At the start, it was just a father, son and a single Bobcat in 1995. Today, Hamilton and Dad Inc. is a $6.5 million company handling gas and water main projects, sanitary and storm sewer work, and excavations.
It all began when owner Jerry Hamilton’s father, Basil, co-signed for a bale wagon when Jerry was 18 years old. That was the origin of Hamilton and Dad.
“We bought it for like $5,000 and paid it off and then we sold that one when I was about 20,” Jerry Hamilton recalls.
He says the company didn’t break $50,000 in revenue in its first year of operation. It’s been an upward trend since then.
Originally, the plan was to do side jobs with the Bobcat, like cleaning out old barns for farmers. In a few years, that evolved into digging out yards for homes under construction in Nixa and Ozark.
Around the time of the company’s founding, Jerry Hamilton married Carolyn, who’s now president of the operation.
“From about the early 2000s to 2008 to 2010, we pretty much just dug out houses,” Hamilton says.
Basil Hamilton, a retired Springfield firefighter, also had a tree-trimming business under the Hamilton and Dad name at the beginning, which eventually separated in 2000.
“I didn’t like the tree-trimming stuff at all, and he didn’t know anything about the dirt,” Jerry Hamilton said.
In 2003, the company got its first big excavator, and Hamilton says he moved into subdivision utility work with City Utilities of Springfield. First, there was an approval process.
“Like any contractor, they typically go through a process to do small main work,” says Phil Harris, manager of natural gas and water engineering and contract inspection at CU. “If they do three projects successfully, we consider them for the prequalified contractor position.”
Harris says he’s worked with Hamilton and Dad since 2015. For instance, the company handled $163,000 in sewer system expansions for about a dozen homes in the city, according to city contract documents at the time.
With more commercial and municipal work coming in 2008, the company began to pivot. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
A timely change
Around the time the company began to shift to work on the commercial and municipal side, the Great Recession began to take hold.
“We were not doing so much house digging because all of that started falling apart with the recession, so we were doing more apartments and infrastructure,” Hamilton says.
Work was pretty steady until about 2010.
“Then, in about 2010, it hit us,” he says. “There was no subdivision work. So, we were having to work with municipalities.”
Once the recession hit Hamilton and Dad, equipment had to find a new home.
In 2010, he canceled the insurance on the equipment not in use and let them sit in his backyard. They also refinanced their house.
“That allowed us to basically take the proceeds and pay the equipment off,” Jerry Hamilton says. “It ended up being, between the house and the equipment, a $14,000 a month swing in payment.”
The recession also impacted the company’s workforce.
“We had six or seven guys at the time and went down to two,” says Carolyn Hamilton. “We were able to get just enough work to hang in there.”
Jerry Hamilton says the recession created a void in the industry, and in 2011 the company pivoted to commercial utility and municipal work. Sewer systems for Greene County, for instance, were now targeted through the public bid process.
“The county would get a group of them together on a street and we would put sewer in for all of those houses,” Hamilton says. “That became a big part of what we did.”
After making their way through the recession by working with municipalities, the employee count began to pick up, from around 10 shortly after the recession to the current total of 26.
This year, the company picked up a couple of city projects – the widening of Cherry Street and The Link along Washington Avenue.
The Link project, which carried a contract of $233,162, was completed about a month ago after being approved by City Council in March. Hamilton and Dad upgraded the storm sewer system and retaining walls, and widened the sidewalks between Commercial and Chase streets.
“That was only like a 60-day job. I like those jobs because everything we do you can’t see,” Hamilton says. “The only thing you can see is the top of a manhole lid or a fire hydrant.”
The Cherry Street widening project from Barnes Avenue to Oak Grove Avenue is ongoing after being approved by council in April.
CU’s Harris says the utility work for the $2.05 million Cherry Street project is about to be completed.
“He’s one of our biggest contractors for all our annual system work,” Harris says of Hamilton, pointing to system work deals with existing networks and relocation for stormwater detention, among other areas.
At the intersection of Glenstone Avenue and Kearney Street, Hamilton and Dad is handling sewer work for the BigShots development by Tim O’Reilly and Glen-Kearney Development LLC.
Jerry Hamilton says crews have been on-site since Aug. 22.
“Our business really is shaped right now to be a strong utility company,” he says.
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