Relationships at the Heart of Data Center Success

Thanks to relationship building, cross-selling and the occasional cookout, Porta Kleen and PKX have done or are doing business with more than 35 data center customers, including Licking County’s massive new Intel project near New Albany.

“We’re fortunate to be working with companies such as Google, Facebook and Intel in the New Albany area. It may not be a data center, but we are also working on a very large project in Glendale, Kentucky for a Ford battery plant,” said Division Manager Christopher Waite. “All of these job sites have many plastic units, water systems, holding tanks and water tanks.” None of these projects, he said, would’ve happened without building a relationship with the client first.

Central Ohio is home to many data centers—Hilliard and Plain City each have two, New Albany has several, including Facebook, Google and Amazon, and there are data centers in Dublin and Lancaster—nearly all of which Porta Kleen and PKX serve. But, the 1,000-acre New Albany Intel site, with its potential to employ up to 8,000 construction workers, has garnered national attention. Servicing the site has been a primary focus for Porta Kleen and PKX since the project was announced.

“We’ve heard about Intel and other data centers coming to New Albany for years,” Waite said. “The minute that happened, we started building relationships.” Fortunately, Porta Kleen already had a relationship with Gilbane, the contractor hired to do the site preparation for the initial Intel phase; however, Gilbane would only be one of the handful of contractors on site.  

“Eventually another company was going to come in and take over the next phase, so we needed to show them what Porta Kleen was about and give them the exceptional services that they expect. This was accomplished by the service drivers on site doing top quality work and sales managers being a phone call away to give outstanding customer service. We believed that if we were a good partner with Gilbane that they would then give us a good recommendation for the next phase,” Waite said, which is exactly what happened. When Gilbane was finished, Porta Kleen continued to provide service to contractor Bechtel Corporation, possibly for the next 15 years as the Intel facility is constructed.

Sales Manager Tyler Zook said Gilbane initially asked for three portable restrooms and a handwashing station the day Gilbane began clearing the site. “They said they wanted the Cadillac of everything, so we got brand new, really nice units for them,” he said. “They wanted five times a week service, which is a great revenue opportunity for us.”

A year into the project, Porta Kleen has more than 120 units at the site with the potential for 500 or 600 units as construction progresses. But, Porta Kleen also provides complete water and sanitary service to a sea of temporary offices and facilities at the site.

“We’ve gotten everyone involved on this Intel thing; it’s a big group effort to make it happen, from our logistics to sales to drivers. We get a lot of good feedback,” Waite said. “Every day it’s problem solving. How can we solve this issue for the customer so it’s not an issue anymore? It’s exciting; it’s challenging and it’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding to be able to see all our stuff out there and see how we take care of these people.”

Of course, all the data center sites also require hydro excavating. “I would say that our sales and operations team get us in the door and the actual operators, ‘boots on the ground,’ keep us onsite,” said PKX Sales Manager Dan Runner. He said as soon as PKX adds a new client on a data center site, one of the PKX team is at the site day one to ensure safe and efficient work. This allows a PKX team member to meet the folks on site, build an emotional connection with the stakeholders and often provide breakfast after the morning Toolbox Talk.

“Once we have our foot in the door at the data centers, our operators take over from there,” Runner said. Contractors see how much more professional, efficient and safe PKX is than previous excavators. “We also leverage the ‘BBQ trailer’ for large sites like these,” he said.

Several Porta Kleen and PKX folks will come to a large jobsite and cook 200-300 burgers and hotdogs for the entire site. “The smell of it brings workers over like the pied piper,” Runner said. “We also invite all subcontractors to the lunches whether we’re working for them or not. It’s another way to show how PKX is not just there to do a job, but to build a connection with our customers.”

PKX Division Manager Keith Egloff said the company’s firm commitment to safety and relationship building promotes cross selling between Porta Kleen and PKX. He said everyone is working together toward the same goal—exemplary customer service.

“Working on these big projects means we have to dot a bunch of Is and cross many Ts,” Egloff said. “With communication being the key, we are able to provide the customer piece of mind in knowing that we do what we say we’re going to do.”    

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