Clearing a path to success

A skilled workforce and state-of-the-art fleet have allowed Northwest Excavating to become Southern California’s leader in operated equipment rental and underground dry utility installation

There are two main divisions to Northwest Excavating’s operation. First and foremost, the company offers heavy construction equipment rental services, allowing customers a choice of the latest trucks, dozers, excavators, scrapers, graders and backhoes. Additionally, Northwest provides an underground dry utility system installation service, specialising in power and communications. Though it divides its attention between these two arms of the business, the company is united NWE 17 8 aby one clear mission: “Our goal is to provide civil and grading construction scopes – for private and public works – the highest possible operational standard,” President Robbie Groff says. “It is our people, our equipment, and our experience that makes this possible.”

Founded in 1959 by Bob Groff, Robbie’s grandfather, Northwest Excavating has grown from a small business renting equipment to local grading and sewer contractors, to a regional leader with a current fleet of over 60 late model machines, including D8T Dozers, 623G Scrapers and 143H Blades. In order to keep abreast of the latest advancements in the industry, Northwest operates a programme of continual investment in its equipment. Among the company’s latest additions are a CAT 328D LCR Excavator with zero tail swing, a CAT 143H all-wheel drive Motor Grader, and a CAT 972H Wheel Loader with a bucket capacity of six cubic yards.

Careful recruitment and a close focus on technological developments continue to drive the company’s success. “We concentrate on having the best infrastructure possible and offer only the latest, well-maintained equipment,” Groff states. “When you reach that point, you hire the best people to operate the equipment. When you have all that, you get the best clients.”

Working with developers, contractors, local government departments and utility companies, Northwest has a history of establishing longstanding relationships with clients that continue to benefit the company today. In the 1970s, Northwest won its first dry utilities contract with AT&T and it remains a preferred contractor for the telecommunications giant in 2020. The company also holds preferred contractor status with Frontier (nee Verizon) and Southern California Edison, as well as being the only in-house contractor for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

“Our mantra is slow and steady growth,” Groff explains. “We have been building over the years and, in the last decade, we reached more customers and achieved larger revenues than we ever have before.”

Repeat business and enduring client associations have played a key role in these accomplishments. “We continue our long-term maintenance contract with Los Angeles County,” Groff adds. “We are resuming our partnership with Toll Brothers and just received our first contract at the biggest housing project in Los Angeles County. The development is in its early stages and will extend deep into this decade.”

As part of the company’s ongoing expansion, and in order to provide solutions for a wider variety of clients, Northwest has recently introduced a saw cutting division to its operation. Capable of delivering asphalt cutting, concrete cutting and core drilling services, the saw cutting division is built on the same fundamental values as the rest of the business.

“At the core of everything we do remains our mechanical and fabrication abilities,” Groff insists. “High-spec equipment and skilled operators support our field operations with care and efficiency.” Investment in a Merit 600-66 diesel concrete NWE 17 8 bsaw and self-contained Peterbilt 337 means that the company can perform curb cuts, flat-sawing up to 21 inches, green cuts, and core drilling up to a 12-inch diameter.

Whether its due to adjustments in regulations or improvements in vehicle design, equipment in the construction industry changes fast. As the company enters a new decade in which the industry’s carbon footprint falls under ever-stricter scrutiny, Northwest offers machines in compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest Tier equipment and vehicle standards. The company is also utilising technology to help simplify the lives of its clients by installing Trimble GPS equipment on a variety of its vehicles as part of a grade control system.

Northwest is trusted by some of the world’s largest corporations and the company can name Sempra Energy, T-Mobile, Whiting-Turner, Skanska and Disney Studios among its list of satisfied clients. The firm’s cutting-edge fleet has also provided Northwest with a claim to fame – the company has supplied operated equipment to films such as Jurassic Park: Lost World, What Lies Beneath, and Water World.

Though equipment may take centre stage at Northwest, Groff makes it clear that the company’s staff play the starring role. “We promote the culture that our company is your work family,” he declares. “We look after our employees with care and courtesy and provide all the tools needed in the field to be safe and successful. We aim to continue with the same values that got us to this point, which we know will guide us well in the next decade.”

Northwest Excavating
Best Practice: Investing in state-of-the-art equipment

Signs for the times

Built through a focused strategy of acquisition, Indigo Signworks has become the premier full-service sign business in the Upper Midwest of the United States

From office door appliques to custom-built 100-foot pylon signs, Indigo Signworks does it all. A design, manufacture, and installation specialist, Indigo has become renowned for its full-service approach to the delivery of sign solutions across IS 17 8 aNorth Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. As the firm’s CEO Eric Gibson explains, the journey from concept to delivery is a collaborative venture navigated through close partnership between customer and client.

“Initially, we meet and listen to customer goals and brand aspirations, and we work with them, or their affiliates, to put together a sign package that helps them meet those needs,” Eric explains. “We create sketches, devise a plan, and put the whole project together, including coordination with local authorities to meet all the needs of that particular customer. We then go to our in-house engineering and fabrication team to help build either the interior or exterior sign package. We have local project managers that coordinate the entire process throughout, and then once it has been fabricated, we have certified installation teams that go to a customer’s site and put everything in place.”

Perfecting this process, Indigo has gone on to deliver some of its most successful projects for customers. In 2019, when tasked with creating a custom-built product for a customer based in the wide, sparse oil fields of North Dakota, Indigo delivered a sign in the shape of an oil derrick that not only had full lighting capabilities, but could also simulate the motion of oil spouting from the top of the structure.

“It was quite unique to be able to create the lights and design that made the derrick project happen,” Eric states. “As new technology evolves, we are listening to our customers, trying to meet their needs, and then applying some of the newest things in the market space to help them get the effect or look for their brand that they are going for.

“As an example, over the last ten years, LED lighting has really taken over the sign industry, so we’ve worked directly with some of our lighting suppliers to try and develop new application techniques and new visual experiences for our clients. One of these new concepts is the RGB lighting that we’re integrating into a lot of our signs. We find a lot of our customers want to be able to change the accent of their exterior lighting to match different causes – changing it to pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month for example – so supporting that trend has been very exciting.”

Efficient and cost effective
More recently, Indigo has been working on a vast rebranding initiative for Minnesota’s Bremer Bank. Serving over 100 local bank affiliates in the Midwest, Indigo helped Bremer design and specify new signs for its brand, then oversaw the signs’ high-quality fabrication, before finally project managing the installation process across each of the bank’s facilities, on budget and within the set timeframe.

“It was really a cool project,” Eric says. “It took us about 14 months and Bremer Bank was very happy when we finished because they only had to deal with one company. They didn’t have to go to multiple places. We met weekly to give them project updates and it was easy for us to communicate which buildings were done, what was next in line, and how the work was being performed, so they were absolutely thrilled.”IS 17 8 b

Projects like the Bremer Bank development are supported by Indigo’s three production facilities in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Fargo, North Dakota; and Minot, North Dakota. In Minneapolis, Indigo focuses on using laser etching to produce interior ADA sign packages, whereas the firm’s other two factories are more adept at delivering client-led, custom signs, from flat fronts in Minot to major pylon signs in Fargo measuring up to 30 feet long, 15 feet deep, and 20 feet wide.

“Across all three areas, we are utilizing the latest technology to make sure we are efficient and cost effective,” Eric reports. “Our suppliers are a vital part of the process too. Whatever the project, we look for vendors and suppliers who have the same level of quality as us, the same focus on innovation, and the same ability to stand behind what they do. When we build a sign, we will stand behind our workmanship for the life of the sign and we want our vendors and suppliers to do the same. We are not interested in cutting corners here and there just to save a few dollars if we think it is going to cost us that long-term relationship with our customer.”

