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N.C. Contractor Honors Daughter With Energetic Crews, Dynamic Machines

N.C. Contractor Honors Daughter With Energetic Crews, Dynamic Machines



When Chris Philemon began his grading business 30 years ago this summer, it was because, as a young man, he discovered he had a love for running equipment like graders, loaders and other machines used for clearing and shaping properties.

Then, as he got older, started a family, and built Philemon Grading & Trucking in Wingate, N.C., the passion he had for his work was inherited by his daughter, Krista — making the company’s success, for a time, that much sweeter for Chris.

“We have 12 employees now, and although we are a small company, the folks here are all heart,” he said. “We have a crew that is all-female, with one young woman, Leslie Helms, running a trackhoe as well as Kelley Mullis and Kelby Tarlton driving the trucks with her, and Hannah Thomas working the scraper. In both the male and female crews, most of them are around 19- to 22-years old.”

Philemon explained that he chooses to employ so many young adults to work on site in tribute to his late daughter.

“Krista passed away three years ago, but when she was 21 years old, she got her contractor’s license for North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia,” he said, quietly. “She also became one of the best trackhoe operators I had ever seen. My daughter’s heart was in this work, and we had planned for her to take over one day and grow the company.

“After her passing, all these kids came to me wanting to be like her, and that’s why they are working here today. As I said, this group has heart and spirit. We work from Virginia to Georgia and go 12-14 hours each day, sometimes 14 days straight, and none of them say one word of complaint.

“We are all one family, which is hard to find. For that, I am a very blessed man with my operators.”

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Philemon Gained Experience While Still in High School.

Chris Philemon was drawn to the construction business before he even graduated from high school when he began operating a loader for a contractor who did light grading and built homes, he said.

“Shelly Martin is the man that I first worked for,” Philemon said. “He taught me about ethics, and he is serious about the work. He always wants everything to be perfect the first time and I learned that from him.”

When Philemon opened his own company in 1992, much of his work was putting in driveways and clearing house lots.

“Eventually, we grew to the point where we were doing subdivisions and now, we are working on projects like solar farms, and we just finished grading work at the big FedEx terminal in Monroe,” he said.

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New Housing for Turkeys.

On the day he was being interviewed, in early August, he described his latest project as smoothing land and building the pads for a few hundred poultry houses owned by Circle S Ranch in Monroe.

Located on White Store Road, south of Wingate, the site is to become a huge brooder farm for turkeys, where six small houses will be constructed that will raise chicks up to five weeks old before they are then moved to bigger facilities.

“The pad in front of us is 770 feet by 850 feet, and at 14 acres, this is the smallest one we will do,” he said. “It is big, but we did a similar project down near Pageland, S.C., that was 24 acres of pads.”

Prior to Philemon’s crews arriving at the latest job site, it had been a soybean field that they stripped and flattened out.

The field also was a bit rockier than Philemon expected it to be, he said, but his crews have been able to cut through it, and he is fully confident the job will be done safely and efficiently.

“We have roughly about 10 feet of cut up here on this hill where we are standing,” he said. “Our deepest fill is approximately 13 feet in front of the houses down below.”

Philemon noted, too, that his crews will not need to bring in any extra fill material because they already have enough on hand to provide a proper balance of crushed rock and soil. A compactor is pulverizing the rock before it is moved where needed by the company’s dozers.

Volvo, K-Tec Equipment Makes Work Easier


In all, Philemon said that his people are moving about 68,000 to 70,000 cu. yds. of dirt at the White Store Road property.

That amount of production is primarily due to the high-performance equipment he brought to the job site.

Among the machines the company is running to shape the future turkey farm are three Volvo A25G articulated trucks, a pair of Volvo EC380EL excavators, and one Volvo A30G truck that, on this project, specifically pulls a K-Tec 1228 pan across the property.

Each of these machines were obtained from Ascendum Machinery, headquartered in Charlotte, only about 30 mi. to the northwest of Philemon Grading’s base of operations.

Chris Philemon characterized each of the machines he employs as critical to getting the job done correctly at the site.

He began his assessment of each piece of equipment by praising the K-Tec 1228 scraper, a pan that sports a load capacity of 30 cu. yds., much more than the trucks he has that haul only approximately 20 yds. of materials.

“That pull pan is so efficient and will haul two trucks filled with material by itself — something that would take a trackhoe a whole day to move,” he said. “Plus, the cost savings it gives us is a lot when you figure the fuel on three pieces of equipment versus only one. The pan pays for itself just on that.”

That kind of efficiency is important to Philemon because of the largest amount of dirt and rocks his crews are loading on both the White Store Road project, and will move at its next job, he said, where the pads will be approximately 200,000 yds.

No matter, Philemon explained, as he and his young crewmembers enjoy the big projects, like the 450,000-cu.-yd. FedEx job they did earlier.

“As we average roughly 10,000 to 15,000 yards per day, it will take us less than a week to get this job done and finely graded,” he said about the brooder farm.”

Volvos Can Dig, Haul From Difficult Places


The Volvo articulated trucks and excavators handled much of the down-and-dirty work at the turkey farm site, especially when it came time to cut and dig.

“Well, because of this rocky material we are working in here, [the pan operator is] getting overburden off the top,” Philemon said, “but once down in the rocky surface, the pan won’t be able to cut it, so we need the trackhoes and trucks to get them out. In the right applications, using them is the best and quickest way to go.

“That [Volvo EC380EL excavator] is one we have had just a few months. We’ll soon be getting GPS put on it, and when that happens, the machine can do final grades with the other two backhoes we have,” he said, adding that Philemon Grading’s other excavators, including all its dozers, already have GPS systems on them.

He noted that other things about the Volvo trucks he enjoyed were their ease of use and the fluidity of their ride.

“You can drive across that bumpy field while you’re having something to drink and not spill a drop because the drive is so smooth,” Philemon said.

Philemon, Ascendum Prove to Be Great Match

Volvo machines coupled with the elevated level of customer and product support he has received from Ascendum has eliminated at least two worries Philemon has had over the past few of years of family tragedy and economic- and pandemic-related chaos.

“Ascendum has really been excellent for us,” he said. “The main reason that I even went to them in the first place was because of Mark Arcilesi [an account manager at the company] and his boss, Kristin Parker. I have known them for a while and dealing with them is extremely easy. If they tell you something, their word is as good as any contract. When they have given me delivery dates on equipment, they always come through when they say.”

Philemon added that when he has needed Ascendum to service his machines after a breakdown, the dealership also has been quick to respond.

“So far, we have only had a couple issues with the trucks, but each time they had someone down here working on them the same day,” he said. “Just yesterday, one of our people forgot to put the fuel cap on a trackhoe, and after I called Mark, he brought me a new one at once.”

Lucky Man

Overall, Philemon considers himself to be a fortunate man to have such hardworking and energetic young people around him that share his desire to keep the grading company successful.

“It has not always been easy, and there have been times over the years when I have wondered how we were going to pay our bills, but the Lord has been good to me, and we have been very lucky to work for great people.”

For more information about Philemon Grading and Trucking, call 704/242-4751.

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“My daughter’s heart was in this work, and we had planned for her to take over one day and grow the company,” said Chris Philemon. (CEG photo)

Presse contact

Allie Bridenthal
Marketing Manager

[email protected]
T: 704-237-7109

Credit: Ascendum (Publication free of charge – copy requested)
Photos: ©Construction Equipment Guide
Text: Construction Equipment Guide