Master Blasters

For more than 50 years, Twehous Excavating has been molding Missouri

Sscott bylineThe project: blasting about 60,000 cubic yards of rock. The catch: The rock is adjacent to four lanes of running traffic, and only a few hundred feet away from a high school and several historic homes.

Complex jobs like this make work exciting at Twehous Excavating Co. That particular blasting scenario was part of the Highway 50/Lafayette Street interchange reconstruction in Jefferson City a few years ago.

“We do construction work that most other construction companies stay away from,” said Ed Twehous, vice president of Twehous Excavating. “We don’t mind doing the easy type of work, but we’re just really good at doing difficult, tight-timeframe, just-a-little-bit-tougher-than-normal type of jobs.”

The company is a family business. Twehous, who runs the blasting division, and his two siblings are second-generation leaders.

“I was born into construction. I started operating equipment when I was really young and have just stayed here and done this ever since,” he said.

His parents, Frank and Laverne, started the business out of their home in 1959 with a single bulldozer.

“Dad would get jobs during the day, and Mom would do the accounting for him,” Twehous recalled. “It just kind of grew from there.”

Today the company has approximately 100 employees, including not only second- but third-generation family members. Their expertise branches far beyond rock blasting — they also provide earthmoving, site grading, all types of utility construction, demolition, geotechnical boring and specialized heavy-haul trucking services.

“The best part of my job, personally, is figuring out how to build the really tough jobs. I like that our clients know that we can do work that other companies can’t do, and I like that I manage a staff that can figure out how to do that work,” Twehous said. “It’s interesting. It’s different every day.”

Headquartered on the outskirts of Jefferson City, Twehous Excavating takes on projects throughout the central U.S. but does most of its business in Missouri.

In the blasting division, the company has 10 licensed explosives professionals. They work closely with state and federal agencies such as the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to ensure they are complying with all the regulations.

“Blasters are becoming a pretty special breed, I guess, because there aren’t a lot of people who are willing to go through all the regulatory compliance it takes to handle explosives,” said Twehous. “We do a lot of specialty work.”

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Recently, the company’s blasting crew has been working on the site of the new Capital City High School in Jefferson City.

“We just finished blasting just shy of 200,000 yards of rock on that project in under 2½ months,” said Twehous.

The company’s work also includes blasting at quarries and expanding landfills. Another main source of projects is Missouri Department of Transportation construction, though Twehous said that has been scarce of late.

“We’re still severely short on MoDOT work,” he said. “Their funding is really, really bad, and Missouri could use a lot of improvements to their road system.”

However, the business has experienced growth recently.

“We’re just affected in general by how Missouri’s economy is doing. And it’s been getting stronger,” said Twehous.

It’s difficult to find employees who already have the skill set required for blasting, so the company focuses on internal training.

“We basically train everybody that we put in that division from the ground up,” Twehous said.

New trainees start out as drill operators. Then they move to apprentice blaster status and begin training on the use and handling of explosives. After that, the company helps them obtain a license to become a master blaster.

Besides their reputation for holding high workmanship standards and tackling tricky jobs, one of the things Twehous said they are most proud of at Twehous Excavating is the fact that so many employees love working there enough to make it a lifelong career.

It’s a testament to the company’s family culture.

“We’ve got a lot of people that have retired out of here with 25 to 40 years of working here,” said Twehous. “This is just a good place for people to call home.”

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