Having battled through the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, Indigo has since used the crisis to discover new ways of giving back to its local community, as well as diversify its product range. Working through staggered schedules and in-line with social distancing protocols, Indigo offered free products and services to clinics, hospitals, and healthcare providers: A-frame signage to help guide patients to Coronavirus testing centres, as well as free service and messaging for their outdoor digital displays. Building on this, the company developed a Business Covid Package, which included elements such as A-frame signs for curbside pickup, floor graphics for six-foot distancing initiatives, and appliques for store doors informing customers of new operation procedures.

“Those were our two big things throughout the brunt of the pandemic,” Eric remarks, “but something we’re continuing to do is build plexiglass Covid barriers for everywhere from schools to community centers, local government buildings to dentists, and banks to health care centers. The barriers protect staff and customers, so we’ve seen a lot of interest from our client base for those. It allows us to get in front of our customers and show them the other things we do, so it has worked to our advantage in that way.”

Full service offering
Due to the financial impact of Coronavirus on businesses across the world, Indigo understands that new signs may not top the priority lists of many companies in the Midwest United States in 2020, but the firm may begin to see requests for more service and maintenance work on existing signs as an alternative. Fully certified by major conglomerates like 3M, Indigo is proud to service anything from small appliques to major LED pylon-topping installations. However, though IS 17 8 ctrends may come and go, and economies may crash and boom, Eric is confident that customers will continue to return to Indigo for the full-service opportunity and deeply embedded company culture that have always made the firm different.

“Being able to self-perform on design, manufacture, installation, and service really makes it easy for customers to come to us,” he argues. “A lot of companies can do the installation part but not the design, or they can do the fabrication bit but not the installation. We can do it all, start to finish, so we have full control of the process. That’s the first thing that attracts people to the business and keeps them coming back.

“On top of that, we benefit both internally and externally from our IMAGE of Indigo culture. An acronym for Integrity, Makers, Action, Growth, and Experience, IMAGE describes who we are as a company. On the ‘Integrity’ front, we are a company that leads by doing the right thing consistently. We are ‘Makers’ and craftsmen; we make things. In terms of ‘Action’, when you work with us, you know we are going to get things done. We are constantly learning, which is our ‘Growth’ opportunity, and finally, thanks to over 100 years of ‘Experience’ in the sign industry, we’ve built up full-service that separates us from everybody else out there.”

A company built on a history of acquisitions across America’s Midwest corridor, Indigo now boasts seven facilities in Minnesota and North Dakota, and an annual revenue north of $20 million. As the firm looks to drive growth over the next few years, Eric suggests that – in true Indigo fashion – more purchases appear to be in the pipeline.

“Acquisition has always been a big part of our growth strategy,” he asserts. “We look for companies that can add to our abilities and give us the additional reach to serve more customers in that Upper Midwest area. Businesses that grow by acquisition are always talking with other companies, and being no different, we do have a couple of prospective firms for purchase that we are having discussions with at the moment. I think our first goal right now is to get through this pandemic without having to scale back or do anything different, but we think customers still want to use custom sign solutions to promote their brands and we can meet all their needs in a really cost-effective manner.”

Much like the customers it serves, Indigo is constantly evolving and evaluating its brand. Though the firm has always been known as Indigo Signworks, its name will soon be changing to Indigo Signs as the acquisition of new companies continues. Along with the rebranding, customers can also look forward to an overhaul of the company’s website and communications network. With a new brand, a new look, and a new feel on the way, all signs point to exciting times ahead for Indigo and its customers.

Indigo Signworks
Services: Full-service sign works

A rich history of success

With the values of performance, quality and integrity ingrained throughout its every operation, W.T. Rich Company has demonstrated a first-class ability to exceed its client’s expectations, even in the face of projects that are inherently unique, complex or challenging

WTR 17 8 aWhen Walter T. Rich founded the business that bears his name – W.T. Rich Company (W.T. Rich) – back in 1968, he did so with the goal of providing construction services to various public and private organizations throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Walter was determined that, in doing so, the firm would operate under a set of values that its figurehead held dear – namely to operate with performance, quality and integrity in all aspects of its business.

In following this approach, W.T. Rich has grown from a small family business into a hundred-million-dollar company with more than 70 employees. During this time, the firm has developed unique capabilities in serving the public construction market and in performing complex new construction, renovation, and historic restoration work. To this day, Walter Rich plays an active role in the development of W.T. Rich – serving as its Chairman of the Board – while his son Jonathan Rich serves as the firm’s CEO, and Brian Santos holds the position of President. Under their leadership, W.T. Rich has amassed an outstanding track record and an admirable reputation among owners, architects, engineers, and sub-contractors.

“W.T. Rich specializes in projects that involve unique logistical, technical and scheduling challenges,” Brian Santos explains. “We focus primarily on the Massachusetts Chapter 149A CM at Risk delivery method. We manage mid-to-large scale construction projects ranging from $30 million-to-$250 million in new ground-up building construction, major renovations and additions, and complex historic restoration within the Academic, Historic, Municipal and Public Safety sectors.”

Academic projects are certainly a specialized area for the company, as Brian goes on to reveal. “We have a passion for building schools and all the logistical and technical challenges that come with it. Many of our academic projects include constructing new schools adjacent to existing occupied schools where logistics are challenging, and safety is of the utmost importance. One of the most rewarding aspects of constructing academic facilities is knowing that we are contributing to the advanced educational environment for our future generation.”

A perfect example of the aforementioned passion would be the company’s work on the King Open/Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex project; this project received the prestigious 2020 ENR Regional Best K-12 Education Project Award. An undertaking which extended well beyond the depth of a new building – as it needed to also incorporate over 100 years of history tied into its campus – the new facility spans 270,000 square feet and houses the King Open School, Cambridge Street Upper School, King Open Preschool, King Open Extended Day, Community School, Cambridge Public Schools Administration and Valente Library.

Partnership approach
This new educational and community complex integrates public schools and the community within a densely-populated neighborhood, making space a critical element of the project. Although the footprint of the new buildings is larger than the original buildings, by housing an underground parking garage, the project was able to create and preserve an acre of green space and two acres of open space. In addition to providing a state-of-the-art learning facility, other site WTR 17 8 bamenities include the Gold Star Pool, two gyms, two basketball courts, the Charles G. Rossie Bocce Court, five playgrounds, an outdoor splash pad, Cambridge Street Plaza, Valente Reading Garden, a learning courtyard/outdoor classroom, and a 380-seat auditorium.

What also sets this project apart is the fact that it represents the first school within the state of Massachusetts to produce zero net carbon emissions by consuming no fossil fuels on-site, and having a highly efficient design to minimize energy demand. It incorporates the City’s most significant solar array – 74,000 square feet of photovoltaic panels covering the entire roof, as well as parts of the exterior walls and sunshades over the windows – and going forward will be targeting LEED Platinum and Triple Net Zero credentials.

“King Open was a tremendous success not only for the project team, but for the community, the staff, and students,” Brian enthuses. “King Open meets and exceeds the goals of the City of Cambridge with Net Zero initiatives, including geothermal heating/cooling, photovoltaic energy, and utilizes high-performance building materials. It is one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the country, and it truly is a state-of-the-art structure that W.T. Rich is extremely proud of.”

Key to the success of the King Open/Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex project was the concept of partnership. All active participants in the project, including W.T. Rich and the City of Cambridge, worked in close harmony from day one, and were supported in these efforts by an expert team of engineers and other stakeholders. The cornerstone of the team’s performance on the project was a conscious effort by everyone involved to communicate transparently, collaborate proactively, and work in partnership to make and implement decisions that were in the best interest of the project. This approach provided several benefits, including the avoidance of bottlenecks that are typically caused by slow or ineffective decision-making in the face of project challenges or issues. Each member of the team was well-informed and was able to put the needs of the project ahead of any company or individual agendas.

