Anderson Aggregates Excels at a New Kind of Land Clearing in North Carolina

Nov. 1, 2002
The first thing that Chris Anderson describes when talking about his land-clearing business, Anderson Aggregates, is its great location in Mocksville, NC, north of Charlotte and south of Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Development is booming in and around these cities, in addition to Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh to the east, and Rockhill, SC. Regulations to control soil erosion are being enacted in several of these areas, and Anderson has added some important facets to his business both in response to the new rules and as additional business opportunities. Anderson’s brand of what he calls “city logging” is in fact a cutting-edge service incorporating environmental protection of building sites before, during, and after the traditional land-clearing process. As communities in North Carolina and elsewhere increase regulation of developments, Anderson Aggregates leads the way in answering these challenges.Site Preparation Becoming More Complex
Chris Anderson, co-owner, Anderson AggregatesMecklenberg County was among the first in North Carolina to enact strict regulations controlling soil runoff from building sites. “Mecklenberg County has taken the stand that soil is going to stay on your site,” Chris Anderson points out. Developers pay upfront to keep runoff to a minimum, saving the City of Charlotte and the county future expenditures for dredging streams and rivers. Such regulations are starting to be enacted across the state, all the way to Raleigh, and during the past year, Anderson Aggregates has been building ditches and settling ponds and installing silt fence and basins. “This goes hand in hand with clearing land,” Anderson says. “We couldn’t start a job until the silt fence was in, so we got into that, and here we are.”At the site of a future townhouse development on the outskirts of Charlotte, Anderson points out earthworks and silt fencing erected on the site. A 3-ft.-tall dike at the low end of the gently sloped property runs along the site parallel to the property line. A riprap-filled drainage opening in the center of the dike allows water to flow out of the low area. Beyond that, a silt fence filters all water flowing from the site. “This is city logging,” Anderson notes. “Soil is not going to leave this site.” A Caterpillar 320B equipped with a root rake pulls up and stacks small trees and brush while a front-end loader pushes material into piles awaiting the arrival of Anderson Aggregates’s Morbark Model 1300 Tub Grinder in a few days. Even though most of the site will be made level with up to 7 ft. of fill dirt, Anderson’s crew carefully clears the land of trees, roots, and brush to prepare the ground for construction.Anderson points out that high population growth in North Carolina is opening development of land that was previously passed up for building because of drainage problems or other costly preparation work. While no one is a fan of increased regulations, the new rules will save taxpayers money down the road while maintaining the beauty for which the area is so well known. And Anderson is glad that he is able to increase his value to his customers by offering the services that they need. “Service: That’s all that the business is about,” remarks Anderson. “Working for good people has gotten us where we are.”Logging RootsThe Stone Bluff residential development in Charlotte is cleared in preparation for excavation.Anderson’s grandfather was a logger, and so was his father, Jerry Anderson, before Jerry founded a sawmill and pulpwood yard as Anderson Chip and Pulpwood. Bans on burning were being enacted throughout the area, so the company bought a new whole-tree chipper–a Morbark Model 20 Total Chiparvestor–in 1987. Jerry Anderson was familiar with Morbark since buying a debarker in the early 1970s and Morbark conveyors for his chip mill 10 years later. Business grew along with the company’s reputation and soon evolved exclusively to land clearing for housing subdivisions and commercial and industrial development. “We moved strictly into cutting trees for a reason other than to produce material,” says Chris. “It was to reduce material.”Anderson Chip and Pulpwood grew along with the economy and in 1996 added stump removal and grinding. Chris became a 50/50 partner with his father in the company, Anderson Aggregates LLC, and in 2001 the companies merged under the Anderson Aggregates name.Productive Equipment and EmployeesAnderson Aggregates’s land-clearing fleet includes three Morbark machines: a newer Model 20 Total Chiparvestor, a 2001 1300 NCL Tub Grinder, and a 1998 1300 with cab and loader. Most felling is done with a Hydro-Ax 511E, while cut trees are pulled to the chipper by Cat 525B skidders. A Prentice 210E knuckleboom loader sits at the center of the company’s chipping operation, placing lumber-grade logs onto a hydraulic chainsaw for cutting, feeding trees into the chipper, and loading cut logs onto trailers for hauling to a local sawmill. Excavators, wheel loaders, and track loaders keep the 1300s fed at stump-grinding sites, and service trucks are kept at all work locations.Both Chris and Jerry Anderson spend most days on the job at chipping sites. Chris explains, “I’ve got some good employees on the grinders, and I don’t have to see them every day.” On a warm winter day, Anderson Aggregates’s chipping crew is set up in Stone Bluff, a new subdivision in Charlotte. After a day and a half of work, most of the trees are felled and are being skidded to a pile next to the Prentice loader. At the loader’s controls, Jerry expertly feeds the Chiparvestor, which fires a steady torrent of chips into a chip truck. “This isn’t Morbark’s biggest whole-tree chipper, but it does a great job,” Chris remarks. A fuel truck and a service truck are parked nearby.He says his chipper crew easily produces 10 loads of materials in eight hours. “We’ll do 10 loads of something every day. Maybe two loads of logs and eight loads of chips, or five chips and five logs.” He emphasizes that the company’s money is made on efficient land clearing and material reduction, not so much on the sale of products trucked from clearing sites.Rainy-Day WorkAn excavator places riprap to stabilize and protect the roadway berm at a Charlotte townhouse development.Anderson Aggregates markets 90% of its wood chips to plants for power generation. The remainder is sold for coloring and further processing. Stump grindings that cannot be left on-site or hauled elsewhere are brought to the company’s yard, where they are stockpiled for screening three or four times a year. When wet weather doesn’t permit chipping, Anderson keeps his crews busy and cash flow coming in by grinding materials at three municipal sites and at other wood-grinding jobs. The Southeastern United States has been hit by a long stretch of dry weather, but it still rains occasionally, observes Anderson. “When we can see a big-enough rain front coming in, I’ll mobilize everything to one of our municipal sites. Let it rain, we’re still grinding.”Anderson has been able to weather economic rainy days as a result of subcontracting out excess chipping and grinding work over the past six years. “We were making little or nothing on subcontracted work, but we were taking care of our customers,” he says. “And then there was a downturn in the economy. My subs aren’t busy, but we are busy. We wondered for a long time whether subcontracting was worth the trouble. This downturn in the economy says, yes, it was worth it.”The Best Equipment Backed by the Best ServiceAnderson depends on his equipment as much as his customers depend on him. “I don’t mind going to work if I have something to work with.” The company’s equipment is mostly later models covered by extended warranties. “You can either pay for a machine or you can pay to fix it,” he says. “A warranty says a lot about any piece of equipment. For example, the two Morbark 1300s have extended warranties. If they weren’t good products, Morbark wouldn’t guarantee them for that long.”Anderson knows of no other contractors offering the full range of services provided by Anderson Aggregates. Even so, Anderson strives to keep his customers more than satisfied. “When you build these relationships, when you work with these people, they know that you’re going to do the work and you’re going to do it fairly.” And he knows that as long as he serves his customers as well as he can, they will not look for somebody else to do their work.

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