Building Bridges and So Much More
Coal Creek Excavation Inc. thrives on tough jobs
Coal Creek Excavation Inc. (Coal Creek) began in 2013, shortly after the Colorado Front Range Flood that caused more than $1 billion in damages from Colorado Springs north to Fort Collins.
CEO and Majority Owner Bill Sisko and a business partner formed the company in Boulder, Colorado, to provide excavation and repair services to help bring back the devastated land and the structures that had been destroyed by the floods. Over time, Bill bought out his partner and became sole owner.
Bill obtained excavation and bridge building experience shortly after college by working for Aardvark Excavating owned by a friend in Waterbury Center, Vermont. There, he was handling flood restoration projects in Vermont after Hurricane Irene, chasing ice storm work in Connecticut and assisting in Superstorm Sandy cleanup in New Jersey.
Creating Coal Creek was the fulfillment of his dream. Starting out with a single bridge contract and hiring just one excavator operator, the partners acquired several excavators through a lease/purchase option. After quickly establishing corporate credit, the company was able to purchase its equipment with traditional financing.
Building on the success of the first project, they began partnering with another firm to obtain larger government contracts to perform flood repair and environmental restoration services. In addition, they contracted with various homeowners to restore bridges to their residences that had been destroyed by the flood.
Coal Creek’s work soon grew beyond excavation, allowing the firm to participate in the rebuilding and restoring of dozens of large residential bridges and roadways. The team has since diversified to provide additional civil infrastructure expertise. This includes commercial and residential excavation, earthmoving, civil structures like bridges, site development, utilities, retaining walls, hardscapes, structural concrete, rock drilling, soil nails, micropiles and more. The firm recently added a commercial construction division as well, primarily focused on projects with significant civil scopes and unique/tough building projects.
By the end of the second year, Coal Creek had about five employees. Today, there are 35 people on the team.
Bill tips his hat to others on his management team who have been instrumental in making this young company succeed. He gives specific kudos to Carlo Anamasi, President; Ed Glavin, Senior Project Manager; and Michael Bright, Chief Operating Officer and Operations Manager.
Bill also commends the company’s foremen and skilled crafts workers—personnel who are vital in helping the company succeed.
After the Floods
Bill appreciates the resiliency and ingenuity of his people and the way they pitch in to solve problems. “We’re most proud of the residential bridges and roadways we constructed to help homeowners regain access to their homes after the Front Range flood,” he recalls.
He says that the limited amount of grant funds available for repairs and restorations made it challenging for some homeowners to afford reconstruction work.
“We were happy that we could help them bridge those gaps by making the work affordable yet still profitable for us, all while delivering the clients a product they desperately needed and desired. This was possible because we poured our own concrete, and we were able to ‘value-engineer’ each job,” he explains. “By this I mean we applied our expertise in bridge design, the materials to be used and the methods of installation in order to save our clients money.”
A Substantive Management Direction
Coal Creek’s gross revenues totaled $8 million for 2020, and the company is on track to perform $12 million this year, Bill says. Thirty percent of its client base is commercial developers, 30 percent is general contractors, 25 percent is individuals and custom homebuilders and 15 percent involves jobs for municipalities and other agencies.
Word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied homeowners and companies are often the source of new work. Plus, the company has advertised online and works hard at maintaining relationships with general contractors, developers, municipalities, engineers and landscape architects to help sustain its new business pipeline.
“As we grow, we are keeping our eyes on building our company’s future, and we’re also focused on ensuring that we do not lose sight of our company culture.”
For the Love of Tough Assignments
Throughout the company’s relatively brief time in operation, one thing has remained the same. Bill and his team thrive on difficult and challenging projects.
“We’re a multifaceted organization that thrives on the non-typical projects requiring ingenuity, skill, experienced personnel and the use of other specialists, like engineers and industry experts,” he says. “It’s fun to be able to use your brain. We want the projects that others may shy away from."
“We work with our clients to ensure we clearly understand the concepts they have. Then we allow our talented team to use its creativity to develop a plan to overcome any challenges or obstacles—ultimately providing the best possible finished products.”
Bill points to employee Jonathan Bejar, who has worked for Coal Creek for five years as an excavator operator and concrete structures foreman, as a good example of the type of employee he likes to attract.
Jonathan began at the company with no excavation experience but a lot of natural ability.
“He has great hand-eye coordination, terrific spatial awareness and a strong overall aptitude,” Bill says. “On-the-job training has allowed these important natural skills to translate into the high-quality results that Jonathan and Coal Creek have become known for. People who naturally excel at video games often can apply that skill to excavation. An excavator operator needs to know how to run a complex machine that has two joysticks. We love people who are technology based."
“We look for team members who enjoy autonomy and who are accountable for their actions and decisions. We are an organization of hard-working, dedicated professionals who enjoy the challenges and freedoms that come with working for a small, reputable and successful company,” he says.
Bill himself is a good role model for the type of unique and motivated individuals that his management team looks for.
Bill graduated from Castleton University in Castleton, Vermont, with a business management degree. A good student, he also was a starting pitcher for the school’s NCAA Division III baseball team. He says he helped his team secure two conference titles.
“Baseball has always been a big part of my life. The game taught me discipline and was a great way for me to channel my energy,” he says. “These days, I am more into golf, a game that also requires discipline as well as patience and the ability to focus.”
After finishing college, Bill worked in guest relations at a 4.5 star hotel before landing the job at Aardvark Excavating. During his two years there, he and his friend learned as much as they could about excavation, bridge building and restoration work.
“I learned a lot of operational skills and gained invaluable experience as an excavator operator. The rugged New England terrain also helped prepare me for the work we do here in similar terrain,” he says.
Mountain Work Shows Slick Skills
Coal Creek recently completed a challenging assignment, serving as general contractor for the construction of Mustang Mountain Coaster, an alpine slide that uses a bobsled-like sled or cart to run down a track built on the side of a hill in Estes Park, Colorado.
“Building this $4 million mountain coaster, which plans to open in May, meant we worked in difficult mountain terrain. We even poured concrete with a helicopter,” Bill says.
“There is a lot of risk involved in construction as it is, but getting a helicopter involved on a mountain slope is definitely a different challenge,” Coal Creek’s Shane Weisell told the Loveland Reporter-Herald. “We knocked it out of the park.”
Another Estes Park landmark—The Stanley Hotel—used Coal Creek’s expertise to perform preparation and site work for phases of construction at The Pavilion at The Stanley, the hotel’s new 250-seat glass-door auditorium and banquet space situated next to a private pond.
“We did not do all the site work for The Pavilion, as we took over after the foundation was in place; but we did all of the site grading and pond/storm work, which was extensive,” Bill adds. Coal Creek also completed boulder retaining walls throughout The Stanley property. The Coal Creek Construction division completed all the site work for the the parking lot at The Stanley and the new Carriage House, which includes a brewpub, The Post Brewing Company.
The large-scale excavation was performed under a tight deadline, all while the hotel remained open to guests.
“We deployed a large team of seasoned and skilled operators with a fleet of our latest equipment. The extra manpower and equipment helped ensure that we efficiently completed all project phases under the strict time constraints,” he says. “We installed the piping for the pond, built the boulder retaining wall and performed other earth moving and sculpting work. We’re really proud of our contribution to this stunning facility.”
Coal Creek’s team is excited to continue to tackle these and other challenging assignments that require their extensive problem-solving skills, integrity and high performance in helping their clients succeed.