The Fischer Group at Graystone Consulting

By Sarah Hall

Pictured left to right; Marc Fischer (Managing Director, Wealth Management), Mark Caropreso (SVP, Institutional Consultant), Adam Brady (Institutional Consulting Analyst), Chad Jacob (institional Consultant), Theresa Kenyon (Portfolio Associate), Elizabeth McCarthy (Institutional Consulting Ananlyst), Heather Warne-Hopkins (Institutional Consulting Analyst), Samantha Maley (Instituional Consulting Relationship Manager), Thomas Thaney (Institutional Consultant), Melanie Lugo (Registered CSA), Michael Valenti (SVP, Institutional Consultant)

Marc Fischer (Managing Director, Wealth Management)

Mark Caropreso (SVP, Institutional Consultant

In the 30 years that The Fischer Group at Graystone Consulting has been providing financial services, a lot has changed.

“[When] we came into this industry 30 years ago, we were stockbrokers,” said Mark Caropreso, the firm’s senior vice president. “The goal of the job was a sales job and the idea was to talk to your clients about logical investments. But over time, the role is much more of a really of a consultative role. The consultant has become more of an asset manager.”

Clients used to want more control over their stock portfolios, Caropreso said. Now, however, they’ll come to financial advisors with a broader idea of their financial needs and sometimes hand over the reins.

“The biggest change in my 30 years is discretion, the discretion and the responsibility,” he said. “Years ago, clients really wanted ideas and they pick and choose which ones they wanted to take. The industry has moved [toward] implementation and a discretionary role where we set goals and objectives and then implement the strategy, often saving priceless investment and Trustee decision making time.”

If you’re putting your financial future in someone’s hands, you won’t find hands much more capable than those of the Fischer Group. In 1991, Marc Fischer was one of the original 25 members that would eventually form Graystone Consulting. Today his titles include Managing Director, Institutional Consulting Director, Alternative Investments Director, and Financial Advisor.  As a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley, Graystone Consulting offers a more personalized investment experience to strictly institutional and very high net worth investors that still provides the benefits of the global financial firm. Founded by Marc Fischer, the team includes six consultants, three analysts, two portfolio associates, and one marketing/relationship ambassador, working together to understand the unique investment needs of high net worth and institutional clients alike.  The group operates out of two brick and mortar locations in the state—one in Rochester and one in Latham.

Fischer himself, the group’s director has been in the financial industry since 1988. A Rochester native, he graduated with honors from the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor’s degree in business management and earned CIMA designation from the Wharton School at the University Pennsylvania in 1994. Notably, his Fischer Group was recently named by Barron’s as a 2021 Top 100 Institutional Team nationally. Also, he has been featured in Barron’s Top 1200 State by State Advisors in New York every year since 2010. He is based in the Rochester office along with team members, including: Thomas Thaney, Vice President, Institutional Consultant, Michael Valenti, Senior Vice President, Institutional Consultant, Chad Jacob, Senior Vice President, Institutional Consultant, Heather Warne- Hopkins, Assistant Vice President, Institutional Consultant Analyst, Theresa Kenyon, Portfolio Associate, Elizabeth McCarthy, Institutional Consulting Analyst, Adam Brady, Institutional Consulting Analyst, and Samantha Maley, Institutional Consulting Relationship Manager.

Caropreso, meanwhile, is a Senior Vice President, Institutional Consultant, Financial Advisor, and Alternative Investments Director. He is in based in the Latham office along with Melanie Lugo, Registered Client Service Associate, and he has more than 27 years of experience in the investment industry.  Caropreso earned a BS in finance from Siena College and graduated from carpenter’s apprentice program, working as a journeyman carpenter through Carpenters Local No. 370 in Albany. He is currently a member of Carpenters Local No. 291, Eastern Contractors Association, Syracuse Builders Exchange, Builders Exchange of Rochester and International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

 

Statewide representation

The Rochester and Latham offices began working together about 12 years ago, when they realized there was overlap between their respective client bases and geographical footprint and therefore opportunities for teamwork.  

