Waters Construction Co.

Waters Construction Co. keeps strong after more than 50 years by focusing on the bottom line rather than growth, President Mario Smith says. “We focus on what we do well, rather than chasing volume for volume’s sake,” he says.

Based in Bridgeport, Conn., Waters Construction specializes in site work, paving, heavy and highway work, bridges and mass transit projects. Al Waters founded the company in the early 1950s, Smith says.

Over time, his father, Terence Smith, became owner and president of Waters Construction, which moved into sewer, road and building work. When the company encountered a recession in the early 1980s, “My father wound down the building division of the company,” Mario Smith recalls.

When the younger Smith took the role of president in 1991, “We became more involved in highway construction and rehabilitation,” he says. Today, Waters Construction has a paving division, a highway division, a site work division and mass transit division that has performed work at high schools, highways, railroad track crossings and rail yards.

“We don’t pursue the standard, residential vertical construction,” he says, noting that the medium-sized contractor also focuses on working in its home state. “We are primarily a company that lives, breathes and employs people in Connecticut. 

“We’ve been here over 50 years, we know the subcontracting community and the materials supply community very well,” Smith continues. “We feel that we can be the most competitive and efficient by operating right here.”

Waters Construction’s recent local work includes a 240-foot pedestrian bridge at a train station in Stamford, Conn. Smith notes that the $2.9 million project was challenging because it was located under high-tension power lines over a major boulevard in the city and next to an active Metro North/Amtrak train station.

Because of the street’s importance to the city and the project’s impact on trains, the main truss of the bridge had to be built over a weekend. “We had a very narrow window in which we could do this work,” Smith admits.

Industry Changes

Waters Construction has seen increased interest in design/build projects in Connecticut. “The state legislature approved the use of design/build on public projects for companies with our size,” Smith says. “Engineering companies and contractors are scrambling to get to know each other. We can see, in the not-too-distant future, a possibility of projects being delivered under that contract model.”

The company also has seen the consolidation of several of its competitors in the New York City market. This has resulted in more companies coming to Connecticut. “I’m not sure where we will fit in that whole eco-system of contractors,” Smith admits. “We will probably either team up with larger contractors in joint ventures or work as a major subcontractor.”

A Quality Culture

Smith is proud of Waters Construction’s work environment. Its field representatives wear shirts that say what he expects “of the work environment,” he says. “I boiled it down to four words: efficient, positive, safe and polite.”

He adds that the company has been praised for its politeness. When talking to workers from other firms, owners and inspectors, “They have often told me how surprised they were that no one on the job site is yelling at or berating people,” Smith says. “That’s very much part of our corporate culture. Our employees need to be polite with each other and the people we work for.”

Smith sees continued success for Waters Construction. At the age of 52, “I expect to be at the helm of the company for a while,” he predicts, anticipating that the firm will experience moderate growth. “We have a goal of 5 percent annual growth .” 

Waters Construction also will continue staying flexible. “We’ve always been able to adapt to whatever situation or various business cycles,” he says. “What exactly the company will be involved in or what it will look like I’m not sure, but I can tell you it will be in the construction industry.” 

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