Gregg Lunsford has had one clear mentor as he’s guided his company through 40-plus years in construction: his grandfather Glenn Lunsford.
“Had it not been for him, I probably wouldn’t be doing this,” Lunsford says. “I hung out with him a lot, and he had a big influence on what I wanted to do.”
Unfortunately, his grandfather, who concentrated on site clearing and grading in rural areas, did not witness his start in construction.
“He passed away before I even bought a tractor, so he didn’t get to see any of it,” Lunsford says. “It would have been cool for him to see what’s happened.”
Even though he wasn’t there, his grandfather’s reputation gave Lunsford a leg up with a local equipment owner, who gave him access to a loader and dump truck. “He let me use his yard and shop just like it was my own. I was 20 years old, and it was slow getting started.”
Through the years, Lunsford Grading & Hauling of Talmo, Georgia, has seen its share of ups and downs. The company currently has 15 employees, but in 2007, it was up to 35. Then the Great Recession hit. “We’ve been at 15 employees for a little while now,” he says.
Although Lunsford started off working on residential jobs, he now focuses mostly on commercial site development, clearing and hauling work. This year he was named one of 12 finalists for Equipment World‘s Contractor of the Year Award.
Since 2001, Lunsford Grading & Hauling has operated out of a 5,000-square-foot facility in a fast-growing-but-still-rural area north of Braselton, Georgia.
It’s an area he’s rooted in. His grandfather’s former homestead is across the road, and the company offices are on another parcel that belonged to him.
Gregg’s sister, Patti Bynum, handles the Lunsford Grading & Hauling office, and the siblings have also formed RPR Development Group, offering the services of four dump truck to other companies.
RPR was formed to address a pain point that Lunsford noted in his own company. “Dump trucks are a big necessity to a grader, and they’re hard to find on the spur of the moment,” Lunsford says. His own fleet includes six tandem dump trucks.
Fleet for Flexibility
The facility allows Lunsford to do his own preventive maintenance and repair work, especially on his older fleet.
That fleet includes eight dozers, seven crawler loaders, four compactors, six excavators, in addition to articulated dump trucks, graders and over-the-road trucks. This varied fleet gives him the ability to move between jobsites as the workflow dictates without moving his equipment.
“We can leave them there because we have enough to go work somewhere else,” Lunsford says. “It does help us be a little more flexible.”
He also uses a combination of new and used equipment. “Some contractors may buy all new, but we kind of mix it up a little.”
“He’s a good equipment manager,” says client Scott Gibbs with Gibbs Utility. “His machines are well kept and in working order.”
“I enjoy running a tractor, but I don’t get to do it as much as I used to,” Lunsford says.
Ups and Downs
When the Great Recession hit, Lunsford Grading & Hauling took some bruises but avoided a knockout punch.
“We owed some money, but we had equity in pretty much everything,” he says, “so we weren’t upside down on the machines we had to get rid of. We lost big time on them, but I don’t think we sold one machine that we weren’t able to sell for more than what we owed on it.”
Which was a good thing since Lunsford estimates his local area didn’t fully recover until 2012. “There were three or four years there that were brutal.”
By comparison, the pandemic’s impact was much softer. “We stayed busy throughout it,” Lunsford says. The subsequent supply chain issues were more problematic, however.
“For a while there, we couldn’t even place an order for concrete pipe. They wouldn’t even take orders, they were so far behind.”
As with most contractors, Lunsford has difficulty finding workers. “We would probably have more employees if we could find them. They’re very hard to find.”
But his reputation after 30-plus years in the field comes in handy.
“When someone starts here, I feel responsible for him,” Lunsford says. “We’re a pretty tight-knit group.”
Lunsford also makes it clear that no job is beneath him. “I do what needs to be done, and everybody here is the same way. You might see me down in the ditch or moving a piece of equipment.”
“It’s not rare to find him on a tractor,” Gibbs agrees, adding that someone coming into the industry would do well to learn grading techniques from Lunsford. “He can put you at ease and explain it, so you understand the method to the madness. He has patience and a well-deserved reputation in the community.”
Kaycee Motes with client Scroggs & Grizzel Contracting calls Lunsford a “trusted sub.”
“They’ve been very responsive,” Motes continues. “If there’s an issue that arises and we need them to address it, he’s there immediately. He’s committed to his work, and he makes sure it’s done right and well.”
“Do what you say you’re going to do and stand behind it,” Lunsford says when asked what advice he’d give to those wanting to enter the construction business.
“Even though it may take way longer, you just suck it up and finish it. Be a man of your word. There’s going to be a lot of tough days ahead; I can promise them that.”
The upside, though, is satisfaction in a job well done.
“Even though sometimes I think, ‘What was I thinking?’” I know this is what I really wanted to do, and I enjoy it.”