C.H. & D. Enterprises Inc. Bridging the Public-Private Gap
THE MAGAZINE FOR CONSTRUCTION EXECUTIVES
C.H. & D. Enterprises Inc.
Bridging the Public-Private Gap Produced by Zach Smith & Written by Tony Ware
US Developers Journal
Winter Edition 2010
Recently celebrating its Silver Anniversary, C.H. & D. Enterprises Inc. was founded by Carol, Harry and Dolly Lee Brady. The company – which operates in a 100-mile radius of its headquarters in New Stanton, Penn. – is a certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE), somewhat uncommon in the construction industry. That is just one of the many facets of C.H. & D. that sets the successful, award-winning company apart. A versatile civil contractor diversifying into the private sector, C. H. & D. has expanded its presence in western Pennsylvania through perseverance, attention to detail, and a dedication to “Do the Right Thing, the First Time, and Every Time - As We Restructure the Earth.” C.H. & D.’s foundation was formed in 1984 when Harry Brady, an experienced operating engineer, came home from work and shared with Carol the opinion that as poorly as some construction companies were being run they could do it better. “Being young dumb and stupid, I said ‘Sure, why not,’” laughs Carol, who left her job at Westinghouse to helm the new venture’s business affairs. With Harry’s experience in the field and Carol in the office, C.H. & D. was able to take advantage of some initial minority subcontractor
opportunities, starting work on drainage projects, as well as other small clearing, grubbing, excavation, bridge and concrete work. But the founders had bigger ambitions. “At first we had to prove we weren’t a front company , but once we did, bridge companies like Brayman Construction and W.P. Dickerson were pretty instrumental in inspiring me to leave a pretty good job,” says Carol, recalling the company’s first major project, the Charleroi-Monessen Bridge. Brayman, for example, co-signed for credit for certain lines of materials. But the larger companies saw that they could place their faith in entrepreneurs who willingly put in the sweat, who
recognized that 40 hours is half a work week if you run a business. “Between my business sense and my husband’s operational sense, we had a combination that worked really well for establishing us very quickly,” says Carol. “But we really wanted to be a prime contractor, you get the check first. And one of the nice things about being the prime is then getting to tell people their check is in the mail, but only if it is.” The Long Road(s) to Success Of course, working up the ladder from being a subcontractor to handling a larger volume wasn’t immediate for the C.H. & D. team. It meant a lot of long, long hours,
C.H. & D. Enterprises Inc. split between a 24-hour cycle of daily site work, evening bidding, nightly equipment moves and repairs and repeat. “In those early years you caught up on what was happening while riding home hauling a backhoe,” recounts Carol. “On our 25th wedding anniversary we were working on a bridge project in Sutersville and we walked across the bridge to a Dairy Queen, had a banana split, and then went back to work.” After seven years Dolly Lee, Harry’s sister, decided she wanted to retire and she sold her stock to Carol. Dedication has taken C.H. & D. from an office trio and one crew completing $100,000 jobs to one that has a 15-person office staff, employs a labor force in the field of 65 (average) to 100 (peak), and generates nearly $20 million in annual revenue. This noticeable increase resulted in C.H. & D. being recognized in 2009 as one of the fastest growing companies in Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Business Times (as well as being named one of the best places to work in western Pennsylvania). Along the way the company has repositioned itself from working primarily with PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Army Corp of Engineers to now also holding contracts with the Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Housing Authority for the City of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, among other jobs for local municipalities to “private” projects. “The company saw some large changes in 2006; we changed our focus and made some management changes ,” reveals Chip Rowan, C.H. & D. vice president and general manager who has been with the company for almost five years. “We diversified, and bidding more jobs means we cn guarantee work when one sector slows down.” Some of the more recently productive areas for C.H. & D. have included excavation and work for plumbing contractors, utility work for prisons, schools and administration buildings, as well as additional prevailing wage government contracting projects. However, C.H. & D. has never strayed too terribly far from its structural roots, as there is plenty of work US Developers Journal
Winter Edition 2010
to be done on the state’s bridges. “Pennsylvania has been designated as the state with the most deficient bridges in the nation, and PennDOT District 12, which includes the counties right around our office, are the worst in the state,” explains Rowan. “We noticed there was a big push for bridges even before the stimulus money [a.k.a. the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act],” says Heath Younkin, vice president of operations. “So we hired a couple crews to focus on bridge work.. But the stimulus money also goes to housing, etc., and we soon went from 20 to 25 jobs to 40 to 45 jobs. Many will average $1.5 million, but we also do plenty of jobs that are $5,000. We’re set up to handle our own excavation, concrete work, pipe work, erosion control, and so much more. We sub out engineering, electrical, guide rail, traffic control, and all paving, but we do the rest. We can handle an entire road project, or coordinate with a housing contractor on a much tighter, move-in and move-out site.” This jump in activity has resulted in some notable projects, such as a series of multi-acre service
C.H. & D. Enterprises Inc. plazas parking lots along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. “It’s high-profile, and they weren’t easy jobs,” says Younkin. “There were many soft areas to be undercut; we had to concrete pave the entire lot.” “We did some reconstruction work on Racetrack Road in Washington County, where we realigned the roadway, made safety improvements, reconfigured a really bad intersection that had caused a lot of accidents and fatalities,” says Rowan, who also reveals that C.H. & D. has also won several recent bids for jobs in Allegheny County on Route 88 in Castle Shannon, among other sites. In the future C.H. & D. also intends to pursue further streetscape work, as well as the kind of site development that builds a viable community. Reorganized and Energized Much of the potential C.H. & D. has been able to realize is thanks to the company’s restructuring of its project managers. Now, instead of having various staff scattered between office and job sites and trying to juggle paperwork and site supervision, three distinct superintendents focus on the field and the activities of the 16 or so foremen that report to them. This information is relayed to Younkin, and a rigid reporting system keeps people accountable, as well as allows for more efficient movement of people and gear between gigs (aided by weekly staff and scheduling meetings). And equipment is another area in which C.H. & D. has strengthened its workforce. The company has made a deliberate decision to cut down on rental costs recently by investing in several excavators, among other units. Further assisting in safety and efficiency training, among other facets of business, are C.H. & D.’s associations with various organizations, including the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania (CAWP), the safety consulting group East Coast Risk Management, and the networking organization US Developers Journal
Winter Edition 2010
Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC). An aggressive profit-sharing and bonus program based on employee performance has also been implemented as an inspirational tool that extends all the way from management to laborers.
and do it over again. The company’s reputation is on the line with each job, and we want to be the best possible, to continue to be called back to do more, bigger projects for our clients.” •
“A positive attitude is one of the important qualities that we focus on,” says Carol. “A college degree isn’t necessary, but they have to want to work. Attitude determines your altitude. A good attitude is a necessary requirement for employment at C.H. & D. We strive to be a company that people want to work for. We know that with construction experience you can get a job almost anywhere in the country. We recognize this and reward our employees well. Just like Brayman and Dickerson gave me a chance I too will provide an opportunity for others.”
COMPANY AT A GLANCE
All of these efforts have reinforced C.H. & D.’s ability to deliver on its ultimate promise.
Established : 1984 President : Carol H. Brady
“We constantly focus on doing things the right way,” concludes Rowan. “We don’t want to have to go back
C.H. & D. Enterprises Inc.
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