Florida’s Coastal Cable lands big jobs at places like the Daytona International Speedway with a hardworking crew and large equipment inventory.
Working big jobs at the Daytona International Speedway and along Daytona Beach had always been a dream for Jay Flositz, who knew from early on that he wanted to do directional drilling.
It took a while for Flositz and silent partner Jimmy Pascarelli to get Coastal Cable Construction to where they wanted it, but with hard work, determination and the right team, it’s coming together for the company based in Ormond Beach, Florida.
“Business is going crazy, just nuts,” says Flositz, co-owner. “We just started a job in Jacksonville. It’s a contracted job for three years drilling in conduit for fiber lines with 1,200 miles of directional drilling.”
Jobs like that, and those at the speedway, have helped Coastal Cable grow from a pickup truck and one directional drill to four drills, three vacuum excavators, 12 pickup trucks and many other pieces of equipment.
TAKING TIME TO GET THERE
Flositz started in the industry in 1997, working for utility companies throughout east-central Florida. It didn’t take him long to realize he didn’t want to work for other people.
“I was always on jobs as a manager for Bell South and we had a small directional drill that we operated,” Flositz says. “Every time we would go out and do a bore somewhere, somebody would ask us if we could do something for them with that machine. Of course we couldn’t, because it wasn’t our machine.”
That spurred the idea for Flositz and a co-worker to start up a company. Their first stop was to a contractor doing work for Florida Power and Light (FPL), one of the state’s largest utilities.
“We asked them if they had any drill work,” Flositz says. “They asked us how many machines we had and how many trucks and we told them we had three machines and all these trucks.”
In reality the two didn’t have any equipment yet. “They gave us a contract and we left and said to ourselves, ‘Guess we better get a machine.’ So we did,” Flositz says. S&J Boring was born with the purchase of a directional drill.
After eight years in operation, S&J shut down in 2009 with the decline of the economy. Flositz and his business partner tried again in 2010 by opening another business, but eventually they went their separate ways. “That’s how Coastal Cable was formed,” Flositz says.
Flositz took half the crew and his business partner took the others. Most of Flositz’ crew had worked for him the past 10 to 12 years.
THE HAPPY CREW
One of the biggest issues facing Coastal Cable, and other directional drilling companies, is finding qualified employees. “It’s hard to find good employees for drilling,” Flositz says.
“You find somebody who says they know how to drill and they might, but it’s their way of drilling and it’s not the way we want to do it.”
Flositz says it’s easier to find someone who can run equipment but has never operated a drill. That allows the workers to be trained the way the company wants them trained.
Once trained, the next thing is to keep them happy. Flositz found an easy way to do that. “I pay all my guys in piece rate,” he says. “Whatever they do, that’s what they get paid for. I’ve tried it hourly, salary, and every other way, but this way seems to work the best.”
The company pays crews of three a percentage of whatever the job brings in. The crew members then split that percentage between themselves. “They all make out pretty well,” Flositz says. “They don’t want to leave because they know they’re not going to find another job where they make as much.”
Flositz has found other benefits to paying his crew that way. Crews will take better care of the equipment because if it breaks down, they’re not getting paid. He’s also found that crews tend to get more done in a day.
As an example, the company completed a job in Ormond Beach, putting in new waterlines. It called for installing an 8-inch main and more than 100 bores across roads to connect homes to the main.
“The crews would take our little JT520 drill (Ditch Witch) and knock out 10 bores in a day,” Flositz says. “Normally if you’re paying them by the hour, they might go out and do two or three bores and then call it quits. My guys, though, know they’ll make more money by doing more work.
“I really don’t care how much they make,” he continues. “The more they make, the more I’m making.”
RELYING ON CONTRACT WORK
Contracted work, like the drilling job in Jasksonville, has helped the company grow its fleet, which includes four Ditch Witch directional drills, three vacuum excavators (Vac-Tron and Ditch Witch), four utility locators (Subsite), a pipe fusion machine (T.D. Williamson), a mini-excavator (Yanmar), four reel trailers (Roose), and 12 pickup trucks.
“When you go to a lender and say you have a contract for three or whatever years, they’re more than likely going to work with you,” Flositz says. “That contract work helps cash flow a lot better.”
The non-contracted work may not pay as fast, but usually brings in more cash. One of the most frequent job sites is the Daytona International Speedway and One Daytona.
“We’ve done, and I’m not exaggerating, about 200 bores there,” Flositz says. “We’ve had jobs there ranging from working on the irrigation to a new solar circuit pavilion they just built there.”
The FPL Solar Circuit, a system of more than 7,000 solar panels that generate electricity for the speedway’s operations and FPL’s 4.8 million customer accounts, was completed in February 2016. It includes three canopy-like structures covered with solar panels. On race days, vendors occupy the space underneath.
“We did all the bores for that project,” Flositz says. “We did two shots that were about 600 feet in length. On one shot we had to pull four 3-inch pipes, and on the other we had to pull three 3-inch pipes running from that pavilion to the transformer.”
Flositz says the speedway is one of the most safety-oriented job sites the company works at because of the number of existing utilities. “There’s just so much existing stuff out there that nobody knows where it is,” he says. “It’s not really time-consuming. It just takes a lot of extra work that you wouldn’t do somewhere else.”
The company has also done bores in the infield, in the parking lots and along International Speedway Boulevard, all for the speedway.
“They’re running out of room, there is so much stuff in the ground out there,” Flositz says. “They’re not always the easiest jobs, but they’re interesting.”
CREDIT GOES TO THE TEAM
Good long-term employees make it possible for Coastal Cable to pick up the speedway work and other tough jobs.
“If it weren’t for my guys I wouldn’t even be here today,” Flositz says. “They’re all really good employees. They want to learn and all of them can run all of our equipment. They can locate, run an excavator.”
Flositz wants to see the company continue on that track with steady jobs and a solid crew: “I surround myself with people I can count on and I don’t want to lose that.”
Clean, maintained equipment a key to landing jobs
Four Ditch Witch directional drills make up the core of Coastal Cable’s equipment inventory, and owner Jay Flositz says they get used daily and are kept in good working order thanks to head mechanic Stanley Smith and Ditch Witch of Florida.
The company’s oldest machine is a JT520, the first machine Flositz acquired. “You could probably hang it in a Cracker Barrel because it’s so old,” Flositz says. “It probably has 8,000 hours on it and it doesn’t get used that often now, but when we have a really tight spot or something, it still runs fine. There’s no sense in getting rid of it when it still works.”
The company also has JT1220 and JT2020 model drills and a new JT9 purchased in July. There is also a Subsite utility locator for each drill. To transport that equipment, Coastal Cable has 12 pickup trucks.
“All my trucks are fairly new,” Flositz says. “They all have the company name on them and are cleaned all the time.”
Helping to maintain that equipment is Smith, who has been with the company from the start and has known Flositz for 20 years. “If I didn’t have Stanley, I would be broke just paying bills for repairing equipment,” Flositz says. “He can take any machine apart and put it back together blindfolded. We call him MacGyver because he can fix anything.”
The company requires the trucks and equipment to be clean and employees to wear uniforms when on jobs, and safety is a priority.
“Your image going to the job makes a big difference,” Flositz says. “You don’t want some guy pulling up in a Camaro with the trunk open with 20 shovels in the back and people piling out with pot-leaf T-shirts on. You wouldn’t gain trust that way.”