Collector. Equipment Editor Tudor Hampton compares cars with Dwayne McAninch.

Earthmoving isn’t the most glamorous job in the industry, but Dwayne McAninch, the 69-year-old chairman and CEO of specialty contractor McAninch Corp., does it with style and grace. His unassuming nature makes him an unlikely person to transform the field from a seat-of-the-pants to a click-of-the-mouse business. But speaking with colleagues near his company’s headquarters in West Des Moines, Iowa, and spending time at his home in nearby Norwalk, makes it clear why ENR’s editors selected him to receive the magazine’s 41st Award of Excellence.

McAninch is legendary among earthmovers and well-known in his community. When Chicago-based Equipment Editor Tudor Hampton traveled to Des Moines to write this week’s cover story, he did not expect to be visiting a local celebrity. “Most people know nothing about moving dirt,” Hampton says. “But people in Des Moines know about Dwayne McAninch and his lifelong quest to become king of the dirt pile.” His 52 years of work as an earthmover have taken him on a high-speed ride to the top of the Midwest construction scene. It is fitting that the company motto is “Do it exactly right, and do it fast,” says McAninch, who doesn’t plan to retire. His son, Doug, company president and COO, says his father is “irreplaceable.”

In the more than 50 interviews that Hampton conducted around the country over the past nine months, from chatting with equipment mechanics in noisy lube shops to sitting down with Iowa’s governor in his wood-paneled office, everyone agreed that McAninch embodied the working-class spirit of the classic American entrepreneur.

His company is very much a family business built around taking good care of employees, who then take good care of you. McAninch pays more than local competitors, covers 100% of health insurance, employs 9% women in the skilled trades, and gives six weeks of paid maternity leave. He contributes more than $1 million a year to local charities.

McAninch isn’t much of a self-promoter. Hampton came across him accidentally while researching a story on new earthmoving equipment. After visiting him last August and doing interviews with earthmovers around the U.S., the McAninch stor began to unfold.