The collaboration has allowed the team to better serve a wide variety of clients.

“My institutional client base was smaller numerically than his, but they were of a larger size,” Caropreso said. “I was in an institutional niche in construction-related benefit plans, multi-employer funds, while Marc also had experience in foundations and endowments and other large institutions, hospitals, districts, charitable organizations. Marc also occasionally shared the enjoyment of working with Taft Hartley clients, having over a half dozen himself since as early as 1991. “For me, my institutional practice was a smaller percentage of my overall business, and the resources that I had available to me in Albany were less than the resources I would have enjoyed had I not teamed up with Marc.”

That partnership was formalized in 2019, in order to leverage collective resources, better communicate, and share technology.

“Just in the act of teaming actually officially they become more streamlined, more plugged into our group,” Fischer said. “Having them, even in Albany, it does not matter. They could be across the planet and we would have the same kind of synergies that go with that, because they participate truly at our day-to-day. They can literally see all the data like we see it live on the screens and they are not just an outside group that we work with.”

Having offices in Rochester and Latham also offers the Fischer Group better geographical representation.

“We are obligated in most cases to visit our clients in person, post-COVID, and to visit our clients quarterly… to always be available,” Fischer said. “We have multiple advisors on each relationship at all times so that they can see not only the team approach to it but with the coverage that we have. With our competitors, it is very rare to see more than one financial advisor at the meetings. Our clients find it more comforting to know that there is a team that is behind them and in different individuals that they can reach out and touch.”

‘You just cannot buy that’

Like some 60 other Graystone directors nationally, Fischer and his team work with both individual and corporate/institutional clients. In addition to the firm’s own experience, one of the big draws is its relationship with financial powerhouse Morgan Stanley. As Graystone’s parent company, Morgan Stanley provides the structure that allows individual teams to serve their clients in a truly unique capacity.

“That is probably the single largest advantage that we have over most of our competitors,” Fischer said. “It is not only the experience of the financial advisor, but also the financial backing, the critical administrative support, and the health of the sturdiness of the capital, the firm, is key.”

Morgan Stanley provides significant backing in the form of financial and legal resources that are essential when Fischer’s team are acting in a fiduciary capacity for their clients, which applies to nearly all their institutional relationships and to many of their retail clients as well.

“Morgan Stanley gives us the backing of a global institution,” Caropreso said. “We have got at our fingertips more resources than I can fathom. You just cannot buy that.”

The Fischer Group at Graystone has access to technology, staffing, research, and other resources that other firms don’t. Included in these resources is the legal structure and oversight components that allow their consultants to take on a co-fiduciary role with their institutional clients. In order to remain free from conflicts of interest, consultants cannot use Morgan Stanley managers or products within their consulting client’s portfolios, preserving their position as a truly independent advocate of their clients.

“Morgan Stanley is a very good partner,” Fischer said. “They are very supportive of the teams.”

“I would say our clients think what is most important with our partnership with Morgan Stanley is the fact that we are a fiduciary,” Fischer said. “In most cases, we are a co-fiduciary and we actually take the same amount or multiple times the same amount of risk as the trustees themselves.”

With their long history of serving institutional clients, the team understands their obligations, and the special trust relationship that comes with undertaking fiduciary responsibility in partnership with boards of trustees, or as consultant to a corporate retirement plan

It’s a comfort to clients if they have a fiduciary with ample resources to educate and protect them.

Not just stocks and bonds

The resources and support of Morgan Stanley allows the Fischer Group to provide a number of services to all client types, and access to a large suite of investment options that can be customized and mixed to help meet each unique client need. The group boasts several members with “Alternative Investments Director” titles, which gives them particular experience with utilizing the specialized subset of investment options known as “alternative investments.”

This sometimes esoteric asset class- from hedge funds to managed futures, commodities and private equity, among many others- goes beyond traditional stocks or bonds. Having worked with investors for more than 30 years, the team has the experience to advise and educate clients on these kinds of investments. The firm prides itself on the ability to cater to both corporate and individual clients and to provide a tailor-made approach to portfolio construction and oversight.