The King Open/Cambridge Street Upper Schools and Community Complex project was a complex undertaking with important neighborhood considerations. It required the delivery of a school and community center that embodied the City’s ‘Innovation Agenda’ regarding updating its public school system with high-quality, state-of-the art, aesthetically pleasing and Net Zero academic buildings that welcome the community as a whole. These goals fostered a deep sense of teamwork and partnership throughout the project.

Team performance
The King Open project team created an atmosphere that promoted cooperation and accountability from all parties involved. Shared best practices for proactive construction mitigation and excellent communication with the local community were utilized on this project, while the construction team was on site 100 percent of the time throughout the project. This strong, on-site presence not only allowed the team to be highly responsive to the needs of the project, but also deepened the depth and quality of the relationships between all parties.

At the end of the day, however, the true test of outstanding team performance is determined when seeing how that team performs in the face of substantial challenges and obstacles. The King Open project faced an array of significant challenges, yet the team persevered through all of these to create an impressive and high-performing school building and community complex center.

Trust and collaboration
As alluded to previously, W.T. Rich also possesses significant experience when it comes to performing historic renovation work on many of Boston’s historic landmarks, as well as others throughout Massachusetts. Examples of the company’s WTR 17 8 cwork can be seen today on buildings such as the Boston Public Library’s McKim Building, Salem Probate and Family Court, and the Thomas Crane Public Library. Indeed, several such projects have received recognition in the form of awards recognizing W.T. Rich’s skill and dedication to ensuring historical accuracy and top quality craftsmanship.

“Here at W.T. Rich, we love a challenge and historic restorations are, in my opinion, one of the most enjoyable and rewarding for our firm, in that we are tasked with taking something that is worn out, or simply unusable, and transforming it into something new,” Brian adds. “Removing exterior walls, shoring, bracing, highly detailed structural framing systems within an existing building, collaboration of MEP systems, and high-end finishes are our specialty, and we consider it an incredible privilege to be involved in such important undertakings. Perhaps the most memorable historic restoration project that I was proud to be a part of was the aforementioned Boston Public Library, McKim Building. Completing a total renovation of the existing courtyard and plaster arcade ceilings to their original state was incredible.”

As a true family business, W.T. Rich also understands the importance of its people and its culture. According to Brian, in the case of the former, the key to maintaining a highly motivated and successful team is trust. “When we hire anyone, we make a point of explaining how we are trusting each other to perform at our best every single day,” he says. “A culture of trust and collaboration is how we become successful together, and if you do not have these simple traits, we are not going to succeed in the long-run. Our clients see our levels of collaboration and our spirit while working with each other, and that is something that we believe that everyone wants to be a part of.”

Corporate culture wise, W.T. Rich has also made it a point of significance to embrace a number of green strategies that it applies to its operations. “Green Building and Net Zero Goals are extremely important to us,” Brian continues. “We ask all of our project management and field staff to become LEED Green Associates at the very least. This requirement educates our staff to become aware of the technologies around Green Building, aids us in leading our clients, and is what the design team expects from its Construction Manager.”

Like every business active in 2020, W.T. Rich has found itself operating in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, whilst these are undoubtedly highly challenging times, Brian is able to point to several positive developments that have benefitted the firm. “Honestly, I think this unfortunate situation has made us better in the long term, specifically when it comes to things such as having more sanitation equipment, advanced cleaning processes and more stringent general housekeeping practices,” he points out. “As far as the market is concerned, we believe at this time that construction is moving in a positive direction, but that it is too soon to know for sure what the longer-term financial impact on the country as a whole will be.”

Looking to the next three-to-five years, Brian has a good idea as to what the firm needs to do to remain successful. “W.T. Rich will continue to work in a strategic manner, whilst operating with ‘A Team’ staffers, making sure that our clients are thrilled with the delivery of our projects. Above all else, we believe that we must ensure that we retain an industry-leading, positive and collaborative staff mindset. With this approach ingrained in our culture, outstanding project results and full client satisfaction are sure to follow.”

W.T. Rich Company
Services: Construction company

More than just a business

Peed Equipment is a family company with a values-based culture that has helped the organization establish a reputation for customer service and sustainable practices

Originally based in Chandler, Arizona, Peed Equipment was formed with the purpose of rebuilding Caterpillar D9H bulldozers from the frame up. Giving the machines CT 17 7 Peed 1new life at a much lower cost than buying brand-new allowed the company’s founder, Dennis M. Peed, to sell over 250 of these, overtime he started renting out some of the equipment he had purchased over the years and rebuild and before long he had a full rental fleet of his own.

Today, in 2020, Peed Equipment is located in Southern California and specializes in CAT heavy equipment rentals for the earthmoving and mining industries. Serving the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the company’s fleet includes 657E/G scrapers, 651E scrapers, 637K scrapers, 777F/G haul trucks, 992G/K wheel loaders, 6015B excavators, D10T2 dozers, and much more. The business is now run by Dennis’ youngest son, David, and the family connection remains an important part of everything Peed Equipment does.

“There’s no corporate atmosphere at Peed Equipment Co.,” Field Operations Manager Ken Rudenski declares. “Every employee is someone here. They can call us anytime they need something and one of us will pick up. We like having a small, family feeling to the business and we believe it encourages other people to come and be a part of it. In fact, most people that come to us looking for a job these days have been referred by a friend or family member that works with us and thinks the company is great. You’re a valued employee here with a name and a face that we know.”

Company legacy
By acknowledging the importance of each individual in the organization, Peed Equipment has developed a close-knit team built on transparency and mutual respect. New employees are inducted into this environment through an in-house training process that allows them to experience the company’s culture first-hand, whilst gaining on-the-job experience alongside existing members of staff.

“We often like to hire younger, highly-motivated individuals, team them up with veterans, and let them work together on learning the best practices and tricks of the trade,” Ken explains. “These are not only some of the industry’s best operators and mechanics, but many of them are excellent teachers too. The process has proved to work incredibly well in educating our apprentices and younger guys whose knowledge and skills will play a key role in the continuation of the company’s legacy.”

Legacy is an important concept for many family businesses and Peed Equipment is no different. For Ken, ensuring the next generation of staff fully understand the company’s founding values and culture is an important step in safeguarding the future of the organization. Customer service, for example, remains as important to the business today as it was in 1982, and the company’s highest priority is still to provide clients with the equipment they need to get their jobs done quickly and efficiently.

“Our name and reputation is everything,” Ken asserts. “The industry is small, and so good service must always be a priority. Our customers are mostly repeat clients that know they can count on us.”

Of course, reliable, state-of-the-art equipment plays a defining role in the company’s mission too. Currently, Peed Equipment has machines operating on projects across North America, from 657E/G scrapers working in a Florida phosphate mine, to 100 tonne 777F/G haul trucks transporting ore in Nevada.CT 17 7 Peed 2

“Our machines don’t just look good, they run well too,” Ken proclaims. “As part of our commitment to customer service, we offer the lowest downtime and highest uptime on our machines. On most projects, we include an onsite mechanic with a fully stocked service truck and spare machine to ensure production is not lost if a problem does occur. On top of that, we have preventative maintenance programs that meet and sometimes exceed even Caterpillar’s expectations, including regular oil sampling to catch potential issues before they happen.”

Over the last few years, in a move that not only modernizes the company’s machinery but also addresses its concerns for the environment, Peed Equipment has made significant investments into new vehicles and the repowering of its current fleet to meet and exceed air quality requirements. The company has also replaced nearly 100 per cent of its diesel engines with cleaner burning engines, and its entire rental fleet of 657 E/G’s is now California Tier 3 and Tier 4 compliant.

