ILLINOIS CITY, Illinois – Just outside this small Rock Island County town is a business that has helped shape and improve waterfronts throughout much of the country. “We have tons of work going into 2022,” said Douglas Harper, director of operations for Superior Seawalls, Docks and Dredging. “It’s going to be very busy; as busy […]
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ILLINOIS CITY, Illinois – Just outside this small Rock Island County town is a business that has helped shape and improve waterfronts throughout much of the country.
“We have tons of work going into 2022,” said Douglas Harper, director of operations for Superior Seawalls, Docks and Dredging. “It’s going to be very busy; as busy as we want to make it.”
The business provides dredging, docks, seawalls, silt removal, barge service and other big and small waterfront projects across much of the United States. Superior crews have worked on projects in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Ohio, Michigan and many other places.
While many of those waterfront projects were on hold for the winter, Superior workers kept busy maintaining company equipment so it’s ready for warmer weather.
The business, which today completes about 40 to 50 projects a year, got its start more than 20 years ago with Mr. Harper and his wife, Jennifer, doing small shoreline projects.
“Next thing you know, people are calling us with more projects,” Mr. Harper said.
In short order, Superior began taking on the big and small projects other companies wouldn’t touch.
“We get called out on a lot of unique projects,” he said, adding the company has been kept busy with many dredging, dock building and shoreline improvement jobs in the Quad Cities region and throughout the country.
The company gets these many jobs without doing any formal advertising of its services. During a tour with the QCBJ of the company’s facility near Illinois City, Mr. Harper pointed out some of the gangway platform equipment being stored on the property for the winter. Each piece of equipment has a “Superior” nameplate on it to identify the company.
“That’s how we get work. People see those nameplates and give us a call,” he added.
Another big part of the company’s success is the ability to change with the times and customer needs.
Jennifer Harper, who serves as the company’s president, said that when the area was hit by a drought in 2008, Superior was asked to do some dredging work. One dredging project led to another, and in time, dredging became a big part of the business.
“It all started with small projects and has grown,” she added.
Here are some of the types of projects Superior has focused on over the years:
- Floating and stationary docks.
- Floating and stationary boat lifts.
- Sectional steel barges: The company has barges that can be transported by truck. Multiple sections are put together with connection pins with a bridge mount. The company can adapt its barges to transport heavy equipment and materials up to 200,000 pounds. They can also be used as a work platform, according to the company’s website.
- Steel piling walls: These walls can be the most feasible solution for the effects of waves and ice on the shoreline.
- Dredging: The company’s equipment can access retention ponds, golf courses, sediment lagoons, lakes, marinas, slips, private ponds and more.
- Riprap: This uses rock, coarse stone or boulders on the edge of a bank or water shore to provide shoreline erosion control.
- Kastle Block: These are high-performing retaining walls with the look, scale and durability of massive natural stone.
Ms. Harper said the company has been successful because it has found its “niche market.”
“We have adapted to the needs of people. … Also, we’re bigger than the smaller guys, but smaller than the big guys,” she added.
But even with niche markets and the ability to change with the times, perhaps the biggest reason for the company’s success comes down to two words: customer service.
“It’s all about honest-to-God customer service. … We’re very responsive to our customers,” Ms. Harper said.
That “putting the customer first” attitude has stayed the same in these changing times, she added. Since 2020, many businesses have made changes in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
The company president said Superior has made changes to help keep its employees safe, but has not changed its customer service or its workload. In fact, as many people return to working from home, they are out looking at their waterfront properties and want to see improvements made when the weather improves.
“There is still a lot of work available,” she added.
Superior is located at 26904 124th Ave. West, Illinois City, and employs about 30 workers depending on the projects. For more information, visit superiorseawalls.com.
Superior Seawalls handles many projects
Here are just a few of the projects completed by Superior Seawalls, Docks & Dredges, based in Illinois City:
- Emergency tug and barge service, Spring Green, Wisconsin.
- Hydraulic dredge for Army Corps of Engineers, Greece, N.Y.
- Private docks from Quad Cities to Dubuque, Iowa.
- Kastleblock, Geneseo, Illinois.
- Steel pile, Downs, Illinois.
- Steel pile and fabrication, Sandwich, Illinois.