Clear Performance Standards and Veteran Techs Built a Rock-Solid Foundation for Locating Company

Mason Private Locating attributes fast growth to a strong commitment to quality and safety

Clear Performance Standards and Veteran Techs Built a Rock-Solid Foundation for Locating Company

 Carter uses his combo truck’s jetter to clear a sewer line in a business park.

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Jake Mason must be doing something right.

In November 2019, he started Mason Private Locating with three employees — all of them dedicated to helping customers locate underground utilities in and around Indianapolis. Less than three years later, the company operates with more than 40 technicians who are identifying and mapping buried utilities in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana.

Mason says the secret for such a quick and continuing expansion comes down to quality. “We’re building a system that will separate us from our competitors. We do not cut corners. We get jobs done on time and safely, and do our best to find everything that’s down there. Whether the customer is building a new home or a new factory, each job is handled the same way.

“What we do is serious stuff. We take it very seriously because someone can get hurt if we don’t. If the job is not done right, it creates problems. Quality and safety are the two main priorities of the company. We want to give you, the customer, what you need to get your job done. Our end goal is to make sure what you are doing is accomplished. We want to give you the best customer experience you can have.”

Building the foundation

Jake Mason grew up in the industry, following his father Mark around as a toddler and working with him as a young adult. The immersion gave him practical experience in the science of finding buried utility infrastructure, as well as seeing what worked well and what was problematic.

When his father retired in March 2019, Jake Mason decided it was time to launch a company of his own. That pivotal decision proved to be the right path. He followed up by acquiring a key personnel asset, Mike Iadanza, who joined Mason Private Locating as vice president.

Iadanza has worked in the industry for a decade. At Mason Private Locating, he is concentrating on creating internal companywide technology systems that can grow seamlessly with the company. He is also integrating a system that ensures employees have a clear understanding of expectations and performance standards. “At MPL, everyone wears a ton of hats but that’s the work I’m fixated on right now. If you want to grow a business successfully, you need to make sure the foundation you build it on is rock solid.”

Mason is in the field as needed and personally audits his team daily. Techs in the field are the heart of any service business. He speaks of “centuries of experience” in locating utilities, alluding to the veteran status of the company’s technicians. “We are a young company, but we hired the best of the best.”

Those who don’t bring years of experience to MPL are given three to four months of training and then assigned to a more experienced technician to begin developing their credentials. Finally, they are sent out on their own under the eye of senior project managers. The work of all the techs is audited weekly to ensure performance standards are continually met.

The monitoring of techs is stringent and so is the locating process in the field. The MPL locate routine has five specific steps: 1) Walk the site to get a feel for it; 2) Locate private infrastructure with ground-level indicators (meters, etc.) and public utilities; 3) Employ induction and passive EM tools to locate hidden lines and pipes; 4) Roll out a ground-penetrating radar unit to find buried utilities not otherwise detected (nonmetallic lines) and to verify EM findings; and finally, 5) Summarize the findings and electronically transmit them to a client before leaving the property.

The final step is a key one, Mason says. “All deliverables are completed on site — the work order, detailed notes, any video or camera work — and we get it to the client immediately. We don’t want clients waiting.”

Related services

All techs carry the same equipment in their service trucks. Radiodetection 8200 units perform the electromagnetic investigation underground and a RD1500 is called on for the GPR work, with GSSI Mini-Palm XT units relied upon for concrete scanning. In instances where doubt remains about a buried utility, crew members can haul in a trailer-mounted Ditch Witch HX75 hydrovac excavation unit to expose infrastructure. MPL also has a Vac-Con combo truck for daylighting buried utilities.

Some techs are cross-trained to perform any of the auxiliary tasks — potholing with the vac units, for instance, or running one of the company’s Envirosight SAT 2.0 lateral launch cameras through a larger diameter line to check for cross-bore mitigation issues.

Cross-bore intersections can pose explosive risks, of course. Mason says work to mitigate such hazards is carried out every day by his techs. “We do pre-inspections of sewer lines with a camera before they do a cross bore, and post-inspections as well to see if anything happened. We want to make sure.”

The variety of services offered share a common focus: protecting underground infrastructure. “All our services tie together,” Mason says. “Clean and inspect a line, cross-bore mitigation, find a sewer — it all ties together. And we regularly perform multiple services on a single job. We are a one-stop shop.”

The “Private” in Mason Private Locating acknowledges the need to locate underground infrastructure not covered by 811 queries. Sixty-five percent of all utilities are privately owned, according to Iadanza. “For example, 20 years ago, public utility lines primarily served a high school campus. Now, campuses have private underground lines for ballfield lights and concession stands, and lines running to new campus buildings that have been added on through the years. The campus complexes got more complex. The locating industry has changed as well.”

Unlike some trades and outdoor work where at the end of the day one can see obvious results, the accomplishments of utility locating are relatively invisible, unless you count orange markers and spray-painted lines. Mason says the work can still be satisfying. “A lot of our work is troubleshooting. Clients have a problem, and we partner with them to figure it out. When we do figure it out, that’s satisfaction.”

Like family

“One reason the company is really successful is because it is run like a family business,” Iadanza says. “When an employee is treated like family, it really makes a difference. On a cold, windy day when a tech is trying to do right by a client, being treated as family will keep him going. The Masons are a great family and Jake Mason runs a great business. I couldn’t think of a better family business to work with.”

The core business activity is in Indiana, Iadanza says, with Kentucky and Ohio almost as busy; yet the entire Midwest is considered the company footprint. Besides responding to emergency calls and routine locates, MPL has numerous contracts with contractors, municipalities and engineering and surveying companies.

“Our goal is to become the dominant provider in our home base area,” Mason says, “and then expand to other markets, offering the same quality work across the country, doing things the right way for our partners. Our expansion will be strategic, always making sure the work is being done the right way.

“No business expansion works without the right team in place. Our office staff and field techs are knowledgeable and dedicated. I appreciate them and what they do every day. They are the core reason why the company is growing.” 


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