December 24: Black Hydrovac

By December 24, 2022HC 2022
Black Hydrovac

Black Hydrovac is one of the many gifts of Loudoun this holiday season. This is one story in a series of 31 that highlight #LoudounPossible opportunities in the county. Check back every day in December to learn more!

Loudoun’s Black Hydrovac Offers a Better Way to Move Dirt

The first step of every construction project is breaking ground and moving dirt. Whether it’s building new centers of living, working, learning or playing, it all starts with a stable foundation.

This momentous occasion is why communities celebrate groundbreaking ceremonies with speeches and photo opportunities. Over the last several generations, few places on Earth have broken ground more often than Northern Virginia.

Thanks to Loudoun-based Black Hydrovac, the first step of major construction projects can now be done more safely, precisely and efficiently than ever before.

This certified women’s business enterprise offers both highly pressured air and hydro excavation techniques, vacuuming up the byproduct and hauling it away.

“We serve a lot of small general contractors, and large subcontractors, usually site development companies, or engineering firms, mechanical or electrical contractors,” Black Hydrovac owner Kristy Black explained. “We work primarily on large commercial projects.”

Black is a relative newcomer to the construction industry, although she married a third-generation builder who specializes in data center build-outs. For obvious reasons, her family relocated to Loudoun County, home to the world’s largest data center hub.

“I’ve always said, I am an outsider to the industry, and I try to embrace that role. I did not come from a background in hydrovac, excavation or even construction,” she said. “I feel like I’m able to come in and look at things with a fresh perspective.

“I’m not going to do things the way that they’ve always been done, because I don’t know that way. I understand the technology and the application, and we’re able to do things a little bit differently.”

Hydrovac excavation is ideal for projects where speed is a priority or large trenching is necessary. It can dig deeper, wider and faster, throughout the mixed terrain of the D.C. region. Hydro excavation is also a four-seasons business, using heated water to cut through frozen ground.

Airvac excavation is similar, but has the added advantage that vacuumed soil can be immediately used as backfill.

Locating Black Hydrovac in Loudoun

After years of gentle encouragement from her in-laws, she launched Black Hydrovac during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the headwinds for many small businesses in that environment, Black saw the #LoudounPossible opportunities and relationships needed to be successful.

“We invest a lot of energy into building really strong relationships,” she said. “I’ve got clients that hired me very early. I’m incredibly grateful because they hired me without knowing whether or not I could pull this off. Even when we didn’t have the greatest depths of experience, they knew we were going to care the most.”

Black’s career transformation was served by her varied background as an educator, non-profit specialist, tech program manager, and stay-at-home mom.

“Program management kind of prepared me for entrepreneurship later. We were basically a startup inside of a larger organization, where we would take ideas, build it, scale it, and put it online,” she said. “Hydro vacuuming is also a newer technology that companies are still adopting. We go to a lot of jobs where they’ve never used hydro \vac before.”

There’s no shortage of construction job sites in Loudoun County.

As of October, Loudoun County’s 2022 commercial building permits topped nearly 8 million square feet of new construction, which is more than double the 3.4 million square feet from all of 021.

Within that 8 million square feet, 7.6 million is data center development, which is Black Hydrovac’s ideal customer.

“We really like mission critical industries that place a high priority on ensuring their infrastructure is safe and running,” she said. “Airports, hospitals, data centers, federal government buildings – those clients are going to be more sensitive to protecting their infrastructure. Those are the type of clients that will invest in hydrovac excavation.”

Looking down the road a few years, Black Hydrovac is just scratching the surface of the commercial construction market.

“We’re just coming out of the startup stage and entering the toddler stage, I guess,” she said with a laugh. “We will continue to grow our presence in Loudoun and Northern Virginia because I like working locally. We try to keep our base of operations pretty close.

She added: “When we can triple in size here, we can expand into other locations, like Maryland, Richmond and further.”

The Loudoun Innovation Challenge Experience

One oft-overlooked aspect of entrepreneurship: how many things you have to do for the first time. The 2022 Loudoun Innovation Challenge was another moment like that for Black, even after Loudoun’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Manager Danelle Hayer encouraged her to apply.

“I had never done anything like this before and the application process was a little bit intimidating,” Black admitted. “But in the end, I figured, I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Black applied and soon learned she was one of the finalists selected in the Clean Energy Innovation category. Even though Black Hydrovac did not win, Black considers the pitch contest to have been a huge step forward.

“Just the exercise of going through the application and thinking through all of the questions was really good for us,” she said. “It was a new way of thinking about everything, and how we would present our business.

“We’re doing pretty well. We just need to solidify for the future.”

That future is bright for Black, who carved a unique path to entrepreneurship. Just as she once questioned her in-laws’ advice to open a woman-owned construction business, she knows others are facing the same doubts.

“I didn’t have a background in construction. I had a passion for building a team and developing people,” she said. “That skill set applies anywhere, and construction is an opportunity that more women should explore.”

As Black can attest, the first step toward success is leaving the fear of failure behind.

“You have to be really risk tolerant because you’re laying everything on the line. There is no guarantee of success, and part of it is evaluating whether you’re willing to lose everything,” she said. “But the potential is whatever you want it to be. You can take it anywhere you want to go.

“Start taking those small steps that keep things moving forward on your way to that bigger dream.”

To learn more about how Black Hydrovac can improve the construction process, check out their website today.

Thinking of starting or relocating your business in Loudoun County? We are a full-service economic development organization, dedicated to your #LoudounPossible business success. Working with us is like adding a team of no-cost specialists to your team, with expertise in the following areas:

  • Site selection and real estate searches;
  • Workforce development and pipeline support;
  • Process and permit navigation;
  • Fast-track and financial incentives;
  • Marketing and communications outreach;
  • Networking, resource and industry introductions.

Contact Dave Diaz today to launch your #LoudounPossible journey.