“Going back 30 years, the consulting industry… was really just stocks and bonds,” he said. “In the day back in the 1970s and ‘80s, very high net worth investors had alternate investments. Now it has become more mainstream as they become more available to individual investors.”

In particular, Fischer said the consultant’s role is to educate clients about their investments, because particularly when it comes to alternative investment options, ensuring the client meets appropriate suitability guidelines and understands their investment choices is key.

“It is a part of the job that we do in our role as educators. Most of our clients are boards, their trustees, their members that really represent pools of money that is not theirs,” he said. “Part of what they are obligated to do as trustees, they need to become constantly educated as to what it is because they are responsible for those pools of money. That is where we have the training and the commitment to do that type of work, and educate them, and make them comfortable with those types of investments as part of our process.”

Another important part of the Fischer Group’s business is navigating jointly- trusteed benefit packages sponsored by labor unions and contributing employers called Taft-Hartley plans. Caropreso explained that the packages are similar to the kinds of plans offered by single employers. The primary difference is that the plan is managed under a trust with trustees appointed or elected by the union and a group of contributing employers as opposed to a single employer. The union member plan participants don’t work for the same company day in and day out. The particular intricacies of investment management for these multi-employer plans require some special expertise to understand and service. The team’s long history of serving Taft-Hartley plans in the construction trades give them ample experience in helping clients with these needs.

“In order for these plans to work, the plan has to follow the worker from employer to employer,” Caropreso said. “So you end up with benefit packages made up of typical pensions, defined contribution plans for retirement, kind of like a 401k plans, and healthcare plans.”

The Group is responsible to help trustees representing the unions and employers make investment decisions for those pools of money to ensure their security and growth to meet stated goals and objectives for their participants.

“We are helping them select investment strategies, managers, products to meet the obligations of each of those plans,” he said.

The Fischer Group’s deep understanding of the needs of clients, the available universe of investment options, and abundant resources of their parent company allow them to match clients with a customized consulting solution.

CONCLUSION

While the Fischer Group offers a wide variety of services and amenities, Caropreso said it’s the expertise that sets the firm apart from its competitors.

“We’re ultimately here to serve the local community,” he said. “We have more skin in the game. And at the end of the day, we want to do a better job for less money, better results, more service than any other people that would come in from out of town.”

Fischer agreed.

“Clients come to us because they need the global presence of Morgan Stanley backing-wise and the experience of Graystone Consulting, the back office, the research, the capital, et cetera,” he said. “But they also love the local presence, the dedication to the community.”

Caropreso said that all of the changes the Fischer Group has made in the last few years has been to benefit its clients.

“The desire to add more people, that’s not because we want to become more wealthy, it is because we want to do a better job,” he said. “That is really the story of the Fischer group and it is the way that we would see it grow.”

For the last 30 years, and for many more, Fischer’s Group hopes to continue to serve local communities throughout New York State by using their considerable historical experience and the significant resources offered by their parent company, to enhance outcomes for clients. The formalization of the partnership between Managing Director Marc Fischer and Senior Vice President Mark Caropreso, has allowed them to expand their geographical footprint, and created synergies to the benefit of all clients. The team’s commitment to delivering local service means you may see members of the group at golf tournaments, the clambake, steak roast, or any other event that would allow them to follow through on their promise of creating a true partnership with clients. To learn more about The Fischer Group, visit: https://graystone.morganstanley.com/the-fischer-group-at-graystone-consulting

Source: Barrons.com (April 2021). Barron’s Top Institutional Consulting Teams were evaluated on a range of criteria, including institutional investment assets overseen by the team, the revenue generated by those assets, the number of clients served by the team, and the number of team members and their regulatory records. Also considered were the advanced professional designations and accomplishments represented on the team. The rating is not indicative of the Institutional Consulting Director’s past or future performance. Neither Morgan Stanley, Smith Barney LLC nor its Institutional Consulting Directors pay a fee to Barron’s in exchange for the rating. Barron’s is a registered trademark of Dow Jones & Company, L.P. All rights reserved.  