“When California began offering its repowering program, Peed Equipment was one of the first to work with the state to start making our fleet much cleaner,” Ken reveals. “Almost two decades later, we are still an industry leader in the transition to more environmentally friendly machinery.”

Later this year, Peed Equipment plans to have several more of its 657 fleet converted to Tier 4, along with many more of its 777F haul trucks. Volunteering to go green has helped save fuel and lower costs, but the decision also shows the organization’s awareness of its social responsibility and reflects its determination to have a wider positive impact.

“We are just a drop in the ocean, but we want to do our small part to help the environment and make it a cleaner world to live in for future generations to enjoy,” Ken states. “We’ve invested millions now on Tier 4 machines including 637K scrapers, D9T dozers, 777G haul trucks, 992K wheel loaders, and 6015B excavators to name just a few. Going green is a challenge, but we like challenges. Projects in remote locations, rough terrain, double shifts, and stringent timelines are no problem for us. With the right people, knowledge and equipment you can overcome anything.”

Peed Equipment
Speciality: Heavy equipment rentals

Building better for you

Thanks - in part - to its innovative Z Modular® Building Ecosystem, Z Modular is able to ensure its clientele receive quality, precision and predictability throughout the lives of their respective projects

Founded in 2016 as a steel-framed off-site construction business, modular construction solutions provider Z Modular is a proud division of Zekelman Industries — North America’s largest independent steel pipe and tube manufacturer. “Zekelman Industries represents nearly 150 years of manufacturing and operational CT 17 7 ZM 1excellence, and what we at Z Modular do is leverage the best practices, processes and business relationships of the larger organization,” explains Z Modular’s senior vice president, Rich Rozycki. “Another benefit it provides is easy access to high-quality, American-made construction materials, ranging from structural steel tubing to steel electrical conduit, MEP system components and fence framework.”

Backed by the support and financial strength of its parent company, Chicago-based Z Modular established four factories across North America in less than two years. Then, in 2019, it established its fully integrated, open-source Z Modular Building Ecosystem for affiliates to use in their own facilities. “Comprised of a proven process, advanced technology and skilled people, the Z Modular Building Ecosystem enables production of modules with both exceptional precision and exponential scale,” Rozycki continues. “As a result, Z Modular delivers buildings in as little as half the time possible with traditional construction methods, and without cost overruns.”

Serving markets including the hospitality, student housing, multifamily residential and senior housing sectors, Z Modular has adopted best practices to ensure that every client receives the full value proposition of modular construction, namely speed, quality and cost certainty. “Leveraging Zekelman’s legacy of manufacturing excellence, Z Modular has adopted a manufacturing-level quality assurance program encompassing three principal functions: quality design and engineering, quality control and quality management,” Rozycki adds. “For example, Z Modular utilizes advanced BIM modelling with custom Revit® plugins on all projects, not only to improve workflow capabilities and productivity, but also to accelerate shop drawings and to power automated elements of the manufacturing process.”

The Z Modular Network of Z Modular and affiliate factories today offers a combined production capacity of over 10 million square feet per year, and this number continues to grow. The company’s own factories are located in Killeen, Texas; Birmingham, Alabama; Chandler, Arizona; and Kitchener, Ontario. Its design offices can be found in Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; and both Kitchener and Toronto, Ontario.

“Our Killeen factory is the newest and most technologically advanced of our sites, with 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space containing wall framing machines, CNC machines, material handling robots, and welding robots,” Rozycki says. “All of our facilities are being updated to incorporate robotics and integrated manufacturing software to ensure quality, precision, project predictability and expedited project completion.”

The company’s factories in Chandler and Kitchener are scheduled to begin full production in the second quarter of 2020. Similar to the Killeen factory, these two are 200,000 square feet in size and will employ the newest technologies, including all of the above-mentioned advanced processes. The Chandler facility will primarily serve Z Modular’s West Coast clients, while Kitchener will serve Eastern Canada as well as the Midwestern and Northwestern United States.

Tremendous value
Building owners and developers in commercial and residential markets look to Z Modular to rapidly produce buildings of high quality across the continent. An example CT 17 7 ZM 2of its work that is currently nearing completion is the Cheatham Street Flats multifamily residential development in San Marcos, Texas, located about 30 miles from Austin. “At five stories tall and 198,946 square feet in size, this structure features 143 units, underground parking, a private courtyard, and lower-level retail space,” Rozycki details. “Additionally, our Kitchener factory is currently manufacturing modules for GEM Residences at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario. When the site is ready, the modules will be installed in just 45 days, forming an innovative housing development that will accommodate 512 students.”

In September 2019, the company received wide-spread praise within the industry when it announced that, for a limited period of time, it would convert any hotel floor concept into a modular design schematic within as little as 10 business days, and at a cost of just $20,000. “This promotion was well received by the hospitality industry in particular,” Rozycki continues. “Many developers recognized the tremendous value of the offer and of modular construction in general. Z Modular delivered on its promise to create converted modular design schematics within 10 days, each one complete with a parametric Revit model; mechanical, electrical and plumbing design; budgetary pricing; and a project schedule. A number of these conversions ultimately resulted in the developer choosing modular construction as the project delivery method.”

Turning to the company’s future development, Z Modular continues to build up its in-factory workforce, project by project, and is helping alleviate the challenge of labor shortages by hiring apprentices to work with its team of experienced, licensed tradespeople. “These employees enjoy the opportunity to learn a specific trade and apply their expertise to every module, honing their skills as they go,” Rozycki enthuses. “They get to work with some of the most advanced equipment in the business, and in a climate-controlled environment. Our teams meet daily to discuss progress, solve roadblocks and improve their processes, and all employees are encouraged to take ownership of their work and to feel empowered to make decisions that benefit a given project. In our experience, this approach results in work that everyone can feel proud of.”

Going forward, Z Modular plans to continue automating its factories, upgrading its design tools and expanding production capabilities, both within its own factories and by increasing the network to include more facilities and affiliates using the Z Modular Building Ecosystem. “These investments will enable us to take on yet more projects, with more modules and more stories. As such, all of us here are excited about what is ahead,” Rozycki concludes.

Z Modular
Best practice: Applying world-class manufacturing practices to the construction industry


Creating connections

A company that strives to understand the needs of its workforce and client base, Dome Construction has mastered the art of building strong relationships with its customers and staff

In 1969, Dome Construction started in a living room in downtown San Francisco. From the beginning, there was an inherent understanding that the company needed to do things differently. Today, Dome Construction has grown beyond what founders Anton Bley and Bill D’Atri first created, but their core principles remain the same. It still maintains their vision for developing a thoughtful, innovative, and sustainable construction business with its fundamental values deeply rooted in a people-first philosophy.

Over the last five decades, Dome Construction has, and continues to be, widely recognized as one of the leading contractors in California. Dome offers construction Dome 1services for clients across the Healthcare, Education, Life Sciences, Technology, and Retail & Hospitality sectors. What distinguishes Dome from its competitors is the firm’s ability to cultivate meaningful relationships with its customers, employees, and partners. As a result, the year on year average of repeat and referral-based customers makes up 95 percent of its business, and Dome’s success continues to grow.

Dome’s relationship with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is a testament to this success. For over 15 years, Dome has been a trusted partner in renovating facilities on the UCSF campus, and it has been able to deliver spaces under strict government regulated OSHPD guidelines for projects ranging from Radiology Departments and Transplant Centers, to Operating Rooms and MRI Suites. Recently, as the Bay Area prepared for COVID-19 impacts, UCSF trusted Dome to mobilize immediately to build out 43 new patient rooms in a previously decommissioned wing of its Mt. Zion Hospital.

