everyone sees. Since we have added an environmental division to our list of services we are now installing landscaping, retaining walls, pavers and seeding/mulching of new grass areas, so we get to be more involved with the end product and can control the quality of work through our own services.

Outside of work, what are your ambitions and aspirations?

After my relationship with our Creator, my family is the highest priority for me. I am happily married to my high school sweetheart and I have two sons Hunter, 21, and Chase, 19. Hunter recently got married, and Chase is finishing college at Liberty University. Our family is very close, and I enjoy spending time with them. They are what keeps me going to work every day at 5 a.m.

I love my job and, to be honest, it doesn’t seem like a chore at all to go to work. I fully intend to continue to make DHM better than we are now and to continue to train my sons as they aspire to work here at DHM. Outside of work I enjoy hunting and, to be honest, it consumes much of my off time. If I’m not hunting, I’m probably at least thinking about it.