Source: Barrons.com (March 2021). Top 1,200 Financial Advisors: State-by-State as identified by Barron’s magazine, using quantitative and qualitative criteria and selected from a pool of over 4,000 nominations. Advisors in the Top 1,200 Financial Advisors list have a minimum of seven years of financial services experience. Qualitative factors include, but are not limited to, compliance record and philanthropic work. Investment performance is not a criterion. The rating may not be representative of any one client’s experience and is not indicative of the financial advisor’s future performance. Neither Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC nor its Financial Advisors or Private Wealth Advisors pays a fee to Barron’s in exchange for the rating. Barron’s is a registered trademark of Dow Jones & Company, L.P. All rights reserved.

The investments listed may not be appropriate for all investors. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a financial advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment will depend upon an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.

Investments and services offered through Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Member SIPC.  Graystone Consulting is a business of Morgan Stanley.

 

Five Star Equipment Exceeds Customer Expectations in Syracuse

by Becca Taurisano

It’s a whole new Five Star Equipment in Syracuse. The Dunmore, PA based construction equipment company opened their new, state-of-the-art Syracuse facility in November 2020, shortly after General Manager Dave Kreis came on board in September. With over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry, Kreis was tasked with filling multiple open positions. “I wanted to find people that would be a good fit. Here in Syracuse, we needed to reinvigorate the atmosphere of teamwork.” Kreis was able to staff his team with a combination of outside hires and promoting from within, an important practice at Five Star Equipment.

INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE

Recent hires include Scott Hinman, Sales Manager, who comes from a large, national construction rental company with many years of service and branch management experience. Tim DeLany, the Used Equipment Manager has over 30 years of construction experience, the last 20 of which were in used equipment.

Valerie Smith started at Five Star Equipment in 1990 in the service department, worked in various departments, and now serves as Rental Manager for both the Syracuse and Kirkwood branches. Smith has even served as Interim General Manager, when needed. Smith says, “I just truly love working with the customers. It is a close-knit family at the end of the day.”

Pam Huckaby, Corporate Parts Operations Manager, started off on the parts counter, worked her way up to Parts Specialist, and then to her current corporate role. “Pam has been instrumental in hiring and interviewing parts employees and leading the charge in training and mentoring,” Kreis says. “Every day, Pam drives home that the customer comes first and she does a phenomenal job at it.” Huckaby recently assisted with the rollout of the MyDealer portal, an online parts ordering system, and getting larger customers on board.

Gary Mason, Senior Governmental Territory Sales Manager, oversees municipality customers in five counties. “Gary has maintained an industry leading market share with those customers and the John Deere line. He is always available to help and mentor the new sales professionals,” Kreis says.

Lori Prent, Service Advisor; Brian Jacopelle, Territory Sales Manager; and Chris Pier, Product Support Sales Specialist are internal hires who have been promoted to their current positions. Jacopelle has over 15 years of experience and Pier came to Five Star from BOCES, already earning his first promotion in his brief career. Kreis says customers can rely on these industry professionals to provide the highest quality service in construction equipment sales, rentals, and service.

NEW ENERGY

Bringing a fresh perspective to Five Star Equipment is Rob Hecox, the new Service Manager in Syracuse. Hecox has been able to draw on his experience in the automotive industry. “We lean on Rob for feedback in the area of sales and service to help our customers,” Kreis says. Brian Doran, Territory Sales Manager, has nearly five years of industry experience, joined the company in January 2021, and is already a strong producer. Juli Rowe, Sales and Branch Administrator, has served in a variety of administrative and office management roles prior to joining Five Star Equipment in April 2021.

COMMUNICATION

Kreis believes you must exceed customer expectations and communication is essential to doing that. “Getting back to customers in a timely manner is key. We have a very short season in central New York and our customers need to get a lot done. Many of the customers we deal with are multi-generation companies. Relationships in the construction industry are built over long periods of time and you have to go above and beyond their expectations.”