The X-Factor
Similarly, Dome has deep roots in the Life Sciences and Technology sector, having completed its first project in this industry well over 30 years ago. In 2019, this sector made up nearly 42 percent of Dome’s revenue and it has over 100 employees who specialize in the industry. A recent example of its outstanding reputation within the Life Science and Technology sector is the Sangamo Therapeutics’ Headquarters located in Brisbane, California. This monumental project included a cutting-edge GMP manufacturing facility, clean rooms and warehouse, and a creative office and lab mix-use spread across four floors, with a footprint of 105,000 square feet. The seamless delivery of this project was a true testament to Dome’s expertise within the Life Science and Technology industry.

Staying true to its origins, Dome is always looking for fun new ways to build relationships and engage with its clients – it wants to have the ‘X-Factor’ that sets it apart. To Dome, a successful project is more than just completing the project on time and under budget. It’s about the experience the client has with its team. The Demo Party of the five-floor Getaround HQ project in San Francisco is a great example of how Dome keeps its clients top of mind. To engage with employees about their exciting new building, Dome scheduled a demolition party where Getaround’s employees and CEO were able to help demolish a safed-off wall - all while wearing custom-made purple hardhats complete with Getaround, Dome, Gensler, and JLL’s logos. To complete the experience, the lobby was decorated with renderings of Getaround’s future office space to help build excitement about the project. Experiences like this are key in creating the strong relationships that make Dome unique.

As a pioneer of innovative construction practices, Dome was also an early champion of Lean Construction and industry related innovation. Last year, a team of Dome innovators rolled-out a new safety platform, called eMOD. The platform is designed to create and improve transparency, accountability, and safety for Dome, its trade partners, and its clients. eMOD was originally created to offer the construction industry a much-needed safety solution. Rob Lynch, CEO of Dome Construction, describes the importance of eMOD, calling it “a dynamic, evolving and transparent web-based application for use by those closest to harm’s way and closest to the work - field crews.”

Another way Dome is leading the industry is in its approach, dedication, and commitment to the advancement of women, both at Dome and within the construction industry. Currently, women make up less than 10 percent of the construction industry in the United States, and on job sites, the numbers are even lower. Within the past two years, Dome has created The Dome Women’s Leadership Committee whose mission is to implement new programs in recruiting, mentoring, and conscious inclusion. The leaders of Dome have worked diligently to implement the knowledge founded by this committee at multiple conferences and industry events, sharing CT 17 7 Dome 2its ideas with other contractors.

Having read about the ways that Dome invests and values its staff, it’s no surprise to learn that over the past several years, the organization has been awarded a position on the Best Places to Work list, which is published in the San Francisco Business times every year. Dome’s Senior Leadership recognizes that it’s not about the ranking, it’s about continuous improvement. It’s about understanding where and how they can make their employees’ experience better. As Rob Lynch states: “One of our greatest strengths lies in the fact that we recognize our employees are our most important asset, promoting individual growth along the way through education, recognition, encouragement, support and respect. All great teams are built on communication, trust, and fairness, and these are qualities we endeavor to embody.”

At Dome, everything about its success can be attributed to its employee-centric culture. Recognizing the value of its employees, Dome offers generous benefits such as paid time off, health and medical insurance, personal and professional development opportunities, 401(k) retirement plans, and a generous philanthropic matching program. A company of over 340 people, across five offices, Dome is always looking for talented people to join its growing team. The company intends to expand its operations further into Southern California, to offer additional opportunities to the good people in which it has invested.

Much like Dome’s people-first philosophy, a philanthropic culture was established from the very beginning. Over the last several years, over four percent of Dome’s profits have been distributed back into its community. “We’re committed to making Dome Construction a community that cares,” proclaims the Chairman Mark Bley, who currently oversees the Dome Construction Foundation. This distributed $737,000 in 2019 for organizations like Urban Services, YMCA, All Stars Project, Edgewood, Lazarex Cancer Foundation, A Home Away from Homeless, and several others – once again demonstrating the caring, people-centric approach that can be found at the heart of Dome and illustrating how it really does put people first.

Dome Construction
Specialty: Construction Services

Powering up

A family-oriented business with a reputation for strong community spirit, the Forbes Bros. Group of Companies is on a mission to become North America’s ‘contractor of choice’

One of North America’s largest privately-held utility construction contractors, Forbes is the product of more than seven major acquisitions made across 40 years of transformational growth. The FB Group of Companies’ growth has evolved over a 40-year history, from three brothers supplementing a farming operation to a North CT 17 7 Forbes 1American footprint. Through this evolution, it has deployed many strategies to expand and diversify. In the late 90’s the first major acquisition was made by entering into the Alberta market through the acquisition of RS Line.

The Forbes Bros. Group of Companies is currently comprised of Forbes Bros. Ltd (FBL, the Canadian parent company), FB Valley (its BC operation), FB Bullet (its underground services operation), Forbes Bros Inc., FB Timberline, FB Titan and FBUC (Forbes Bros Utility Construction), its US-based companies. Together these companies have completed some of the largest and most challenging power transmission construction projects in North America over the last 40 years.

“Today, our primary market is transmission and distribution line construction and maintenance,” says Forbes’ Vice President of Operations John Cowden. “In the areas we currently work we have established strong local operations focused on our primary market, we would refer to these as our recurring business lines. From there we use these platforms to grow our businesses and establish ourselves in the market. We have also diversified into the substation, underground, and telecommunication markets through the acquisitions of 307 Power, Bullet Boring, HDI Hydrovac, and Summit Telecom. As an organization, we are always looking to diversify and add new services to our companies. We often look at what we regularly subcontract out, client requests, and future workload to attempt to bring those services in-house and further drive our ‘contractor of choice’ strategy.

“Having started with two clients in 1979, we now serve over 100,” John adds. “Most of our customers are investor-owned utilities and public utilities. We find that a lot of our culture and vision aligns with firms in that market and it’s led to a lot of success and strong partnerships for us.”

Ideal employer
A values-driven business since its inception, it is unsurprising that Forbes Bros. prefers to work in collaboration with companies that possess a similar ethos. Its core values of We Work Hard, We Work Safe, We Deliver Solutions and We Are Family have been instrumental in the company’s rise to prominence and are still evident in all areas of its business today. Much of this is rooted in the re-establishment of what John calls ‘the orange dot concept’, an initiative that references the company’s historical family culture and attempts to ensure it remains an integral part of the way Forbes operates in the 21st century.

“When we rebranded in 2017, the RS Line Orange Striped trucks went away but we remained adamant that the color orange would continue to ‘bleed’ in all that we do. This is where the phrase ‘Orange Dot’ was born. The orange dots signify who we were in the 1990s; this was a company of 30 workers with strong alignment, consistent work practices, high levels of communication, accountability, people that knew each other well and shared the same values and beliefs. To be an Orange Dot is to have a commitment to safeguarding our people, to always be in the mindset of alignment, collaboration and operational excellence in all we do and build. We pride ourselves on our team members who show their ‘Orange’ with pride by holding themselves and each other accountable to drive our purpose, values, safety culture and quality of work in every region that we work in. The orange dot concept is something we’re very proud of and we’ll be using it to drive our culture as we move into new business areas.”

Alongside the attraction of working for a highly-respected contractor experiencing an exciting phase of rapid multinational growth, Forbes’ reputation for valuing its workforce and wider local communities has made it an ideal employer for those who want to build a career with a company that cares. At the center of Forbes Bros. commitment to development, education, and training is the firm’s pioneering apprenticeship program.

“The apprenticeship program has been going since 2015,” John says of the program “Once a full-time permanent field employee has completed three months of continuous employment, and meet the necessary requirements, they can apply for the program. A lot of times, we find that people have the right experience and the desire to learn but haven’t been able to get the time off work, so it’s a big benefit we can provide to them.CT 17 7 Forbes 2

“It makes us very proud to see so many of our employees take advantage of the program. We want to grow people from within the business. We want employees who know how to pour foundations, run equipment, and string wire – these versatile skillsets are important to us and allow the company to be more flexible and keep people employed. The apprenticeship benefits both us and our employees. It gives us a stronger workforce so we always encourage it.”

