The construction industry has its ups and downs, so it's noteworthy that one family-owned business is still going strong after 60 years.
H.H. Huff Excavating was established with a truck-mounted Kwik-Way backhoe with a swinging bucket that ran on cables.
H.H., who was known as "Buck," was born in Nunn but moved to Delta when he was 5. His family farmed on California Mesa. His wife Dot was born and raised in Delta County.
They lived in Pueblo the first year of their marriage, but moved back to Delta after Buck served two years in the military.
During the early years of the business, Buck did a lot of ditch cleaning. As the business expanded into residential and commercial construction, Buck added a hydraulic backhoe, a dozer, trucks and other equipment, primarily manufactured by Massey-Ferguson because there was a dealership in Delta and the Huffs have always believed in supporting local businesses. Later, they switched to John Deere for the same reason.
Financing for early purchases was difficult because interest rates were so high. At one point, Dot recalls, they were denied credit from Colorado Bank & Trust's Lew Springer. Years later, when Lew needed some excavating work done, he contacted Buck. "So he had to eat his words," Dot said.
"Buck always said if he could get out from under those high interest rates, he could make it," Dot said. "We finally got to that point, but now we're insurance poor!"
To make ends meet in the early years, Buck helped out his brother with his logging operation and Dot worked in the county clerk's office. After six years, Buck asked her to come help out with the phones, banking and bookkeeping. Dot is now teaching her daughter, Wanda, the computer accounting program.
Son Doug and grandson Kirk are also an integral part of the business, particularly since Buck's death in July 2008.
Kirk recalls riding his bicycle to jobs as early as age 12. His on-the-job training took place after school and on weekends. When construction activity slowed down in the winter, Kirk worked on the equipment with his dad and grandpa. He and Doug are able to troubleshoot most equipment repairs.
The Huffs occasionally rely on temporary help, but primarily run the equipment themselves. The job is dangerous at times, particularly when they're working steep hillsides or maneuvering huge pipe into position.
They've had a part in building houses throughout Delta County, as well as Telluride, Ridgway and on the Dallas Divide. They've worked on BLM and U.S. Forest Service projects throughout the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, and were contracted by Doughty Steel to help with the installation of holding tanks throughout Colorado. They've done a lot of work with Kissner G.C., including dirt work for schools in Cedaredge, Crawford, Delta and Hotchkiss. They were also involved in the Hartland Dam project with Kissner G.C.
One of their most memorable projects was laying pipeline on Grand Mesa's rugged slopes for the City of Delta. The 8-inch pipe was brought in by helicopter and laid end to end.
Versatility -- particularly since the downturn in the economy -- has been a vital element to the business's success.
It's hard to imagine, but Doug and Kirk have projects going on Last Dollar Road, Horsefly Mesa, Black Mesa, and in Cedaredge -- all while doing some trucking for the county.
Construction has been picking up, Kirk notes, particularly in Montrose and Telluride, so they've been able to focus on projects closer to home. When bidding projects, they like to outline options that in many cases will cut costs. They know satisfied customers are the key to success for any business, no matter how long it's been in operation.
"We have so many loyal customers, past and present," Dot said. "We can't thank them enough."
Two accidents involving school property are proving costly for Delta County Joint School District, district business manager Jim Ventrello reported last week. Both incidents involved uninsured drivers, forcing the school district to file claims with its insurance provider and pay deductibles of $10,000.