North Carolina-based Imperial Contracting has built a reputation as a contractor willing to take on the work that other contractors either can’t or won’t do. Their specialty: retention pond construction and conversion in residential and commercial developments.
Imperial Contracting attacks the hard jobs with attitude, expertise and a strong respect for what’s possible with the right combination of operator and machine.
Imperial — like a spartan going into battle. That’s how Wake Forest, NC-based Imperial Contracting approaches every job. The company – founded on the principle of tackling the tough jobs that other contractors can’t or don’t want to do – has mastered its craft.
“We are the contractor everybody calls when either somebody can’t do it, isn’t able to do it or doesn’t want to do it,” says Justin Santoro, owner, Imperial Contracting. “We say, get out of the way and we’ll make it happen. It falls back to just wanting to be better than the next guy.”
“We strive to be the best at every level of our company. We are built on the ability of my men, and the right equipment to do the job,” he adds. “Our work and the appearance of our equipment are the two things that make us who we are.”
The contractor specializes in the construction and conversion of retention ponds in residential and commercial developments around North Carolina.
“Our work depends on the design of the engineer for the subdivision and how many ponds he/she allocated and fit in. All the water work comes to us, and everything that goes down the storm drain comes to us as well,” he jokes. “We get everything from kids’ basketballs to copperhead snakes to snapping turtles, to just regular old mud and trash. The environment itself is a big challenge because literally everything’s at the bottom.”
Naming and owning success
Santoro takes a fresh look at how he deploys his team and equipment into the field — equipment assignments are merit based and each operator is expected to the take care of the machine as if they own it themselves.
And each machine has a name.
“Nothing has a relationship as a number,” says Santoro. “A relationship comes out of a name and knowing about it. You respect it. You name your equipment. It’s a living, breathing machine. Once you get inside it, you make it happen. It’s your control, everything that machine does. It needs to have a name.”
He’s refined his fleet through the years and optimized it for working in residential areas – small enough to be easily transported to the site, and big enough to get the heavy work done. A typical equipment outlay on a jobsite looks like:
• A CASE CX210D excavator brought in to do the primary bulk earthmoving and mucking out.
• A CASE 750M low ground pressure (LGP) dozer outfitted with machine control for final/finish grading.
• A CASE 160D excavator outfitted with machine control and a tilting/rotational bucket for perfecting the slope and final grade of each pond. The bucket is oversized at 60 inches, but operators only use this machine for fine grading and contouring.
The machine control systems incorporated into each of the machines are indicate-only – Santoro relies on the experience of his operators and the precision of the equipment matched with the site plan to get each grade down to 1/10th of an inch to plan.
The CASE CX160D is a 112-horsepower excavator designed to be both powerful and responsive. Imperial operators are able to precision grade on slopes and down into the corners of the ponds, and other places that make it difficult for the dozer to get to. It also affords the company the ability to continue working in even the wettest conditions as Imperial can use the CX160D to grade the entire pond if needed.
“Really, the 160 is a great machine. From the (previous model) to the D, it’s evolved into an even better excavator, with more comfort, more things that you really want every day,” Santoro notes. “When you spend 10 to 12 hours a day in a machine, comfort, visibility and ease of use are all very important. The 160 offers all of that and more.”
One additional advantage the CX160D gives the Imperial team is its precision. Each D Series excavator features an electronically controlled pump, a large control valve and multiple sensors that combine with the CASE Intelligent Hydraulic System to make the best use of the machine’s hydraulic power and momentum — resulting in added strength, precision and fuel efficiency.
“They’re amazing,” says Santoro. “They’re very comfortable and offer very smooth control. It doesn’t have a lot of stick-pull, it doesn’t delay, and it has great maneuverability. The speed is perfect which makes it easier for our operators to grade very precisely when they need to.”
As for the dozer, the 750M features an advanced load management system, large hydraulic pumps and motors — Imperial’s operators love the strength and the agility of the machines.
“It has the power we need to run dirt from the filling process to the finish grading,” says Santoro. “It is one of the most versatile machines in our fleet, actually one of the most versatile machines period. The right power with the right weight, with the right ability to get the job done.”
The low ground pressure design also comes in handy when working in soil conditions that are often reflective of being at the lowest point in a development.
“The LGP holds better with the soft materials that we experience a lot of,” Santoro says. “It’s versatile on the slopes. You get better traction when walking big slopes and trying to grade them. It just has a better ground pressure ability for us.”
In addition to the power and versatility, CASE also took operator comfort and line-of-sight into consideration when developing the dozer. Its cab has floor-to-ceiling glass doors providing maximum visibility to the blade and out ahead of the machine. It also features a pressurized cab and advanced sealing that makes the cab extremely quiet with a decibel rating of 75 dBa. The combination of performance and ease-of-use works well for Santoro.
“The 750 has the ability to go from precision work to bulk work and between,” says Santoro. “It just adapts right to it.”
Dealer support helps Imperial conquer all
Relationships built over time, forged in a collaborative approach to getting the best result for all involved has long been the approach of Carolinas-based Hills Machinery. Santoro and the Imperial team have appreciated that as the company has grown, and Hills has played a major role in why Imperial continues to choose CASE for its fleet.
“It matters to know somebody cares,” Santoro says. “Knowing they’re there for you when you need them makes a big difference. And then, when you’re thinking, I got to buy a new machine, it is easy to turn to the guys who take care of you. That’s Hills in a nutshell.”
As for service and uptime, Imperial relies heavily on Hills and takes full advantage of CASE ProCare. ProCare is a comprehensive machine support offering that comes standard on all new CASE heavy equipment — protecting it for up to three years and keeping owning and operating costs predictable.
“ProCare is huge for us,” Santoro notes. “When we look at the overall cost of a machine and then the cost of the upkeep for the first three years, in those first three, we’re not responsible for any services or oil changes. On top of that, Hills is going through our machines, making sure there are no issues. It’s a great add-on and it doesn’t come with an extra price tag. It more than pays for itself in the first three years.”
“I have been around CASE equipment a long, long, long time.” Santoro concludes, thinking back to when he first operated equipment as a young man. “It proved itself on the farm that I grew up on. All the tractors we ran then were CASE. The dozer we had was a CASE. It proved itself very able to do everything that we’re looking for. I’ve never had a bad experience with CASE equipment, and we have excavators that have 6,000 and 7,000 hours on them.”
All-in-all, Santoro believes he has equipped his team to succeed. With pride, a sense of ownership, and equipment support and design that matches his own drive and tenacity, Imperial will continue to make its mark in the Carolinas.
“Imperial, I believe, means you never surrender, and you never quit. We don’t quit. We work seven days a week and we get the job done right every time.”