Inspiring confidence
Forbes Bros. apprenticeship program is just one element of the company’s ‘community first’ focus that also includes a charitable giving policy that has, in the past, seen the firm donate significant sums to Ronald McDonald House and Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as facilitating the building of recreation centers and other community hubs for children and young people. Unlike many businesses, Forbes also encourages and offers every member of its workforce Supported volunteering, which allows two extra days of annual leave each year for participation in volunteering opportunities.

Building on the strength and unity it has fostered in its workforce, Forbes Bros. ultimate goal is to become North America’s ‘contractor of choice’ when it comes to transmission, distribution, renewables, substation work, telecommunications, horizontal directional drilling, and hydrovac. As a privately-owned company, the firm is not driven by stockholders or market prices and, instead, can focus entirely on inspiring customer confidence and forging long-term relationships with its clients.

When you look at our client list, there are many customers we have worked with for over 30 years and I think that speaks volumes,” John declares. “A few years ago, we decided to stop and think about what sets us apart as a business. What services do we offer that are different? Anyone can build a powerline, but what will make our clients have confidence and want to work with us again? Our contractor of choice strategy was born out of this discussion and we now use it to gauge our success with each client and each region where we work. This strategy drives FB Group of Companies’ operational excellence initiatives and focuses our operational and shared service resources to deliver the highest quality product and systems in the industry.”

Having recently established itself in the Southeast and Northwest region of the United States, Forbes Bros. plans to continue surveying the market conditions for opportunities and growth potential in the coming years. Its history has shown that the strongest probability for success in expansion and sustaining a profitable base of operations is through a strong acquisition strategy. This is successfully achieved via an integration plan which supplements strong local operations and enables it to benefit from the Forbes Bros large project experience and increase capacity through investments in equipment, manpower, tooling, improved processes, and controls. “Once we are established in an area, we start looking for larger transmission lines. Many of our customers, especially investor-owned utilities, are based across multiple states, so rather than breaking into a standalone region we use our ‘Contractor of Choice’ strategy with a focus on long term mutually beneficial relationships and use that to drive expansion into new areas.

“We have recently entered a few new markets in Ontario, Canada and several regions in the United States and our focus will be to develop those sustainable lines of business, reinforce and develop our employees through the Orange Dot Concept and in turn deploy our Contractor of Choice Strategy to ensure we see success and growth for years to come in North America.”

Forbes Bros. Group of Companies
Services: Utility construction contractor

Building with heart

Priding itself on a culture that puts the client first, Matern Professional Engineering has established a reputation for delivering exemplary services

Incorporated by Douglas P. Matern in 1984 in the State of Florida, over the following 36 years Matern Professional Engineering (Matern) has grown into a mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, technology, commissioning & energy engineering power house. It has continued to expand its operations and today has offices in Maitland, Fort Myers, and Tampa, Florida; as well as being licensed in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and CT 17 7 MaternVirginia. From its small beginnings, Matern now operates across multiple market sectors including aviation, corrections, central energy plants, community spaces, education (K-12, private and higher), healthcare, hospitality, municipal/government, public safety, office spaces, retail and tenant build outs.

Over recent times Matern has found itself to be increasingly delivering projects for healthcare and federal contracts, and as Company President Ryan Strandquest explained, this was facilitated in 2018, when the Federal Government awarded the business the GSA 03FAC Schedule for Commissioning and Energy related projects. “This contract gives Federal Agencies throughout the world a direct avenue to purchase our services at a Federal contracted rate,” he said. “During the same timeframe, we became one of the select MEP Engineers to provide professional engineering services to AdventHealth in Central Florida. This contract encompasses updating aging building systems on existing facilities. We have also had an influx of assisted living facilities and wellness center projects come to fruition.”

A perfect example of how Matern provides innovative and flexible services within a healthcare environment is the work it has undertaken at five large AdventHealth hospitals and medical facilities. “We completed 28 replacement projects of large custom chilled water air-handling units (AHUs),” Ryan elaborated. “These replacements were performed at fully operating facilities requiring careful planning to minimize disruptions to patients and normal hospital operations In most cases, the design work included facilitating the use of one or more temporary chilled water AHUs located nearby, duplicating the piping, ductwork, filtration, controls, power, and life safety aspects. In most cases, the specialized replacement AHUs were built on site, not in modules but piece-by-piece, to allow them to be brought into the limited space environment. The replacements included ten large rooftop units, where no two had similar roof structure, no original structural drawings were available and access to the existing structure for assessment was extremely limited. Our engineers were present for each of the early morning weekend unit removals, so that the existing structure could be quickly assessed, and structural modifications then be planned and implemented in real time, to minimize downtime and the use of temporary units.

“In addition to these AHU replacements, several other completed projects have included replacement of WAGD systems, central laundry facility expansion, and HVAC replacements in support facilities. We currently have more designs completed and others underway for the replacement of another 27 AHUs for AdventHealth; however, implementation of those replacements has been delayed by the Covid-19 crisis.”

Exciting project
Having referred to the coronavirus pandemic, Ryan noted that Matern has ensured that over this time the business has continued to maintain relationships and develop project proposals as opportunities arise, while always prioritizing staff health. “The majority of our staff have been working remotely through technologies we had in place,” he added. “As restrictions lighten and cases improve, we are implementing shifted schedules for individuals who want to return. We need to make sure there are not too many employees in the office at one time and have staff who have children so anyone who wishes to remain working remotely will be able to continue to do so for the time being.

“We notified our clients that we are operational and available to support them with whatever they need. We also applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to assist us with eight weeks of employee salaries. So, overall, our production remains consistent, but communication is the key with internal staff and clients.”

Matern is working on another significant project, which the Covid-19 crisis affected – the billion-dollar expansion at Orlando International Airport. “Progress has continued on the South Terminal Complex; however, it is continuing construction much differently,” Ryan noted. “Designers and contractors of all disciplines who were once located in construction trailers at the jobsite are now working remotely and adjusting to coordination with one another through technology we are fortunate to have available to the project team. Only necessary, hands-on construction workers are on site moving the job forward.”

He continued with more details about the contract: “At a total program cost of $4.27bn, this is the largest project Matern has worked on to date and one of the biggest in Florida in a decade. The existing Orlando International Airport consists of a landside hub with four airside terminals housing the airplane departure and arrival gates. The number of passengers who travel in and out of Orlando has exceeded what the existing facility can comfortably handle, which enabled the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority to seek expansion approval. The new South Terminal began with a parking garage, intermodal transfer facility and an automated people mover (APM) facility. This helped alleviate the immediate need of parking for travellers. Phases 1 and 1X include the new South Terminal Complex, which further expanded to the new parking garage, built-out the Virgin Train transfer facility; and designed/constructed an airside terminal with 16 airline gates and a landside terminal with both secure and non-secure areas. This
project has a lot of moving parts and pieces affecting the design and construction efforts. Each design discipline for the project is from a different firm, thus requiring intense coordination primarily achieved through phasing and BIM. Close coordination has also been required with Orlando Utilities Commission, who provides the CT 17 7 Matern 2primary electrical backbone to the facility and Virgin Trains, who will have a transfer stop at the facility.”

Major savings
Having revealed the nature of some of its significant contracts, Ryan highlighted two more that really stand out as favorites, thanks to their position as the first of their kind in Florida. “Just as an architect wants to see a legacy building constructed, engineers like to see their innovative solutions come to life,” he smiled.

