Grinders Clear 1,700 Acres

Written By: Cathy Medina, technical writer, Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, Iowa | September 28, 2010

Provided By: Vermeer Manufacturing Company, Pella, Iowa

Working diligently seven days a week, 14 hours a day with six men and two Vermeer® tub grinders, Triangle Maintenance Service, LLC assisted in a massive land-clearing project for a $1.3-billion Toyota plant being built on a 1,700-acre site near Tupelo, Miss.

Spring 2007 was especially busy for Scott Hannon, managing member of Triangle Maintenance in Columbus, Miss. Following the company's success in assisting with completion of the project's first phase — grinding 13,000 tons of wood waste generated from clearing 278 acres of land — his company was subcontracted for an additional 500 acres of grinding work.

The enormous site to be cleared included several hundred acres with lakes or pasture and grassland, and Hannon says it's the largest grinding project his company has ever tackled. He estimates his company's project cost at $1 million to $1.5 million.

Toyota chose the site in Blue Springs, Miss., to build 150,000 Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicles (SUVs) annually. The new plant is expected to hire 2,000 workers with vehicle production scheduled to start by 2010.

Triangle Maintenance was contracted to help finish the land-clearing efforts about halfway through the first phase of the project. "That's a pretty tall order to get that much work done in 45 days, especially this time of year," Hannon said. Phase one started in mid-March 2007 and had to be completed by the end of April.

Committed to Success

The first part of his crew's 21-day involvement, Hannon says, was extremely time-sensitive and challenged his six-person crew. "Keeping our folks fresh, keeping equipment running and maintaining a schedule of that magnitude was the biggest obstacle," he said. "We had to have additional manpower, along with a commitment from our people that they were onboard. Because they were, we were successful." In addition to his crew, Hannon says people from Vermeer Mid-South in Jackson, Miss., were at the job site to provide support and help troubleshoot.

So, how do you begin to clear the way for a new 1,700-acre SUV assembly plant? First, Hannon explained, a logger came in and cut down timber. Bulldozers and excavators quickly followed, gathering the remaining debris. After stumps were removed from the ground, the waste was stacked in big windrows or stockpiles in various locations across the site. Then the Triangle Maintenance crew used an excavator with a shear to size the piled material for grinding. The shear, Hannon says, can essentially cut a tree in half or split a stump.

As the two tub grinders went to work grinding the wood waste, they created large piles of processed materials. Triangle Maintenance loaded the processed waste onto trucks and hauled it to the Weyerhaeuser Pulp and Paper Company. A final pass from a bulldozer provided the site's rough grade.

After successfully completing the first phase ahead of the tight deadline, Hannon's company has earned the second contract to grind the additional acres. Timing will be less critical during the second phase and while Hannon predicts working 14-hour days again, he only expects five-day work weeks this time around. Crews used a Vermeer TG7000 and a TG9000 during the first phase, and Hannon anticipates adding another 1,000-horsepower grinder, "more than likely a Vermeer TG7000" to the fleet for the project's second phase, slated to start in mid-June.

Hannon describes Toyota as "an environmentally savvy company." Job specs required the contractors to log all of the timber that could be merchandised, and clear the rest of the site. Any remaining waste that couldn't be merchandised had to be processed through a grinder.

Waste Wanted for Fuel

Triangle Maintenance became involved in the Toyota project through its connections with the Weyerhaeuser Pulp and Paper Company, who wanted the waste for boiler fuel. Boiler or "hog" fuel is used to generate heat in manufacturing processes and refers to material that has passed through a grinding machine like the Vermeer tub grinder. Generally speaking, Hannon says that it's usually paper mills like Weyerhaeuser that use the resulting material for fuel.

Because of Toyota's reputation as a "good, solid company," news of the new plant generated considerable excitement in the community, Hannon said. "Because of the jobs, the investment, it's the whole thing — everything that comes with that type of facility. There's going to be related industry and a huge tax base," he said.

The Toyota project, Hannon says, is similar to the company's storm cleanup efforts. Both involve processing vegetative materials, however this project was on a much larger scale. They were required to meet the specifications, reduce the vegetative debris and essentially recycle it.

Following the 2005 hurricane season which devastated part of the South, Hannon's company played a part in the enormous cleanup and recovery. From late September to late November 2005, Triangle Maintenance workers helped grind and process about 152,000 cubic yards of storm debris in several Mississippi counties.

Established by Hannon in 1996 as a commercial grassing and guardrail installation company, Triangle Maintenance Service has evolved into a full-service civil construction company employing 85 workers. The family-owned business began offering the grinding service several years ago after recognizing a need existed in urban areas where burning is prohibited.

Hannon estimates that the company generates nearly 75 percent of its revenue from concrete construction work, with grinding, land-clearing, grading, and maintenance traffic operations accounting for the remaining 25 percent.

Once the massive land-clearing efforts conclude at the Toyota site, construction workers will begin the awesome task of building the assembly plant. According to the Toyota online pressroom, site preparation work will continue through fall 2007. Toyota will select general contractors for the next phases of the project — foundation work and steel erection — later this year. At peak construction in summer 2008, approximately 2,000 workers will be on-site.

When all is said and done, Hannon and the crew at Triangle Maintenance can take pride in the role they played in clearing the way.