Jeremy Hiltz Excavating Inc. specializes in large-scale commercial excavation work. Founded by Jeremy Hiltz in 1996, the business has grown steadily over the years to become a major player within the New Hampshire market, leading to the company tagline ‘We Dig NH…’
Typical projects include jobs for the state of New Hampshire, hospitals, schools, and large housing projects. The close-knit team maintains ongoing relationships with these clients, often earning repeat work.
After featuring the company in 2020, we caught up with Mr. Hiltz this month to learn the latest news and developments. “We’ve expanded our aggregate division quite a bit,” he says. “We’ve probably doubled it in size and volume. We started making new products and advertising it more, and it’s really taken off. The demand for our products has been quite high because we’ve focused on making a real high-quality aggregate.”
The company has also invested in new equipment, increasing the fleet substantially. Over the last twelve months, it purchased eight total pieces of Hitachi equipment from Chappell Tractor. “There are many good manufacturers of heavy equipment,” Hiltz says. “The difference is the support and service we get from Chappell.”
He explains that this service stands out among the competition particularly because Chappell Tractor continues, through challenging times within the industry, to have the personnel and resources to provide the necessary support. In fact, after many years working together, “Chappell Tractor has risen even higher than before; they were already at top level,” he says. “For instance, if I called another dealer [because] I had a machine down, they might tell me it would be three weeks before they can fix us. Chappell is out there that same day, and if they can’t fix us, they’ll bring us a machine to run or to use until they can get us up and running.”
This support is more important than ever in light of recent workforce challenges, which add pressure to adopt advanced technology that, in turn, requires skilled service. “We have equipped skid steers, excavators, and bulldozers with full 3D automation,” says Hiltz. “With the diminished workforce, technology is a must to maintain high levels of production and quality.”
The team has been collaborating with outside businesses with increasing frequency and tangible, positive results. “Collaborating with other companies is more crucial now than ever before,” he says. “We used to self-perform almost everything, and now we look to our subcontractors and vendors who specialize in certain tasks to help us maintain our aggressive schedules and quality work.”
For example, the team outsources 3D model building for project layout and machine guidance. “The 3D model building, we don’t do in-house,” Hiltz says. “Model building is an exercise in which you create a surface so that you can go out and do your layout. You can load your machine with the model, so you can build it with automation, and we sub that out to a company where that’s all they do. So instead of trying to take that task on in-house, once we get a contract, we send these plans over to them and they build the models for us.”
Another company handles safety assessments of each job site. “They do bi-monthly inspections of the projects and repair facility and help us stay safe and legal,” he says. Jeremy Hiltz Excavating Inc. also outsources IT, as well as stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) permitting and inspections. “All our field inspections for the SWPPP, we sub out,” he says, “and it saves another step for our superintendents.”
When considering the future, workforce shortages will very likely remain a challenge industry-wide. “I anticipate we will not maintain the size we are for much longer due to the labor shortage and the younger generation’s lack of interest in the trades,” Hiltz shares. “We are unwilling to compromise our standards, and as a result, we are prepared to size the company around the number of exceptional employees we can retain and hire. The industry, as a whole, is struggling to find employees. Finding qualified talent is all but impossible.”
The team will continue to rely on the latest technology to offset the lack of workers. “Thankfully, we have embraced technology to fill the void and have accepted our destiny with the workforce,” he says.
While new employees may be in short supply, the company enjoys the support and loyalty of its existing people. “Brian Veazy has moved into our lead project manager role and is doing a great job,” Hiltz says. “We are excited to watch the younger generation step up and excel within our company. We have a new office manager, Kathleen Smith, who came on board a year ago. She brings with her over twenty years of experience in the industry and has our office running smoothly. Her attitude and dedication are exceptional and much appreciated.”
Many employees have stayed with the company long-term, sometimes for decades. Karen Nichols, responsible for office administration, human resources, and safety, has worked here for twenty-six years. Leo Robitaille retired from the company after nineteen years. Tom Lyford and Tracy Fellows have been here for 20 years and counting. Superintendent Jason Hughes has worked for the business for seventeen years. Steve Garland had such a good experience working for Jeremy Hiltz Excavating Inc. that he returned after retiring.
Even when employees leave to pursue other opportunities, they maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the company. For example, Will Hess, once General Manager, launched his own successful engineering and consulting company. “He still works with us regularly as we contract his firm to assist in many tasks,” Hiltz says.
Jeremy’s son, Colby, has come on board full-time and is proving to be an integral part of the company’s future. “He has become a vital part of our operation,” he says. “He is an accomplished equipment operator and has become proficient with GPS layout and equipment automation.” He has a commercial class A driver’s license and is currently studying for his septic designers and installer license. “Last Fall he attended a road builder class hosted by Caterpillar in Illinois and is always eager to learn new things,” Hiltz adds. “Looking ahead, we will be focusing on estimating and project management. The final goal will be to have Colby run the company one day.”
Having Colby move into that leadership position will fulfill his father’s dream and benefit the company as a whole. “It is important to carry on a family legacy, and it’s also very important that we maintain the company much like it it’s always been so we’re here for the employees,” he says. “We want [them] to continue to be able to work in an environment that they’re used to.”
Armed with a twenty-seven-year track record of success, the latest technology and equipment, a supportive team, and a promising successor, Jeremy Hiltz Excavating Inc. is well prepared for the years ahead. “The future of the company looks promising,” Hiltz summarizes.