The first was the installation of a Hybrid Geothermal Central Energy Plant at Volusia County Schools, which involved the use of innovative hybrid geothermal aquifer technology for a University High School’s heating and cooling system. This central energy plant (CEP) provides conditioning for not only the University High School campus, but also the adjacent middle school campus Ryan explained the savings that this project enabled for the client made it stand out. “The effective life cycle cost savings for using this system was $3,855,607 (with no power company rate escalation),” he said. One very valuable undertaking was the analysis of the annual and life cycle water savings from utilizing ground water in lieu of cooling towers. “We found that a traditional water cooled chiller plant, of this size, with cooling towers uses approximately 7,800,000 gallons of water a year due to evaporation. That is an annual cost of $37,800 or $750,000+ in water bills over the 20-year life cycle of the plant. The staggering fact is that this geothermal plant will save the District and the environment 157,464,000 gallons of water over the next two decades. The design of this system required special coordination with St. Johns Water Management District to ensure the aquifer would not be harmed by the system.”

The second project also involved energy – this time a Combined Heat & Power (CHP) Plant for the University of Central Florida. “The drawings for the engine that helps power this plant took up an entire cubicle in our office during the time of design and construction,” Ryan exclaimed. “The CHP Plant is powered by a clean burning, natural gas powered reciprocating engine that will generate approximately 5.5MW of electrical power for the University of Central Florida main campus. It includes an absorption chiller that captures waste engine heat and uses it to provide chilled water making the plant one of the most fuel-efficient cogeneration systems available today. The CHP Plant provides the University of Central Florida multiple benefits including a lower carbon footprint for equivalent power provided, reduced CO2 emissions, reduced electrical grid demand, lower cost of operation and expanded chilled water production to support campus growth.”

Having highlighted the very technical and complicated nature of its work, it is no surprise to learn that Matern embraces the use of technology across its own operations, a strategy that has been paying dividends during the Covid-19 situation. “We continuously look for ways to improve internal processes and in 2019, we upgraded our network servers and equipment in both conference rooms,” said Ryan, describing some recent expenditure. “We invested in Microsoft Office 365, which includes ‘Teams’ for meetings and coordination. The current change to working with our own staff remotely (not just clients), has afforded us the ability to evaluate what we have been doing and recognize where we can change to be more effective. BIM has been part of our design process for a number of years, and we also use Bluebeam, Bluebeam REVU and PlanGrid. Our firm is currently 90 percent paperless and has a proactive recycling program for all different type of materials.”

People power
From listening to Ryan discuss the operations at Matern, it is clear that the health and wellbeing of staff and maintaining a family-oriented culture is very important to the organization. He agreed that the business does not want to be ‘that company’ – one that treats employees and clients as ‘just a number’. “It is important to us that our staff not only enjoy working together, but also enjoy each other on a social level. To encourage this, we have Friday gatherings and a variety of different outside events including whirly ball and go-kart competitions; family picnics and every few years we have a family weekend getaway. In addition, we help celebrate birthdays, babies, marriages and other personal accomplishments. Our staff are the core of our business. We realize we would not have a firm without them. We also recognize people want to work with people they like.”

The Executive Committee still includes company founder and CEO Doug Matern; working alongside Ryan and the Sr. Vice Presidents; Adrian Baus and Judy D’Angelo. A ten-member Management Committee supports this team, helping to oversee projects in design and construction, assisting in workload projections, work force allocation, streamlining processes, client satisfaction, and mentoring younger staff. “Many of the members of the senior leadership have been with Matern for ten to 25 years,” said Ryan, “and our strong and consistent management team, dedicated experienced staff, and effective in-house quality control, offers us financial stability. As a client centric firm, we pride ourselves on a ‘Can Do’ spirit, quick responses, complete flexibility and pragmatic decision making in our endeavour to ‘engineer building systems that work for you’.”

Ryan believes that it is this overreaching positive attitude that sets Matern apart from the competition and keeps its clients returning time and again. “We have asked ourselves what makes us different and why would a client continuously choose to work with Matern? We believe the answer is our people – their commitment to quality and their problem-solving abilities. The attitude of ‘how can I help you succeed?’ starts from the top down, and it is the attitude when working internally with each other as well as externally with clients. We are a people-based business and without people to help, we have no business.

“Community involvement is also something we believe in strongly,” he continued, going further with Matern’s dedication to serving people. “We feel very fortunate to be able to give back to the community we work in and employees are encouraged to participate. Our involvement includes support of local foodbanks, education foundations, homeless & domestic violence shelters, United Cerebral Palsy, Boys & Girls Club, American Heart Association and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to name a few. Some staff have their own causes they gather support for ranging from school supply drives to 5k walks for their children’s school.”

Working on the philosophy that understanding the needs of the staff and clients simultaneously helps the firm grow stronger, Matern is entering the next half of 2020 with a positive approach, despite the challenging times of the moment. “The Covid-19 pandemic is going to change the way we do business on a day-to-day basis and we are already starting to evaluate certain employees working from home part time or on a phased return to work schedule,” agreed Ryan, before summing up with words that embody the spirit of Matern, caring, indomitable and forward-thinking. “This pandemic has been horrendous and affected millions of people, but we must learn and grow from this experience,” he concluded.

Matern Professional Engineering
Services: Engineering services

Concrete values

A full-service asphalt, concrete and drainage contractor on a major growth and development trajectory, Advanced Pavement Group has become the premier provider of pavement installation and maintenance throughout the north-east and mid-Atlantic United States

In 2016, private equity firm Dubin Clark set out to build a large regional asphalt, concrete, and drainage hard surface company in the north-east of the United States. Four years later, it would be safe to say that the firm has achieved its goal and more. Employing over 200 members of staff and turning over more than $50 million a year, Advanced Pavement Group (APG) combines industry-leading technology with decades of expertise to provide its customers with intelligent, functional, and effective solutions in areas such as asphalt milling, paving, concrete masonry, pavement maintenance, hardscaping, excavation, and drainage. For CEO Joseph J. CT 17 7 APG 1Tinney, Jr., mapping the company’s path to success has been straightforward. “Our aim has always been to be the best,” he declares. “We want to be the logical choice for customers in the pavement installation and maintenance market, and we do this by ensuring that we deliver on our promises. We communicate and over communicate with our customers so they have a sense of comfort, which helps to encourage strong relationships and repeat business. It’s pretty simple really.”

Built through a series of acquisitions between 2016 and 2020, APG benefits from the skills and experience obtained from a number of businesses with a reputation for quality and success in the north-east. Powerhouse Paving, Supreme Metro, Richards Paving, Easmunt Paving and Molloy Paving were all purchased over the four-year period as Dubin Clark searched for pockets of opportunity that could be amalgamated into the new business under the APG umbrella.

“As those companies were acquired, we cobranded them for a short period of time and then converted them to the Advanced Pavement Group branding,” Joseph J. Tinney, Jr. says. “While those brands had great local marketing, they really didn’t have any regional brand presence. Our target market includes companies like CB Richard Ellis and large landholders, which requires us to have a uniformity of people and process. Our clients want us to identify as a brand, not a federation of acquisitions.

“Under the Advanced Pavement brand, we serve a number of sectors, including retail, commercial, homeowner associations, educational institutions, healthcare, and hospitality. For customers like housing associations, APG often works on multi-

family residential units like townhouses and apartments, but we are predominantly focused on the commercial market where we handle properties like malls and restaurants, and institutional practice where we service schools and colleges. Those markets tend to have requirements that we can fulfill in terms of asphalt or hard services, ADA ramps, pothole repair, crack sealing, sealcoating, and line striping.”

