Based in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, Healy-Rae Plant Hire Ltd specialises in site clearing, road making and pipe work for its clients. Building Ireland spoke with co-director Johnny Healy-Rae to learn all about the family-run company – from its origins to the state of business today.
Business is good these days at Healy-Rae Plant Hire Ltd and the plan for brothers Johnny and Dan Healy-Rae, along with the rest of the team in Kilgarvan, is to try and keep things that way right through to next year and beyond.
A third-generation family business, the company’s roots date all the way back to 1956 when the late Jackie Healy-Rae and his brother first set-up their own venture and now their grandchildren are running the operation. Johnny’s father and mother, Danny and Eileen Healy-Rae,as the second generation ran the company successfully for many years.
Today, Healy-Rae Plant Hire Ltd employs 75 full-time staff, with some of those having been part of the team for more than three decades now.
Building Ireland touched base with Johnny Healy-Rae recently to find out about the projects they’re on at the minute down south and the company’s overall ambitions going forward.
“The company, in one form or another, was actually established by my grandfather and my grand uncle back in 1956,” Johnny outlined.
“We’ve around 75 direct staff at the minute, plus subcontractors as well, and we’ve some employees with us here since 1988.
“We try to keep employees because staff is so hard got, we’re used to them and they’re used to us.”
It’s an approach which has served Healy-Rae Plant Hire Ltd well to date and, right now, they’re perhaps as busy as they’ve ever been in Kilgarvan.
For some time now, one of the company’s main clients has been Uisce Éireann, formerly known as Irish Water, which are Ireland’s National Water Utility created a decade ago as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis.
“Our main work from an Irish Water (now Uisce Éireann) point of view is everything to do with water and sewage, basically,” explained Johnny.
“From relaying of water pipes to tanks and pumping stations and stuff. One of the things that we are proud of is that we done a pilot scheme with Uisce Éireann which was the Lixnaw Wetlands, which is a wet lands incorporating about 10 acres.
“Apart from that, we do work for other bodies such as TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland), Kerry County Council, Cork County Council and Clare County Council as well, doing road works etc.
“We operate two medium-sized quarries in the Kilgarvan area which kind of gives us an edge to have our own materials and stone. We run lorries, all types of machinery and then plant hire as well, which still accounts for in and around 20 per cent of our business here.”
He added: “One of the nice things to have happened here in the last nine or 10 years is that some of the water schemes that my grandfather and grand-uncle laid for Kerry and County Councils, we’ve actually re-laid those schemes again in the last number of years in the same places.
“In some of those places, it’s the sons and daughters of the same people that my grandfather and grand-uncle did the work for back then, so that’s a nice thing looking back on it.”
Along with its range of plant hire services, the business also provides maintenance work as well and it all adds up to keep things busy year-round
The proof is in the pudding as the project books are full at the moment and look like staying that way well into 2024.
“I suppose, after Covid, maybe we all struggled a wee bit,” said Johnny. “There seemed to be a backlog and we were all slow to get going, but Uisce Éireann are extremely busy and there’s no point in saying otherwise.
“We have contacts at the moment to carry out reinstatements for them while they had pipe busts etc and we have two crews at that these days.
“We’ve recently started a job for them in Coachford which is a rationalisation scheme and, all of that considered, I would have to say that things are busy at the moment for us here.
“We also have three jobs on-going at the moment inside in the heart of Cork city. One of the pipes that we replaced that we replaced on a 130-metre section, I think there was 33 leaks on the old pipe.
“Jobs like that are very good and we hope to have more contracts coming in the future but, for now, there seems to be plenty going on.”
On the machinery front, Healy-Rae Plant Hire Ltd has recently added a new Komatsu Rubber Duck to its fleet, as well as a Komatsu Excavator along and CAT 330 which is for its quarry operations.
It has also purchased two JCB mini-diggers, two new six-tonne site dumpers and has its own yard, a repairs shop and two of their own fitters.
All of that considered, the burning question is what has been the secret behind the continued success of this family plant hire venture to date?
How has a small start-up grown over the decades into becoming a thriving operation with 75 direct staff and a golden reputation amongst its clients?
For Johnny, it comes down to a combination of factors, but he sees a consistently delivered quality service as being the ultimate key.
“No more than dealing with ourselves or subcontractors, I like dealing with family-run businesses because you’re dealing with the person that it counts the most to,” the co-director stated.
“I feel you get a better service and, look, yes, we are a third-generation family business. I would like to think it’s the service that we give and we pride ourselves in having good operators, which we were very lucky that we always had.
“Some of them are with us 35 years at this stage and some of them have progressed on to be foreman and different things like that, so I suppose it’s level of service and the finish always counts.
“We’d like to think we give a good service, as well as having key personnel and the right machinery.”
Looking at the months ahead and going into next year, things are perhaps as positive as they’ve ever been for Healy-Rae Plant Hire Ltd and Johnny, Dan and Co are eager to keep delivering quality work for those that have entrusted them to do so.
“We most certainly would like to stay working with Uisce Éireann, local authorities and Coillte as well.
“There is any amount of work to do once they stay getting a budget and stay in between doing it in between securing a budget, design and planning etc.
“These things take a long time, so I would sincerely hope that the likes of Uisce Éireann and the local authorities would stay pursuing these kinds of projects,” he concluded.
Healy-Rae Plant Hire Ltd
Mobile: (087) 235 4793
Email: [email protected]
This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, November 2023, Vol 9 No 11