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Bolinder Resources built for flexibility in West

By |  January 15, 2021
Bridger Bolinder is a proponent of the K400+ cone crusher, particularly what KPI-JCI & Astec Mobile Screens offers with some of its automation components. Photo: Bill Royce

Bridger Bolinder is a proponent of the K400+ cone crusher, particularly what KPI-JCI & Astec Mobile Screens offers with some of its automation components. Photo: Bill Royce

Gratitude is a word that comes to mind these days for Bridger and Boone Bolinder, the Utah brothers leading family-owned Bolinder Resources.

2020 was a weird year for aggregate producers everywhere – the Bolinders included. Bolinder Resources fortunately remained busy, not only at the company’s fixed operations but at jobsites across Utah, Nevada and other parts of the Mountain States where the company’s six custom crushing crews roam.

Still, the vibe about the business environment is different for Bridger and Boone now compared to the last economic downturn. While business in 2020 was good, the brothers are proceeding with caution as the new year begins.

“It’s a weird time because it just feels so different than other busy times,” says Bridger, who oversees the company’s operations. “We’ve had lots of things going. We’re excited but super cautious, too, if that makes sense.

“Things feel weird, but we’re super grateful,” he adds.

The brothers are cautiously optimistic that 2021 can offer a repeat of 2020, but Boone, who handles Bolinder Resources’ financials, can’t help but wonder if the negative economic impact so many U.S. businesses felt last year will catch up with aggregate producers in the next couple of years.

“If we all act like that’s what’s going to happen, then that’s for sure what’s going to happen,” Boone says facetiously.

Maintaining flexibility

From left: Bridger and Boone Bolinder represent the third generation of leadership at Bolinder Resources, which has two fixed locations in Utah. Contract crushing is a big part of the Bolinders’ business, as well, with a market focus in Utah and Nevada but a willingness to crush just about anywhere in the U.S. Photo: P&Q Staff

From left: Bridger and Boone Bolinder represent the third generation of leadership at Bolinder Resources, which has two fixed locations in Utah. Contract crushing is a big part of the Bolinders’ business, as well, with a market focus in Utah and Nevada but a willingness to crush just about anywhere in the U.S. Photo: P&Q Staff

The family business has been through tough times before, though. Bolinder Resources, as it’s shaped today, took form in 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession. Boone remembers the company’s start date vividly – Jan. 5 of that year – which was smack dab in the middle of the economic downturn.

“Our parents took a huge risk that we could start it,” Boone says. “Thankfully and luckily, I would say, we got through.”

The work back then just wasn’t available, Boone adds, but Bolinder Resources got through that rough stretch by focusing on its core customers.

Since that time, Bolinder Resources’ business model has somewhat shifted. Last year, for example, custom crushing made up about 60 percent of Bolinder Resources’ business. And the company generally tries to be flexible, which is a strategy that makes good sense now given the air of economic uncertainty.

“We are willing to go anywhere,” Bridger says. “Nevada and Utah are our focus markets right now. But Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming – we have [business] in Wyoming.”

Part of being flexible also means targeting opportunities in mining, which, Boone says, is big in the Intermountain West. Bolinder Resources also dabbles in trucking, maintaining a small fleet of its own.

“I feel like it’s pretty much impossible for a company like ours to have a five-year plan because you just don’t know what opportunities are going to come up,” Boone says. “We really try to base our business on being flexible and capitalize on whatever opportunities we can get.”

Partnerships

An 8-ft. x 20-ft. JCI three-deck screen, pictured at right, in action at Bolinder Resources’ Rocky Ridge Pit in Tooele, Utah. Photo: Bill Royce

An 8-ft. x 20-ft. JCI three-deck screen, pictured to the right, in action at Bolinder Resources’ Rocky Ridge Pit in Tooele, Utah. Photo: Bill Royce

Yet another part of flexibility at Bolinder Resources is utilizing mobile processing equipment. In recent years, the company forged a partnership with Goodfellow Corporation, a dealer offering equipment and parts from KPI-JCI & Astec Mobile Screens. When visited last fall, the company’s main site – the Rocky Ridge Pit in Tooele, Utah – was crushing with a Pioneer CS3055 jaw and a Kodiak K400+ cone.