TRAINING & EDUCATION

Five Star Equipment places emphasis on a highly trained workforce who are certified to work on highly technical machinery. “Much like our cars and our appliances, machinery is very complicated now and the repairs need to be done by certified technicians. We provide this through external training from John Deere University, or internal training with our own product support operations managers,” says Kreis. The organization is always looking to build its team as well. “Having teams with qualified people is essential,” Kreis says, “so we invest heavily in employee training and education.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Five Star Equipment carries a vast array of product lines including John Deere, Hitachi, Fecon, Bomag, Eager Beaver Trailers, Trail King, HARLO, and Topcon. “We are seeing global shortages on all kinds of products, so availability is key. We are able to offer a large and diverse fleet of equipment from industry leaders to support all of our customers’ needs,” Kreis says. Consistency is also important as customers are more mobile and work across county and state lines. Kreis says customers should have the same experience in any Five Star Equipment location. “We want the customers to expect they will hear from someone in a timely manner, there will be follow up, and there is someone accountable like a General Manager that they can reach out to.” Smith says, “Our goal is to accommodate the customer in every branch. We want to go above and beyond in every way we can.”

BRIGHT FUTURE

With a new facility and a new team, Five Star Equipment is looking to the future. CEO Bill Farrell says, “The company has changed to reflect the industry. There are more women in positions of leadership in construction.” In addition to Valerie Smith and Pam Huckaby, General Manager of the Williamsport branch, Carrie Wolf, and Human Resources Director Elena Seidita, also serve in key leadership roles at the company. “We have the right people in the right positions and we are always looking for more people to join our team,” Farrell says. “For us, the future means strengthening existing customer relationships by always putting our customers first.”

Workforce Development; The Construction Industry’s Challenge to Attract Workers

By: Earl R. Hall, Executive Director – Syracuse Builders Exchange

Earl Hall headshot

Ten years ago, construction industry executives anticipated that in just a few years there would be a national and local shortage of skilled craftsmen and craftswomen.  The data suggested a large percentage of those eligible would retire, and the next generation worker was not being attracted and retained to fill those positions.  In addition, the increased construction activity across the country, in particular the larger urban cities and surrounding regions, would require an increased supply of labor to support construction building and highway demand.

Today the industry continues to address challenges associated with a skilled labor shortage.  New York State is at the epicenter of the issue, struggling to attract apprentices and journeymen and women alike into a very physically demanding industry, which also ranks as one of the most dangerous professions in the United States.

The Challenge

Attracting people into the industry throughout central New York has always been a challenge.  For decades employers and union apprenticeship programs have attempted to identify and attract people of all sexes, races, skin color and ethnicity.  Unfortunately, in some cases a person might hold an adverse opinion of construction professions.  Others may be dissuaded from exploring a career in construction because of the physical demands and working at times in difficult working and environmental conditions.  Others have complained the average construction worker may only work 1,600 – 1,800 hours per year.  Recently, a barrier to entry for some is the lack of transportation and childcare.  Those reasons are not to be ignored and must be addressed when attempting to attract future candidates into the industry.  

Self-Reflection

As a college student at Syracuse University in the late 1980s, I enjoyed coming home for the summer; however, with that came the understanding that I needed to work and make enough money to afford to return to college.    

For five summers I worked as a laborer for various union contractors, working 3 months at a time.  Whether it was as a mason tender working for Hopkins & Reilly alongside Bricklayers Local 2, Operating Engineers Local 545 and Laborers Local 333 union members at the Great Northern Mall or at the North Medical Center; running a jackhammer 8 hours a day on the bridge decks over Route 690 and West Street; or performing demolition work at Crouse Irving Hospital, I developed a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for those career construction workers.  Those career union members finely tuned their skills and obtained a wide variety of safety training certificates in an effort to deliver the finest construction worker any employer would want on their team.  The diverse men and women on those projects taught me to work hard, be efficient and work safely.  I had no business earning the same hourly pay as the career union member working along side of me, but they accepted me as a member of their team. 

