• 4/30/2018

Building a two-story, 125,000-square-foot music facility with a 300-seat recital hall and a 1,000-seat indoor performance center that can open to lawn seating for another 1,300 seats is no easy feat. Construction project manager Gary Shepherd is no stranger to large, complex construction projects.

Shepherd started ShepCo as a family-owned institutional, industrial, commercial landscaping, excavating and site development company and took on projects along the Eastern Seaboard. At one point, the company owned more than 75 machines and had just as many employees. Nowadays, Shepherd has downsized the company and is back to his roots in Townsend, Massachusetts, focusing on provincial work across the state.

His latest project is a new, world-class Indian Hill Music school and performance center in Groton, Massachusetts. The town (pop. 10,873) is situated approximately 45 miles northwest of Boston, surrounded by rural communities and farm fields. The new music school and community center will replace the current center that hosts a professional orchestra and concert series as well as 1,200 enrolled music students. Being built on 110 acres of rural land, the new larger-scale facility will bring the sweet sound of music to the community with a projected completion date of 2021.

“This project has significance to the community, so I felt like I would like to be a part of it,” Shepherd says.

Conducting a masterpiece

Before starting the multi-year project in April 2017, Shepherd decided it was time to upgrade his current fleet of construction equipment. Unhappy with the sales, service and support he was receiving from the equipment brand he had used exclusively for nearly two decades, Shepherd decided to explore his options. “I felt as though the previous manufacturer had not stepped up and was no longer competitive, and I decided to end the relationship,” he says.

With impeccable timing, he received a call from Equipment East sales specialist Dan Clifford. The two had done business together for nearly 25 years when Clifford worked for another dealership. When Clifford joined Equipment East, he contacted Shepherd about giving Doosan® equipment a try. Shepherd agreed to a demo but mixed up directions to the dealership and nearly called it off. But he didn’t. Instead, he made the switch to Doosan equipment that day.

After demoing a Doosan DX350LC-3 crawler excavator, Shepherd decided the Doosan brand was right for him. “I immediately liked the machine and ended up buying it,” Shepherd says. “These machines allow me to support organizations I like to engage with, and they don’t bottom out my bottom line.”

In less than 12 months, one Doosan machine turned into a fleet of five Doosan excavators and four Doosan wheel loaders. Shepherd says his steel-tracked crawler excavators and wheel loaders were the only feasible solution to power through the jobsite and move material.

“In spring 2017, we had so much rain that we thought we would have to stop working until the ground dried up,” he says. “But the crew kept going. It was impressive.”

Even in unfavorable conditions, Shepherd and his crew of 20 employees have been able to use the crawler excavators and wheel loaders to bulk excavate and transport the materials. In just a matter of months, the crew moved more than 165,000 cubic yards of material – approximately 2,750 cubic yards each day.

“That DX490LC-5 will haul a bucket out of the ground with four cubic yards heaped in it,” Shepherd says. “We were filling 30-ton end-dumps, one right after another, about every five minutes.”

At the same time, the crew was digging footings to pour 10,000 yards of concrete and prepping to lay one mile of underground drainage pipe. The DL300-5 wheel loader was used in transporting materials, including various forms of clay, sand, gravel and boulders to another area of the development. Loading and transporting a wide range of materials from granular sand and gravel to hard clay, the wheel loader has earned preferred-machine status with Shepherd.

“The DL300-5 may be my favorite,” Shepherd says. “It has some real size, capacity and breaking force. I really like it.”

The sheer power and range of machines made the progress possible despite the challenging weather and ground conditions.

“There’s no question that we wouldn’t have been able to accelerate this project the way we have without the fleet capacity that we’ve got,” Shepherd says.

Excavating, site grading, subgrade prep and finish grading are ongoing. If the weather cooperates, the company hopes to work in spring 2018 to finish installing the footings and the foundations. From there, the company will proceed with construction of the two-story music center. The project could take up to five years until completion.

“The goal of this project is to create an environment that, when you get to the site, you’re completely submersed,” Shepherd says. “You won’t be lost and confused by what’s going on around you. You won’t hear highway traffic and noise and see other houses. You’ll see apple trees and fields, grass, and trees. It’ll be nature.”

A symphony of support

Shepherd’s relationship with Equipment East – the local Doosan construction equipment dealer – is extremely important to his satisfaction with the brand. “They are very responsive and that’s another key (part) of our relationship,” Shepherd says. “When we need them, they’re there. Maintaining and stocking your own parts is holding cash and inventory, and being able to go to a dealer and get it eliminates that. My father used to have a saying in business that the sweetness of price is long forgotten after the disappointment in service or product.”

Shepherd says that’s not the case with Equipment East in Dracut, Massachusetts. He receives same-day support, “sometimes within hours.”

Shepherd contends that when equipment isn’t working effectively, it costs his business money. “With Doosan equipment, there is no question that the machines will perform well,” Shepherd says. “We take pride in these machines. They keep my guys working so we can continue to produce quality projects.