Bridger particularly likes a few features of the cone crusher.

“I like what they’ve done with some of the automation components,” he says. “They’ve got KCS with that MILO control. I like that feature. The internal counterweights – counterweight failures are always a big issue on these roller-bearing cones – [but] the way they design that [with] kind of a plug-style weight is what I would call them: I don’t see us ever replacing those.”

Liner changes are also easy with the K400+, Bridger says.

“You buy fewer parts for liner changes,” he says. “We’ve done a couple on ours now. It’s pretty easy.”

Parts availability is a priority for Bolinder Resources these days, as well. Early into the pandemic, Bridger and Boone evaluated their parts inventory and which parts were must-haves in the event of a breakdown. The company stocked up on three months’ worth of critical parts, Boone says, because of concerns they might not be able to access key components.

“Parts and service is a big one,” Bridger says. “We’re always looking for that. There are a lot of people who preach the mentality. Other contractors and vendors will say: ‘This is a partnership.’ They talk a big game, and when it comes to an actual give-and-take situation, you don’t see that.”

Goodfellow, however, is delivering in that area for Bolinder Resources.

“It means a lot to me when a vendor like Goodfellow will say: ‘Hey, there’s this job I heard about. It might be good for you guys,’” Bridger says. “To me, that goes much further than anything else the dealer could provide for you.”

Having equipment available when needed is also an expectation Bolinder Resources has. Not every vendor can readily provide equipment, but when a job presents itself and an additional crusher is needed – pandemic or not – Bridger looks to companies that can deliver.

“With Goodfellow, they do have the iron you need when you need it,” he says. “I’ve been impressed with that. We were in a market for a jaw, and they had it sitting in their yard.”

Family history

Bolinder Resources runs all Cat mobile equipment. Photo: Bill Royce

Bolinder Resources runs all Cat mobile equipment. Photo: Bill Royce

While vendor partners regularly contribute to Bolinder Resources’ success, it’s vitally important that Bridger and Boone work well together in the family business. The two brothers feel that they do get along, with skill sets that complement each other nicely.

But brothers, of course, don’t always get along within family businesses.

“I always tell people if you really want to know a family member, you go into business with them,” Bridger says. “That’s how you get to know your parents and a brother. You see a side of them that you hadn’t seen growing up.”

Parents in a family business set the tone for their kids, though. According to Boone, his parents did just that.

“Our parents (Stacey and Garry) have done a good job of laying the groundwork and having it always be about whatever is best is what we’ll do,” Boone says. “We can discuss it even if we disagree. They never pitted us against each other.”

Adds Bridger: “They haven’t taken [to] Team Boone or Team Bridger.”

Now running the business, Bridger and Boone recognize that their employees are the lifeblood of Bolinder Resources. Making continuous investments in their people is something the brothers believe in.

“We took seven guys to Minneapolis for belt scale training,” Bridger says. “That’s expensive, but belt scales are our pay belt.”

Citing other investments in people, Bridger says the company sent 16 employees to ConExpo-Con/Agg last year. The company is also organizing an in-house crushing school to more effectively train employees.

“We can tailor it to what our guys are seeing in the field,” Bridger says.

In the meantime, the brothers are enjoying the work they’re doing. Bridger and Boone are carrying on a family tradition of construction work that began with their great-grandfather.

As Bridger describes, their great-grandfather (Les Bolinder) built airports and was a pioneer of sorts with technology in aviation. Their grandfather (Glen Bolinder), starting at age 52, launched an excavating and grading business. He later ran a small crushing plant.

Bridger and Boone’s dad (Garry) and his siblings grew up in the industry, expanding into ready-mixed concrete and asphalt. Garry and an uncle (Bruce Bolinder) grew the business to more than 250 employees before selling to Oldcastle in 1996.

The Bolinders got back into the industry in 2009, and Bridger and Boone have not looked back since.

“Right now, we’re having lots of fun,” Bridger says. “It’s just really fun. Even [despite] some of the uncertainty, it feels good.”

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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