Sibling-Owned Construction Business Harward & Rees Sets High Standards

Marcia Doyle Headshot
Owners of Harward & Rees construction company in Loa, Utah
Marcia Doyle

Harward & Rees bio informationEquipment WorldWhen friends Newell Harward and Gaylen Rees started building a spec home in 1985, establishing a multigenerational construction firm was far from their minds.

But now the company they established – Harward & Rees – is led by four of Gaylen’s children: sons Ryan, Val and Brig Rees, and daughter Rachelle Rees Williams.  And a third generation (more about that later) is teeing up. 

Although Ryan is listed as company president, the hierarchy between the siblings is loose. 

“We have an interesting dynamic,” Ryan says. “I learn from them every day. Each of us have different attributes and strengths that we bring to the whole. While we each have different visions, we just have a way of supporting and making each other better.”

Hr Men W Excavator B212 Bd38 Aaf2 4 Ac8 B024 664 B793 C88 B6A diversified offering 

At the beginning, the company focused on building and concrete work. While building construction is still part of the mix, the company is now much more diversified with the addition of site development, heavy and highway work, and utility installation.

“Even when we do a commercial building, we’ll do it all, and put in the utilities and do the earthwork ourselves,” Ryan says. “Being diversified has helped us get through some lean years.”

Harward & Rees projects – primarily for governmental clients – also reflect the interests of the owners. 

“A lot of the diversification comes from our different personalities and interests,” Ryan says. For instance, Ryan likes buildings and structural work, such as the company’s recent water treatment plant job. Val enjoys earthmoving projects and the equipment required; one of his many hats is equipment manager.  As for Brig: “I like it all,” he says.

The brothers have a cradle-to-grave approach to project management. With different specialties, they each find jobs, estimate, bid them, and then manage their chosen project through completion. 

“We just kind of work together and do it,” Brig says. “It kind of happens organically. No one’s got an overbearing personality, and we just make it work.”

A few years ago, Harward & Rees developed a quarry north of town, supplying aggregates to both their own jobs and those of customers. It is also developing a quarry near St. George, Utah, where it has been installing a five-mile pipeline. “It’s an advantage that helps us when procuring jobs and being competitive in the market,” Ryan says.

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers

Hr Men On Job D4349044 2 Aac 411 C 822 F 8 C0 E0 B670244Transition to second generation

Around 2004, Newell and Gaylen decided to step back and offered the siblings an opportunity to buy the company. By then, each had taken their own path to the company. 

Val always knew that he wanted to be working in the company and joined after high school. Following college, Ryan and his wife Sarah, Newell’s daughter, eventually decided to come home. 

Rachelle signed on in 1999 after the birth of her first child. Her father Gaylen, who handled the company’s finance and administration, made her an irresistible offer: come work here and your son will be welcome in the office. 

Working side-by-side with her father, Rachelle learned finance, insurance, accounting, bonding, and administering contracts, taking over those responsibilities after Gaylen retired. 

“I like the more detailed part of the business, balancing the entries and telling the boys they can’t buy that machine just yet,” Rachelle says with a laugh.

After graduating from the construction management program at Utah Valley University, Brig spent several years in the Provo area, working at an inside job. 

So, when Ryan called asking Brig to join the company, “It wasn’t a hard decision to make,” Brig remembers with a smile.

“Being able to see it go from a set of plans to a finished project is quite rewarding for me,” Brig adds. “I think that’s one of the reasons I’m in this business is to see that transition. I really love to see something go up.” 

Hr Dozer Beauty Shot 15 E7 C8 Fb 9 B44 456 E Ab2 B B6 Cd32 C92 Fc6Small-town work ethic

“It amazes me how well they flow and have grown over the past several years,” says Marco Defa, sales representative with Wheeler Machinery. “I believe the small-town USA hard work ethic and family values have helped them to become one of the best-in-the-business contractors.”

Loa is the definition of a small town: only about 500 people live here in a county that has a population about 2,500. 

With so few people in the immediate local area, the company is always on the lookout for potential employees, especially since its geographical sweet spot is throughout mid to southern Utah. It’s now developing crews centered in communities that are a distance away from Loa. 

“Realizing that not all of our employees need to live in this community is going to help,” Brig says.

Rachelle’s husband, Jeff Williams – and founder Newell’s nephew – came back to Harward & Rees a year ago, and now heads the company’s safety, along with handling dispatch for the company’s 24 trucks. 

“We start by doing a hazard analysis for every job we start and identifying all the tasks and risks involved,” Jeff says. “Everyone coming to the job is required to review them with their foreman.”

Another focus is truck driver safety. “We make it our own because of our unique situation and where we are,” Jeff says. 

Double the space

Harward & Rees doubled its shop space in 2023, giving it the ability to accommodate the double trailers it pulls behind Class 8 trucks, trains that can sometimes be as much as 110 feet long. 

“We can now fit these into our shop for our winter inspections without having to keep the doors open when it’s freezing cold,” Val says. 

The company has four mechanics, which do both field service and in-shop PMs. “We like to keep at least one mechanic in the shop all the time for the trucks that are running locally,” Val says. “The other mechanics are normally chasing jobs in the service trucks.”

There’s a place for both owned and rented equipment in the company fleet.  “It makes sense to us to own things that we use a lot, which in our business means primarily excavators and loaders,” Val says. Because of their versatility, however, the company still rents its share of these machines. 

“It seems like we’re always renting, much more than Rachelle wants us to,” Ryan says with a chuckle. “If we have a machine for very long, she tells us to buy it.”

Although most of its work requires 20- to 36-ton excavators, Harward and Rees brought in a Cat 352 to handle a large pipeline project that required heavy digging in rough terrain. It got a lot of use; the company put 2,000 hours on the machine last year, Val says.

Third generation in the wings

The siblings, ranging in age from 48 to 54, have their eye squarely on the future, and are thankful a third generation is lining up. This includes six sons (Brig’s son Gavin; Val’s sons Ryland and Dawson; Ryan’s sons Ty and Connor) and a son-in-law (Devan) currently on crews. 

“They’ve grown up in it, they’re used to the work, and I guess it’s in their blood,” Ryan says. 

Others are glad to see this continuation. “I’ve been in business for more than 25 years, and if there was one contractor I could just hire to do the work, it would be H & R,” says Lyndon Friant with Jones & DeMille Engineering. 

“They just get the job done,” Friant continues. “I never have questioned any of their work. They have the mindset of always doing the right thing.”

That attitude is reflected within the company. “I’m so blessed to work with my family and we all still like each other,”  Rachelle says with a laugh. 

“People wonder how we operate this way, being family, but it all just works,” Brig says. “We love and care about each other’s success as partners and the success of the company and it just works.”

“There’s no place that I’d rather be right now,” Ryan adds. “There’s nothing that I’d rather be doing right now than this and working with my partners. It’s just a bonus that they are my siblings too.”

Harward & Rees is one of 12 finalists for Equipment World’s 2024 Contractor of the Year awards program.

The Contractor of the Year program, which has been sponsored by Caterpillar since its inception, recognizes contractors who display the highest standards of business acumen, equipment management expertise, attention to safety and community involvement. Each year, 12 finalists receive an expense-paid trip to Las Vegas to participate in roundtable discussions and an awards ceremony. The 2025 nomination cycle will open this summer.