Large Cincinnati Cross Bore Firm Takes on Pipe Lining as Latest Venture

CCSI branches out well beyond its industrial cleaning origins and Ohio boundaries to become a diversified underground infrastructure firm working across the country

Large Cincinnati Cross Bore Firm Takes on Pipe Lining as Latest Venture

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Champion Cleaning Specialists has a name indicative of both its origins and its evolution.

Incorporated in 1982, the Cincinnati-based company operated for many years as just that — a cleaning company.

“It was more a small, general industrial cleaning company,” says Jon Parnell, operations manager. “A van and maybe four or five guys. Just general cleaning in the Cincinnati area.”

But in the years since, the company’s “specialties” have significantly expanded. The company’s branding these days — CCSI — aims to drop that “cleaning” phrasing to show that it is much more diversified in its service capabilities: cross-bore work, hydroexcavation, sewer maintenance and inspections, and most recently pipe lining. 

“A couple years ago, we abbreviated it down to the CCSI,” Parnell says. “It’s shorter and stands out a little more. It’s on our website. When you see our trucks go down the road, it’s CCSI. We once did a large cross-bore project for an energy company. When our contact brought the bill to his boss, he saw Champion Cleaning and thought they were paying $1.5 million to an agency for dry cleaning. So there you go. If we’re going to do things like line pipe, we need to get away from saying ‘cleaning.’”

And it’s no longer just a few guys in a van. CCSI has over 100 employees working in areas across the country.

“We’ve grown into a big company, but we still try to maintain that small, family feel to it,” Parnell says.


Today, brothers Pat and Chris Kurtz own CCSI. They purchased it from the company’s founder, their father Kevin, in 2009.

That ownership transfer also largely coincides with how CCSI has transitioned away from being just an industrial cleaning company. The company purchased its first vacuum and CCTV inspection trucks in the early 2000s and began doing some sewer projects around Cincinnati. By about 2007, CCSI had started teaming up with local Duke Energy gas line installers to do pre- and post-job inspections as cross-bore awareness became more prevalent.

“We really kicked off with Duke Energy in 2009 and started to work directly with them,” Parnell says. “Then we just continued to grow from there.”

Hydroexcavation work came into the picture more in 2010.

“We had combo units, but we didn’t do a lot of hydroexcavation at the time. It really wasn’t a big thing,” Parnell says. “But then there was an incident that required a safe way to dig and we were contracted for the work.”

There was concern about an underground nitrogen gas line leaking into a manhole after a worker who entered the manhole died. CCSI had to expose a roughly mile-long stretch of the line in search of the leak.

“We ended up finding the leak,” Parnell recalls. “At the time we had three Vactor 2100s. Then we brought in one rental and another company we had assist us brought in two. We purchased another Vactor after that and the hydroexcavation work kicked off from there. We saw the profit that could be made. We weren’t doing much hydroexcavation at all before that.”

The hydroexcavation mixed in well with the other work CCSI had been doing for energy companies.

It was around 2010 that CCSI also started branching out more beyond the Cincinnati area, first in other areas of Ohio and gradually across the country. In 2012, CCSI began doing cross-bore contracts for Pacific Gas and Electric and eventually opened a California office. Energy company contracts have also caused CCSI to establish offices in St. Louis, Missouri, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Signing multiyear contracts with energy companies forced us to open these various offices,” Parnell says. “In the beginning we used to have everyone from Cincinnati travel wherever to work, but as we have grown in these other areas, we’ve hired people from those areas.”

When Parnell first joined the company in 2006 as a general laborer, he was one of about 20 employees. Now across all the markets CCSI works, the company employs more than 100.


Managing a large team spread out across the country has its challenges. Employee hiring and retention can be a struggle, Parnell says.

“It’s harder now than it was,” he says. “We go through maybe three people to find one good person. It’s the work ethic more than anything. The work we do is hard. It’s in the elements and it can be hard to find a person willing to do that work.”

CCSI does many of the employee satisfaction standards, from annual holiday parties to bonuses.

“We just try to be fair,” Parnell says. “If we get an emergency call and guys have to come in the middle of the night and work till the afternoon the next day, we’ll give them a bonus on their paycheck. Whatever we need to do to keep them happy.”

The growth necessitated hiring a human resources manager a few years ago.

“That has been very beneficial,” Parnell says.

One initiative the human resources manager set up is a company culture committee.

