Kevin Hurley says that from the time he first started working with pipeline contractors, he knew he wanted to be in the underground utility construction business. Now his company, Magnolia Underground Construction, Inc., based in Byhalia, Mississippi, is a prominent resource for municipal, commercial, and residential projects in the Memphis area.
At left: Kevin Hurley, Owner – Magnolia Underground Construction, Inc.
Hurley was born near Atlanta, in Austell, Georgia. His family later lived in Texas, and ultimately moved to Memphis, where his father took a job with Federal Express, while Kevin was still a child. Hurley attended the University of Missouri-Rolla, where he attained an Engineering degree.
After graduation, he worked for a few years at a consulting firm in Little Rock. He says, however, “I quickly realized that I didn’t want to spend my life sitting behind a desk. When a friend told me about a sales opportunity that had opened up in Memphis, I moved back and became a manufacturer’s representative for a pipe company. I sold sewer pipe, and that was my introduction to the industry.
“I observed what my customers were doing, and picked their brains. I was fortunate to have a varied background that has helped get to where I am.”
At right: Magnolia’s Cat 336F Hydraulic Excavator working at siphon replacement project site
Hurley later worked for a pipe distributor for a decade; during that time, he says, “I saved up, and in 2009 I hired a small crew and bought some machines from a contractor who was retiring. I also took over some of his existing contracts. It wasn’t a great time to start a business, because the economy was so bad then, but I knew that if we could make it through the bad times, we would do well when things got better.”
In 2010, Hurley bought the existing Magnolia Underground Construction firm from its partners. As he started out in his new business, he contacted the Thompson Machinery sales representative, who he had met when both were in previous jobs. “I had observed over the years that the most successful contractors were using Cat equipment. I had bought a few Cat machines from the previous owner of Magnolia,” he recalls, “and gradually I traded those machines in for newer pieces of Cat equipment. I’m still using some of those first machines I bought from Thompson.”
When he first started with Magnolia, Hurley says he had six employees and a few machines. Today, he typically runs four crews and has around 30 employees, although at times that has expanded to as many as six crews and 40 people. His fleet now includes 18 pieces of Cat equipment. His first purchases from Thompson included 303C CR and 312C excavators, a D3G LGP dozer, and a 279C compact track loader.
Magnolia Underground Construction works primarily on municipal projects, along with some commercial and residential subdivision work. The company’s business is concentrated in the Memphis metropolitan area, but Hurley has also done projects as far away as Knoxville, Kansas City, and Alexandria, Louisiana. He comments, “Even on these out-of-town projects, I’ve always rented Cat equipment; the Cat dealers always provide good customer support.”
Currently, one of Magnolia’s major projects is the installation of a three-barrel, 48-inch siphon underneath the Wolf River, tying into an 84-inch main line, adjacent to Interstate 40 in north Memphis. In this multi-million dollar, six-month project, a siphon which dates from the 1950s is being replaced.
Says Hurley, “These types of projects can be challenging. On this project we have to dig pits on either side of the river, within 50 feet of the stream bay, about 13 feet deeper than the bottom of the river. Plus, we’re working in sand up to 35 feet deep on a major river that passes through Memphis. On another recent project, laying an interceptor sewer on the Loosahatchie River in the Frayser area of Memphis, we laid 9,000 feet of 42-inch pipe, and had to go under a major state highway at depths of up to 30 feet.”
The firm has also completed point repair contracts on over 200 sections sewer line around the city, he adds.
Hydraulic excavators are a vital part of Magnolia’s projects, ranging from small (Cat 303C) to large (Cat 349E), and the features of Hurley’s Cat machines have proven to be important in job efficiency. Speaking about the 308E CR and 314D L in his fleet, Hurley says, “The zero swing radius is very helpful when we’re working right alongside roads and highways. The rubber tracks protect both the asphalt and the machines. With the pad feet and quick-release coupling, it’s a perfect combination of features.”
Among his most recent Cat machines purchases from Thompson are a 349E excavator and a 299D2 compact track loader. Hurley reports, “We rented the 349E first for several months. It was vital on the Loosahatchie interceptor project – not only for digging but because we used it to lift some heavy manholes. The 299D2 is also a great machine; the dump clearance is high enough to go over the top of the dump trucks.”
In his purchases of both new and used Cat equipment, Hurley says he enjoys the support and customer service he gets from Thompson Machinery. “With some other equipment dealers, I’ve experienced unreliable parts availability and unfriendly technicians. But with Thompson, I can call for advice or assistance whenever I need it, and I get reliable support from the technicians. And it’s rare that my Cat part isn’t available almost immediately.
“Our Thompson representative, Ryan Bellows, is a dedicated, knowledgeable salesman who has worked hard to develop a strong relationship with us. Even though I’m a loyal customer, Thompson doesn’t take me for granted. “With Cat, you know you’re buying value – and that includes high resale value – plus reliability and performance.”
At right: Kevin Hurley with Thompson Machinery Sales Representative Ryan Bellows