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HomeCover ArticleImproving the Status Quo Guides OCA Chair in Business & Life

Improving the Status Quo Guides OCA Chair in Business & Life

Beaver Excavating’s Matt Sterling Serving as Association’s 89th Member Leader

“Bloom where you are planted.”

The meaning of this simple sentiment carries deep roots for 2024 OCA Chairman Matt Sterling, who has grown up in a family and company that strives to do right and strives for constant improvement. “My grandfather, for years and years and years, had a sign on his property overlooking the highway that read: ‘Bloom where you are planted,’” said Sterling, of Beaver Excavating Company. “I think that is one of those things we can do: By improving where we are, by improving our environment, we can place the stamp on it that says, ‘It is better than we found it.’”

Matt Sterling is part of the third generation of Beaver Excavating, which was founded in 1953 by his grandfather, Don Sterling, as an excavating business digging residential basements and sewers in Stark County. Today, the company is one of the region’s largest, most-respected mass earthmoving, site development and civil construction groups. Headquartered in Canton, Beaver Excavating works in eight states and besides Canton and Columbus has offices in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Having grown up around the company, Sterling knows what it has taken for Beaver Excavating to reach its current success – as well as what it will take to build on it. “My memories growing up of the company were a lot of busy people; a lot of people that always had something to do and worked very hard,” he said of his grandfather; father, Mark; and uncles Greg and Jeff. “… The holidays seemed like an extension of work because my dad and all my uncles worked together, and all of us kids shared similar backgrounds because of our parents.”

The past months have been monumental for Sterling, who accepted the leadership role as the 89th OCA Chair at last December’s OCA Winter Conference and in January began serving in the role of Beaver Excavating’s Co-President. It’s a title he shares with his sister, Betsy. Joining Matt and Betsy in the third generation of the family to be working at Beaver Excavating is cousin Jason Sterling, who is in charge of the company’s equipment fleet. As a family member of the company, Sterling gained early work experience. “I remember other employees picking me up in the mornings because I couldn’t drive yet,” he said, “and then I began working on the jobsites and doing what they needed done and what I could do to help.”

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Growing up a three-sport athlete, Sterling, who also enjoyed backpacking and the outdoors, competed in football, baseball, and wrestling at Massillon Perry High School. Following high school, he pursued his interest in business and attended Miami University, where he double majored in accounting and finance. Upon earning his degree, Sterling joined the public accountant firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Columbus office. After several years of work and travel with PwC, Sterling decided to meld his two interests and return to Beaver Excavating. “I always had an interest in the business and always had an interest in building things,” he said, as he began working full-time with the family company in 2002. About the time Sterling returned to Beaver Excavating to serve as Contract Administrator, the company was celebrating its 50th year in business. Over the first half-century, the company that was started with a $4,000 bank loan had grown to its third generation of family members, 400 employees and was performing $78 million in annual work.

That success has continued, as the now-more-than-70-year-old company provides services in Mass Excavation/ Earthmoving, Concrete, Underground Utilities, Geotechnical Construction, Deep Dynamic Compaction, Demolition, Unconventional Gas Infrastructure, Transportation Infrastructure, Power Generation & Transmission Infrastructure, Landfill Reservoir Construction, Residual Waste Facility Closures/Environmental, Industrial Infrastructure, Soil Stabilization/ RCC/Mine Grouting, and Crusting & Aggregate Processing. In addition to the company’s heavy/civil construction work, Beaver Excavating has become active in other construction areas with the help of its subsidiaries Stone Products and Beaver Constructors Inc. Stone Products not only sells new equipment but refurbishes and services aggregate processing and material handling equipment used for the demolition, waste, and recycling industries. Beaver Constructors provides construction for the commercial, industrial, food processing and distribution, K-12 and higher education, healthcare and environmental industries.

Of “One Beaver” – which incorporates the range of services provided by Beaver Excavating, Beaver Constructors and Stone Products – Sterling said Beaver Constructors, which has been housed within Beaver Excavating’s offices since 2011, and long-time affiliate Stone Products continue to strengthen Beaver Excavating’s self-performing capabilities. “Beaver Constructors is our vertical group … Working with Beaver Constructors has brought in a whole other group of successful professionals into our world and has helped strengthen and has diversified the services and level of service that we can provide our customers.” Of Stone Products, established in 1970, Sterling said, “as we have processed more and more aggregates onsite, they provide that extra piece for service that enriches our diversity and capabilities we offer our customers.” In peak season, “One Beaver” touts more than 1,000 personnel. In 2022 the Beaver Companies recorded $405 million in sales, which ENR ranked as fifth highest among the nation’s Excavating and Foundation Specialty Contractors.