Embracing technology
One of APG’s most recent projects involved large-scale reconstruction and maintenance work at the Long Island Marriott in New York. A hotel with over 600 rooms, the Marriott hired the firm to perform a variety of services including concrete repair, drainage restoration, repaving, and line striping. As well as ongoing concrete and asphalt replacement projects at New Jersey’s Heller Industrial Park, APG is a regular service provider for a host of municipal developments in suburban Philadelphia. A contractor of choice for some of America’s largest corporations, in the Spring of 2020 APG remodified striping outside more than 100 Kohls Department Stores, creating pick-up areas for customers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Though flexibility helps the company operate across a wide range of markets, Joseph J. Tinney, CT 17 7 APG 2Jr. suggests that it is technology that differentiates APG from its competition. “Think about it this way,” he begins, “we are taking a fairly fragmented, small business marketplace and creating a large organization and to do so, it requires a significant amount of technology upgrade. Typically, companies of the size we have acquired do not have a CRM with the sophistication of Salesforce, which is what we have. Characteristically, these companies don’t have the estimating tools from HCSS or Heavybid, which are packages we’ve implemented throughout the company. We’ve also put in an ERP system, but this is all only one small piece of the puzzle.

“The second way we’re using technology to create value is through customer facing applications. We serve a lot of property managers and the average age of that role is dropping significantly. Their utilization of technology to communicate a lot of work orders, approve work orders, take proposals, and approve proposals is evolving quickly, so we’ve adjusted our technology platform and customers can now do everything they need to do through their phones. Though a lot of the technology we use is tried and trusted, some of the things we’re going to roll out in the next 60 to 90 days are very unique to our company.”

More than just a profit-driven organization, Advanced Pavement Group is keenly aware of its social responsibilities and has always been committed to initiatives that stand to impact a greater good. In the last few years, APG has forged a partnership with America’s Grow-
a-Row, a charity that plants, picks, rescues, and delivers fresh food to food banks and those in need. Determined to contribute not only financially but also with the company’s time and talents, APG volunteered its services in May 2019 to help improve the drainage and road surfaces at Grow-a-Row’s farm facility in Pittstown, New Jersey. APG’s volunteering work and community outreach is just one element of the company’s diverse and embedded culture of care, and acts as clear evidence of the firm’s strong ethical foundation. World-class behavior

“What we’ve tried to do at Advanced Pavement Group is instill the right kind of culture in our workforce,” Joseph J. Tinney, Jr. states. “We call it ‘getting the right people on the bus’. It starts by hiring people with a technical background and the agility to be able to use the advanced technology we’re putting in place. We need them to be thinking about the process and continuous improvement. On top of that, we’re utilizing metrics to run the business. We’re trying to build a transparent CT 17 7 APG 3culture of performance and we want to improve in areas like final cost to estimate discrepancies, overtime management, and driving rework to zero. Most importantly, we have built a safety culture where we are leveraging observational safety performance versus managing accidents. “In summary, what we’re really trying to do at APG is take a formerly unsophisticated collection of companies and create what we would call academy-class or world-class behavior. It’s not just making a dollar; it’s how you make that dollar. In terms of ethics and culture, we are striving to take a fairly small company and make it act like a large enterprise with the values of someone like Google.”

Despite experiencing significant disruption during the early parts of the Covid-19 pandemic, Joseph J. Tinney, Jr.feels that APG has already re-established itself and is in a strong position to make the second half of 2020 a success. In fact, rather than suffering a slump following the pandemic, Joseph J. Tinney, Jr. suggests that APG already has a number of potential contracts on the table. “At this moment in time, we have the largest backlog in our history,” he reveals. “Now it is just a matter of having the customers allow us in to perform work. We’re very excited to get back on track and we’re bullish on the future of this company. As always, we are focused on providing high-quality solutions for our customers and we appreciate those that continue to trust us and stick by us.”

Advanced Pavement Group
Services: Pavement installation and maintenance

Putting people first

For General Equipment & Supplies, safeguarding the company’s future starts with an investment in their people

A supplier of heavy construction and aggregate equipment, General Equipment & Supplies was established in 1984 with one location and 22 employees. Now, in 2020, the company has a presence in four US states, two locations in Canada, and a workforce over ten times its original size. Like everything General Equipment does, it has been a careful, methodical program of expansion spearheaded by a drive to recruit and work with people who share the company’s core values. “Do the right thing, Have passion, Be innovative, and Work hard – these are our core values and we make sure that our customers and everyone that works for us feels the CT 17 7 General Equipment 1same way about them as we do,” President and CEO Jon Shilling says. “Geographically, our customers come from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Demographically, we deal with various sectors including construction, aggregate, mining, agriculture and scrap. Our customers might have revenues of $1 or $100 million, they might have one employee or 300, but typically, what unites us all is that we share the same core values.”

Put into practice, this shared vision is manifested in the flexible, transparent service that General Equipment offers its clients, and the long-term partnerships it has developed with companies such as Komatsu, JCB, Superior Industries, KPI-JCI and Terex Finlay. “We are committed to our customers’ long-term success,” Shilling states. “If, for example, a customer comes in looking for a WA320 loader, we don’t automatically assume that’s what they need. We ask questions, we try to listen and understand their business needs, and in some cases, we maybe can provide them with something more suitable, or even a different solution at a lesser cost.”

Though customers are the lifeblood of any firm, General Equipment has long understood that the success of the business ultimately lies in the hands of its team. For a company with such a strong ethos and identity, it is not easy to engender the same powerful spirit among a workforce scattered across two countries and several states. Yet, as General Equipment continues to expand – a new location is currently in development in Duluth, Minnesota – culture building and workforce development remain areas in which the company excels. Shilling explains more: “We primarily use our first core value, Do the right thing’, to help our employees understand that, if they believe they are doing the right thing for this company, if they believe they are doing the right thing for the customer and they believe in their mind that they’re doing the right thing for themselves and the community they’re in, then we won’t question the decisions they make. We are trying to empower our people.”

Future expansion
General Equipment’s focus on personnel began over 20 years ago when Jon’s father, Don, now the company’s chairman, predicted a workforce shortage of technicians and took decisive action to mitigate the potential negative impact this might have on the organisation’s future. Today, Don sits on the North Dakota Governor’s Council for Workforce Development and is the man responsible for General Equipment’s technician training program.

In partnership with Komatsu, General Equipment offers a program designed to develop the next generation of technically competent, professional service technicians. Not only does it secure a constant flow of talent for the business, but also the rigorous nature of the program ensures that new staff understand the company’s ethos and are compatible with its core values.

“When we start working with candidates, they probably go through anywhere from three to five interactions, a number of site visits, then, prior to beginning, they spend the summer interning with us to ensure they like the job and appreciate our culture,” Shilling adds. “When they start at North Dakota State College of Science, they do a year of basic training and then, in the second year, a repeating pattern of eight weeks of school and eight weeks of internship at one of our locations.CT 17 7 General Equipment 2

“The success of this program means that we really have no shortage of technicians and we have a consistent stream of young, very highly qualified guys coming out of the technical school. Ann Pollert is our Director of Workforce Development and she not only helps us to recruit the right people, but it is also her job to retain them and to work with our existing employees – whether they are technicians or not – to make sure that they are a good fit for this company and, equally, that we are a good fit for them.”

With new locations in discussion for future growth, including the western side of South Dakota and the eastern region of Nebraska, General Equipment will continue to expand its service in the years ahead. The onus will be on the company’s workforce to make these new branches a success and this is, perhaps, where the organisation reaps the most benefits from its commitment to workforce development and the resulting mutual respect it encourages between its management team and staff.

“We hold people accountable and we try to empower them,” Shilling declares. “It’s a game changer for us and that’s why our employees are our best promoters. When we’re looking to fill a position, you can play all the advertisements you want, but there is nothing more effective than when your employees talk honestly and positively about the company and its culture to people they know.”

General Equipment & Supplies, Inc.
Services: Heavy construction and aggregate equipment supplier

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