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‘Being straightforward and truthful is the way we handle our business’

United Dredging owner Jake Hoon said he credits the company’s family-first mentality for its years-long success

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January 22, 2024

LLSWORTH – By the age of 25, Jake Hoon, owner of United Dredging, was a husband, a dad of two kids and a business owner.

The family-based business specializes in dredging and excavation, providing services nationwide.

Originally starting the business in Columbia Falls, Montana, United Dredging planted permanent roots in Ellsworth in 2019 – a centrally located base, which Hoon said is handy for his traveling crews.

Though United Dredging continues to build upon its success, Hoon said owning and operating a dredging company isn’t necessarily the path Hoon thought he’d follow.

In fact, the plan after high school centered around sports.

A look back

Hoon said he spent much of his early childhood moving back and forth between Texas and Montana.

“Because of different family trials, we wound up moving 21 times by the time I was in fourth grade,” he said. “Because of this, I struggled in school. In one placement test I took, I didn’t know how to tell time on a wall clock.”

Though he struggled academically, Hoon said he found an outlet in sports, more specifically, baseball.

Hoon said his family eventually planted roots in Columbia Falls, Montana, in 1999, just in time for him to start seventh grade, and his interest in America’s pastime continued to flourish.

After graduating from Friona High School in 2005, Hoon again found himself in Texas – this time heading to Western Texas College in Snyder, Texas, to play baseball.

Before long, however, he said he began to miss his family and friends and again made his way back to Montana.

“I became homesick for my buddies I went to high school with who were like family to me,” he said. “Instead of transferring colleges to go to school with them and play baseball, I had the bright idea to move back to Montana and work for my uncle instead.”

Hoon said his uncle, Mark Herzog, transitioned his family’s long-time logging business into a dredging company in 2003.

“Before I graduated high school, my uncle had gotten tired of the mills shutting down, so he decided to stop logging and start dredging gravel in a gravel pit,” he said.

After deciding to follow in his uncle’s footsteps, Hoon said he was so excited about his idea that he stayed up all night, waiting for his early-rising uncle to wake up so he could call him right away to ask if he could work for him.

Getting the thumbs up from his uncle, Hoon said he came on board and began learning the trade.

However, not yet sure if it was the right path for him, Hoon said he decided to return to school and sports.

“I made it a little less than a year (working with my uncle) and decided to go back to school and try to play sports again,” he said. “I was back for two weeks when his wife passed away unexpectedly, and I decided to quit sports again and go back to work for him.”

In 2007, Hoon said he again decided to give his passion one more shot and enrolled at Amarillo College, a community college in Amarillo, Texas.

As it had many times before, Hoon said fate interjected again – meeting his now wife Caitlin during his first semester at Amarillo College.

“Realizing I was going to marry her and knowing I didn’t have much of an income,” he said. “The naive young kid in me decided to leave school, yet again, and go back to work for my uncle where I could make more money to support her.”

The next step

Fast forward to 2012, Hoon, now a father of two, said he was traveling around the country quite a bit for work.

Balancing work and his growing family, Hoon said he knew a change was needed to offer his young family more stability.

Discussing the possibility of branching out on his own with his uncle several times before, Hoon said he knew then it was time.

“He said if I could get it financed, he would sell me a machine,” he said. “It took me three banks and a lot of patience from my uncle, but I was able to get my first Skyline Dredge purchased.”

Hoon said United Dredging got its first job in August 2013 with Dahme Construction in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

“Gary and Hugh Dahme took a chance on a young kid, and I am forever grateful,” he said.

After that, Hoon said the business continued to land more jobs around the Midwest.

As his oldest neared school age, Hoon said he and Caitlin decided it was time to find a home base to plant roots for their family and the business.

With housing prices more affordable outside of the Twin Cities (where they were living at the time) – and because his wife was a diehard Green Bay Packers fan – Hoon said they decided West Central Wisconsin was the place they were meant to live.

After finding a home near Spring Valley – where they still reside today – Hoon said making the move was a no-brainer.

“The school looked good, and we fell in love with the house and the rural area, which is what we were more accustomed to,” he said.

As his family grew, so too, did the business.

“We used to run the business from wherever the job site was and where the Skyline Dredge was located,” he said. “Doing all the maintenance and office work right there in the field made work tougher.”

Opening the permanent home base at N5192 635th St. just outside of Ellsworth, Hoon said just made sense.

The facility, he said, now also has a space where they can do a lot of their own fabrication, machining and machining work – a service Hoon said United Dredging began offering a couple of years ago.

None of the success United Dredging has had over the last decade-plus, Hoon said, would have been possible without the support of his family and his team.

“Over the last 11 years, we will have gone from a one-machine company to digging nearly three million tons of sand and gravel around the Midwest,” he said. “None of (that) would have been possible without the entire effort of our team and their families.”

Now a proud dad of three boys, Hoon said he’s happy his sons have the opportunity to grow up in the rural river valley area.

“Our goal is to make long-lasting business relationships, as well as friendships, as we grow our company,” he said.

For more on United Dredging and the services it offers, visit

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