Digging Up Some Flippin Family History In Nevada

MOB is a proud partner with one of Nevada’s finest construction success stories.  

When Texas-born T.O. Flippin first moved to Las Vegas with his wife, Pauline, in 1952, the city looked exactly like you might imagine it — a glittering oasis where anything was possible. The population was booming — from 8,422 during World War II to well over 45,000, fueled in part by the expansion of Nellis Air Force Base and sudden opening of a half-dozen resorts in Downtown Las Vegas and what would be later called the Las Vegas Strip. Everybody wanted to be part of it. 

Jazz musician Louis Prima was playing at the newly opened Sahara Hotel and Casino. Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante, and Shirley MacLaine became familiar names at The Sands Hotel and Casino. In the years that followed, the state would pave the road between Las Vegas and Pahrump. The Riviera Hotel would become the first high-rise resort with nine stories. And the Last Frontier would change its name to The New Frontier, with Elvis singing an opening number for comedian Shecky Green.

Then the same year Nellis Air Force Base became the official home of the Thunderbirds, Flippin came up with a way to become part of the construction boom. This proud World War II Navy veteran opened Flippin's Trenching right behind his home and asked his wife to answer the phone, book the jobs, and dispatch crews to sites all across the valley. 

“Since my grandfather always intended for Flippin to be a family business, T.O. recruited my dad, Ken Flippin Sr., in 1962,” says Ken Flippin, Jr., general manager of Flippin's Trenching. “What did that mean for me? By the time I turned 11, I had spent my summers working with my grandfather while he ran the trencher. Later, they promoted me to shoveling.”

As soon as Flippin earned his driver’s license, he was promoted to fueling and water trucking. By 19, he traveled the country with his grandparents and helped trench apartment complexes for AG Spanos Companies. That California-based company has since grown into one of the nation's leading family-owned builders of multi-family housing and developers of master-planned communities. 

“We became very good at teamwork during our 3-year run with AG Spanos,” said Flippin. “We developed new ways to communicate, manage paperwork, service our equipment, and manage the entire operation on the road. It taught me how to be flexible and what it really means to keep a customer happy.”

The experience primed Flippin to move into the office and take on more responsibilities. From providing client estimates to his promotion to general manager, he has played an essential role in not only helping the company expand its service area but its entire suite of construction services. 

“In the 37 years since I started with the company, we’ve become a concierge service provider in the construction industry,” said Flippin. “While it changes every year, more than half of our work today is related to demolition, wet and dry utility and other dirt work. Cut and core work probably makes up 15 percent of our jobs, along with vac truck work. Time and materials contracts account for about 10 percent. And, while some people might find it hard to believe, trencher and millwork make up about 2 percent. So no, we don’t ‘just dig trenches’ anymore.”

The diversity works for Flippin. He says his favorite jobs aren’t defined by the type of work as much as the type of customer. He prefers working with customers they have a relationship with, people who have already been impressed by the quality of the job, the integrity of the work ethic, and the level of trust earned to do it again. The second job, Flippin says, is always an indication that you did the first job right.

“Of course, there is something to be said about a job with a massive machine moving dirt and milling rock,” Flippin said. “Who doesn’t love the smell of earth and the power of a 50-foot-long machine remaking everything in its path? But we’re ready no matter what kind of job, when it needs to be done, or how fast the turn time might be. No questions asked, except the ones you want us to ask.”

It isn’t unusual for Flippin’s Trenching to take on emergency jobs. Most estimate requests and orders are submitted when the work is needed right now or yesterday. While this might seem daunting for other contractors, it's part of the company's reputation. It’s not uncommon for Flippin’s Trenching to be the first or second company onsite for companies like Apple and Google and then the last company to leave when the job is done three years later. 

“They learn what you can do and what you can handle. They see how you attack a problem and solve it. They understand while everyone else is saying ‘no’ that you’re the last one to say ‘yes,’” said Flippin. “This level of service is what goes a long way with making lifelong customers happy. We expect it of ourselves and we expect it of anyone who joins our team.”

Flippin counts Case Construction Equipment among those companies he considers the perfect example. Case was chosen as Flippin’s Trenching's tractor supplier in 1969, just two years after entering the exactor market. Flippin’s Trenching never looked back. The same can be said about other vendors too. Flippin’s Trenching has kept the same pipe, concrete, and precast suppliers for years. 

“I’ve also known Jeff Pritchett at MOB since his earliest days in the barricade business. To have MOB on board for all these years says something about them,” Flippin says. “We trust them to be there and get the job done right. They give us great service, solid advice, and fair prices. When something works, stick with it. How can you ask for more than that?”

The relationship between the two companies has helped MOB open some doors in the northern Nevada market. Flippin already considers them one of his trusted partners there, even allowing them to share part of the yard any time MOB needs it. 

“We have such a great relationship that I always know who to contact if there is a challenge they can help us overcome. Maybe some contractors don’t have that, but we do,” said Flippin. “Trust and communication go a long way with anyone in construction. Give MOB a little time in Reno, and they’ll help make that market even better.”

Flippin says that he feels the same about the teams they build in-house. He wants people who are vested in the company for the long term, which is why Flippin's Trenching developed a mentor program that provides job experience and cross-trains crews in anticipation of future work. 

“Look, family or not, you either build people or buy them. Maybe it’s because of our relationship with Operating Engineers Local 12 and the Laborers Union Local 871, but we believe in building them from the ground up with apprenticeship programs that work,” said Flippin. “More than that, we want to build a better employee — one who feels like our family business has adopted them. We have no fewer than seven family members involved in the business from foremen to myself as general manager and my dad as president.” 

It must be working. Currently, Flippin’s Trenching is working on three school sites in Clark County and on electrical charging stations across the state. They also have quick-call and emergency response jobs coming in daily, including vac truck work, coring, and saw-cut jobs. The best part, Flippin says, is that every day is different. 

“It’s fun and exciting work, especially with family. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. When I was 19 years old and knew everything, Papa T.O. and I crossed ways a time or two,” says Flippin. “He finally told me that it’s all business up until 5 o’clock. After that, it’s all family. He knew what he was talking about. Here we are, 65 years later, with one of the biggest family-owned businesses in the state. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Today, Flippin’s Trenching offers one of the most extensive suite of services in the construction industry. Their services include utility, excavating, saw-cut work, core drilling, grading, vac truck service, hydro-vac, dirt work, pipe jetting, rock removal, demolition, asphalt patching, bollards, caliche removal, concrete cutting, light poles, milling, site leveling, and trenching. If you don’t see a service that fits your needs, give them a call anyway. They’ve surprised the construction industry since 1956, and they aren’t done yet.

Leave a comment

Kenneth W Flippin Jr.

3 years ago

Fantastic! Thanks MOB!

Valerie Moon

3 years ago

Great story of a wonderful Nevada family. Congratulations!

jim dobbs

3 years ago

what a GREAT story , i love it when the Family succeeds and caries on a Legacy that once was just a dream !.

way to Go !!

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