“We try to meet twice a month or at least once a month,” Parnell says. “It’s all the area managers from across the country and myself coming together to discuss what we can do to make employment better here. We do it on Zoom. That’s been a lifesaver.”

The culture committee recently put out a survey to solicit feedback from employees on things CCSI could be doing better. Anything related to employee satisfaction can come up in a meeting, Parnell says, like a recent discussion about options for company-wide outings or events.


Another new initiative for the company in the past few years was the establishment of a business development group. An outcome of that group’s work has been CCSI’s addition of pipe lining to its service menu.

“For a long time, about 75% of our business was cross-bore work for gas companies,” Parnell says. “But if something happens to one of these gas companies, that’s a big part of our business. So we’re trying to equal this out some to where the cross-bore work isn’t as much of the total.”

CCSI got its pipe lining division launched in 2023, so it’s still in its infancy.

“We’re looking to split more evenly across the board with all the divisions,” Parnell says. “To estimate it, we’re 65% cross bore at the moment, 20% sewer maintenance and hydroexcavation, and the remainder is lining. We brought someone on Jan. 1, 2023, with a lot of lining experience, and we just started purchasing equipment and bidding on projects. We expose pipe throughout the country, and with what we’ve been seeing we thought lining would be a good fit.”

Building a reputation in a competitive lining market has been one of the biggest challenges so far for CCSI.

“The equipment was expensive, but that’s natural,” Parnell says. “One of the hardest things is we are somewhat known for all these other services — cross bores, hydroexcavation — but we’re not really known for the lining yet. So when we’re putting together these lining bids, we don’t have the references. We have some now, but at first we didn’t have any and you end up doing some work not for free necessarily, but mostly just in order to get some references built up. But with the person we hired, he’s been doing it for 30 years, so he’s helped make the transition easier.”

Some of CCSI’s previous work in its other service areas has also helped.

“One lining job we got here locally in Cincinnati was given to us because of previous work we did for this customer,” Parnell says. “It’s a trust thing. We bid it and got the work done successfully.” 

CCSI has regularly had a presence at the WWETT Show over the years, which played a part in the company’s foray into pipe lining.

“It’s a must-do,” Parnell says. “We’ll usually have eight to 10 people go in a given year. Logistically it’s easy for us to attend being in Indianapolis. It’s always great seeing all the new technology and equipment. It was a big part of looking at the lining options and then finally making a decision.”

Rush-Overland custom-built CCSI’s Gen II steam unit lining truck. The company uses systems from MaxLiner and United Felts.


The rest of CCSI’s equipment roster includes about 50 lateral launch CCTV inspection trucks from RauschUSA and Aries Industries.

The vacuum truck fleet includes 12 Vactor 2100s, four Guzzlers and an Aquatech (Hi-Vac), as well as some units from Kaiser Premier.

“Some jobs we’ve had to go 200 to 300 feet off the road. So we’ve been able to utilize a hydrovac with the water, and then we take a Guzzler truck that we can run the flex hose off the 200 to 300 feet, be in the middle of the woods and still hydroexcavate down,” Parnell says. “We’ve noticed that some of these dedicated hydroexcavation trucks can’t pull the distance.”


“I don’t think they foresaw it getting this big,” Parnell says of CCSI owners Pat and Chris.

But through the growth, CCSI has still maintained a certain ethos that was in place when the company was much smaller. Although semi-retired now, Pat and Chris have been active owners who for many years were very hands-on and putting in five-day work weeks regularly, Parnell says.

“Through networking, I know owners from other companies and you’re meeting them on the golf course. That type,” Parnell says. “But Pat and Chris were here every day, five days a week. One would come in 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the other would be here 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day. They were involved in every aspect of the company.”

The brothers remain involved in some decisions but have passed on a lot of company oversight and leadership to people like Parnell and CCSI President Lincoln Stephenson.

“He’s very involved too like Pat and Chris were,” Parnell says. “Pat and Chris provided a good example of dedication. We’re appreciative of all the people working for us, and they’ve been a big part of the growth. It seems like when people come to CCSI, if they fit, they stay.”

Going forward, Parnell says the short-term plan is to focus on getting the pipe-lining division well established because long-term the goal is to have a healthy balance among all of CCSI’s service offerings. 

“We’d like to get it to where the lining and all the industrial vac services make up 50% and the cross-bore work makes up 50%,” Parnell says.


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