"It's not a bad time to be a contractor in Ohio."

 

“We pride ourselves on having state-of-the-art abilities with ‘Generation One Values,’” said Sterling. “No matter how we’ve changed and how things have improved, we bring that same commitment that my grandfather brought to Beaver.” Having a front seat to learn how to run a successful company from his grandfather and his father, Mark, who served as Beaver Excavating President from 1981-2022, Matt said the key to a successful contracting company is optimism and teamwork. “Personally, I believe you have to be an optimist. You have to be a positive person with a very good team that is creative and excited to do the work.” Sterling, who served the past 10 years as the company’s Executive Vice President before being named Co-President, said he has seen the “team role” become even more important. “I think we always have had a good team, but I think how hard it is to hire talented people nowadays that we spend as much time managing and selling to our people as we are to our customers. Just as we’re constantly looking for new customers and driving value to our customers, we’re constantly looking for new team members and driving value to our team members,” he said. “Our team members have become a lot more of the conversation in all the decisions that we make.”

Just as Mark Sterling has built a legacy for the third generation of Beaver Excavating, he has also blazed the path for OCA involvement. Beaver Excavating is approaching 60 years as an OCA member. Unsurprisingly, Matt said his first memory of OCA was his father’s involvement. “My first memories of the association were how involved my dad was with OCA meetings or committee meetings … In addition to the meetings and committees, every three or four years he spent a lot of time with OCA negotiating union contracts with the Laborers group.” For Matt, his first experience with the association was with his dad. “I went with him to a Contractor For A Day Dinner. They were bringing in the college students to show what our industry had to offer.”

Matt, who is leading OCA 31 years after Mark Sterling served as its 1993 Chair, has been involved in the association at both the local and state levels. Along with chairing OCA’s Akron/Canton Local Chapter, Matt fondly recalls his work with the chapter in planning its golf outings and serving on its board. At the state level, Sterling, who was a member of the association’s 2007-2008 inaugural Future Leaders Forum, has served on OCA’s Board of Directors since 2016 and served in the Executive Committee’s roles leading up to this year as chair. Along with his work with OCA, Sterling is active with the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

“We benefit in a lot of ways from being an OCA member,” Sterling said. “But most of what we get from being a member is being able to use our resources in a bigger group to get a bigger voice – whether that is advocacy, whether that is learning as a group in a safety environment, or whether it’s just getting to know others in the industry and that we can help each other be successful.” Away from Beaver Excavating and OCA, Sterling has an active home life. He and his wife, Mandy, who were married in 2004, have three sons, Michael, Luke, and Jack. “Much of the time now is chasing the boys in all their activities,” he said. Like their father, the pre-teens are active in sports – from baseball, basketball, and football to wrestling and lacrosse. Sterling said he also enjoys playing golf, traveling and would enjoy taking Mandy to dinner more if time allowed.

In a nod to the sign that once stood on his grandparents’ property, Sterling does his part in making his community better. “I do coach a lot of youth sports for the (Massillon) Jackson Youth Programs,” Sterling said of his local involvement, which also includes volunteering time to be a part of the Huntington Bank’s Regional and Harper Insurance National Construction advisory boards, his executive member’s role on the Stark County Economic Development Board and his help with the Operative Plasterers & Cement Masons Local 109 Pension and Combined Health & Welfare Funds. In his year of many changes – from serving as company co-president and association chair – Sterling sees his role this year with OCA as being to maintain the status quo. “We are in a good environment for work. It’s not a bad time to be a contractor in Ohio,” he said of the work opportunities for Beaver Excavating and fellow OCA members. His sentiments were reinforced in a recent member survey following the 2023 OCA Winter Conference. “There’s a lot of alignment,” Sterling said of the survey results showing the shared understanding of what members seek and what OCA provides. “… I think there are some things that a lot of people would say OCA does very, very well. I think there was a lot of affirmation and a lot of clarity of where the efforts need to be.”

However, with his family’s trait for blooming where you’re planted, Matt Sterling hopes to improve on the status quo in his year leading OCA. “It’s our opportunity this year to look for ways to improve OCA as an organization from the inside,” he said. “Our goal this year is going to be all about participation and getting better with what we do.”

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