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Spotlight - Stan Hegener, Cedar Eaters

image Stan Hegener President Cedar Eaters Comfort, TX

SAN ANTONIO - It wasn’t until Stan Hegener faced his own 150 acres of cedar that he realized that he couldn’t see anything for the trees. With his wife Pam, he created Cedar Eaters, a land restoration business that not only cleared his own land but has gone on to clear the land of many in the Hill Country.

 

 


Share about your background and your introduction to the construction industry.
    Both my wife, Pam, and I are from Nebraska, so we went to school in Nebraska. I played football for the University of Nebraska and majored in construction management back in the ‘70s. They didn’t have cedars in Nebraska then, but they do now!
    After graduating, I went to work for an oil company in Oklahoma and then ultimately got transferred to Louisiana to work in the Conoco plants there. After about seven or eight years with them, we started our own non-union construction company through a union contractor in 1983 and built that company up; we had $62 million worth of work, did refinery and pipeline work and had 600 to 700 employees. My wife became the HR manager, and we did that until we moved to the Hill Country in 2001.

How did you become involved in the land restoration business?
    We bought 150 acres when we moved here, and it was full of cedar. When we came over and saw how invasive cedar was, we basically figured that there had to be a way to clear it.
    In my life, before they had machines that would clear the right-of-ways for the pipelines that fit on excavators, they mulched the pine trees in east Texas and south Louisiana. We would cut them down and mulch them up like we do now but with an excavator. I found a mulching head on a different kind of a drive unit and researched that, and we kind of evolved from there. We actually had a friend of mine next door who owned 5,000 acres, so we took that process and while we were still working in Louisiana, we would clear his property and measure how long it took to do a thick, thin, rocky area or hilly area; we did that for a year so we knew how long it took. After we figured that out, we tried to start the company to see if it was marketable because at that time, there weren’t many companies that did it. It has evolved for 18 years.

I like the name Cedar Eaters for your company!
    Actually, our real name started as Legacy Homestead Development. Then about three or four years into it, there was a guy who had trademarked the name Cedar Eaters. We bought his name and the trademark and that’s how we became Cedar Eaters. So the actual name of the company is Legacy Homestead Development DBA Cedar Eaters of Texas.

How has the business evolved?   
    Our original thought was that we were going to retire and be a mom-and-pop business. I would have one operator and one machine. I would go out and find the business and the operator would do the work. One thing led to another and we got more business than one machine could handle, so we bought a second machine. I kept two machines busy, and so we bought a third machine.
    At that point, my son Spence had graduated from Baylor and was looking for a job, so we asked if he wanted to come and work with us. He did; he was an operator, ran the machines and eventually started estimating and finding work like I was doing. We had three or four machines for operators and crew. We just developed it that way. Now, we have seven mulchers and an excavator that we use to pull mesquite trees out with.
   
What do you enjoy about the work you do?

    Helping people is instant gratification. To take a piece of property that is overgrown and within hours and days, transforming it from something you can’t see to views [is satisfying].
    It’s also an environmentally-friendly process; we mulch the trees up and the mulch stays on the ground; it helps the ground, helps with erosion control, helps retain moisture for root systems, and so on. We don’t use dozers, we do everything strictly with mulchers and we do everything in an environmentally-friendly way instead of pushing it over with a dozer and burning it and putting smoke in the air and all of the things that go with it. That’s our process; there are other people that do it the other way and there is nothing wrong with that, but we have branded ourselves as the environmentally-friendly way to do that with a nice look and being able to help with erosion control.
    It’s a never-ending job. Trees will continue to grow; we’ll never get rid of all of them by ourselves. They grow as fast as we can cut them down.

What do you hope the future of the company holds?
    We’re a woman-owned company; my wife, Pam, is the CEO and I’m the president. We’re in the process of transferring ownership to Spence; he’s actually buying me out first so that we can maintain the company’s minority-owned status and then he’ll probably buy her out. He’ll own the majority of it at some point.
    Pam and I have worked together 35 years. She knows the management end of it, and then I do the field stuff. We both, as a team, manage the whole operation and bounce ideas off of each other. Now that Spence is involved, he has pretty much taken over a lot of it. He wants to grow it. I’m 67, and Pam is 65 so we are trying to retire and let him grow it. He’ll probably be more aggressive than we are in trying to find more ways to do the work and to expand the brand.
    We have a good core team. We’ve developed that. We went through an EOS program and developed our core values. We have 23 employees and we all simplified the core values, so that is what we look for when we are trying to expand and hire new people. It was all developed by the employees, so everybody had to buy in. We have a great group of employees that all help to build this. They’ll be able to move it forward. We’ll still be involved, though.

What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t at work?
    I don’t really have hobbies – work is my hobby! I like looking for new ways of doing things and new ideas.
    We do travel, mostly to Colorado. In a year from May, we are going to the British Isles on a Viking Cruise for 21 days. We’ll go different places. We have best friends in Key West and New Orleans. We lived in Louisiana for 20 years and have been here for 18 so we like to go back for crawfish.

Share a little about your family.

    I have a daughter, Tricia Carr, and son-in-law Ben who actually live in Texas now. Spence is in Waco with his wife Sara; we opened up a northern division, so he is actually in Waco trying to get that off of the ground.
    Tricia and Ben and Spence and Sarah have a boy and a girl; the two girls are the same age within six months and the two boys are the same age within about nine months. Now that they live closer, we’re taking all of them on a trip to Colorado for 12 days and then on a road trip with the two dogs and the four grandkids.

Do you love being a granddad?
    Yeah, you get to do whatever you want to do and there is nothing the parents can do about it! I get to do stuff with them that they don’t get to do normally and I can buy them stuff they don’t normally get. I get to spoil them and then give them back!

What do you hope the future personally holds for you?
    Pam and I bought a 40-acre ranch in Colorado in Gunnison so our goal is to live in Gunnison for six months in the summer and then here for six months in the winter. We bought two Bernese mountain dogs that go with us out there.
    Land restoration subcontractor Cedar Eaters in Comfort and Waco specializes in cedar and brush mulching, mesquite grubbing and hand crew cutting and chipping. –mjm


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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net