I would never trade those summers for anything as those experiences helped me better understand the hard work, effort and sacrifices that career construction workers put forth to become professionals at their craft.  Along with the professionalism came their desire to attain as much education and safety related content as possible to provide and work in a safe working environment.  Obtaining safety training certificates not only educated the workers on how to work safely on job sites but made the worker more marketable to other contractors.  Developing career skills, job site experiences and safety training certifications over a long period of time created the ultimate career construction worker.

An Employer’s Vision

Employers and union apprenticeship programs today have evolved to adapt to the challenges identified above.  Both union and non-union employers alike strive for long-term, career-oriented employees in their companies for a variety of reasons.  Employers want people who are self-motivated, safety-conscious, reliable, and hardworking who can get to and from their place of employment daily. 

One of the top priorities of employers is to provide their employees with a safe working environment, all the necessary safety equipment and all the necessary and required education and safety training.  A safe workforce is a productive workforce.  Workers’ compensation claims are a lose-lose situation for any employer as one of their employees is now injured, and the company’s workers compensation insurance premium will increase.  Keeping employees safe on dangerous job sites is paramount to an employer’s ability to be successful and profitable.   

Today’s Environment

Elected officials and bureaucrats alike have required that workforce development and contract award goals be included on public work projects.  Those noble goals may be in the form of contract awards to minority, women, and service-disabled veteran owned businesses (“M/W/SDV”), preferential bid discounts afforded to the above or diversity hiring goals of employees.  Although such are well intended goals, too often capacity to achieve such goals may not exist in the region where such goals are assigned.  Over the years, the Syracuse Builders Exchange has offered educational courses to help M/W/SDV grow businesses to build capacity of such employers in the central New York region.

Local and regional socio-economic issues championed by community leaders, activists and politicians have also delivered a narrative on the necessity of diverse workforces in the industry.  While laudable and desired, capacity problems remain in that such required targeted people in society have not been attracted to the industry for reasons stated previously.  How do employers, and the industry in general, overcome these issues and attract people of all races, color, sex, and ethnicities to create a diverse workforce in the construction industry?

Solutions

While there may be multiple, well intended groups focusing on workforce development initiatives for specific segments of society or individual projects, the Syracuse Builders Exchange is committed to attracting and retaining all people throughout our 18-county central New York region.  Creating and maintaining a sustainable workforce development program must be inclusive.  Local and regional initiatives should be embraced so long as they do not adversely impact existing career construction workers or the employers who hire them.

Focusing on training potential workers for specific, short-term construction projects should be used as a launching pad for the next generation construction worker.  Identifying those candidates from socio-economic challenged and low-income segments of our society is difficult, yet an initiative worth pursuing for many reasons.  I challenge those involved in such initiatives to think long-term and focus on creating a career construction worker.  A construction worker who will stay engaged in the industry and make construction his or her career.  While community leaders, elected officials and bureaucrats look to address local problems that impact local constituents, the construction industry should take advantage of this in an effort to promote a career in construction and the amazing benefits and opportunities the industry has to offer on a long-term basis.  

Over the years, I have served on the Syracuse City School District’s (“SCSD”) Career and Technical Education (“CTE”) Advisory Board to help develop curriculum in the construction related pathways offered to students in the SCSD.  The CTE program attracts students entering middle school who may not have an interest in higher education, and who would rather choose a career pathway to enter the workforce upon high school graduation.  The SCSD CTE program targets all students in the city of Syracuse, including but not limited to those in defined “low income” communities.  It targets students of all races, color, sex, and ethnicities, and serves as a resource to nurturing young students into career pathways for which the industry is in dire need.

The Syracuse Builders Exchange will continue to be a leader in providing education and safety training content to construction industry employers and their employees.  We will continue to participate and be engaged in developing the next generation construction worker on a regional and local basis.  While public officials have assigned contract and hiring goals based upon race, skin color and ethnicity, the Builders Exchange will continue to promote construction career opportunities to all people of all races, skin colors and ethnicities in an effort to build not only such “goal” capacities in the industry, but to fill voids left by those career construction workers who have retired.

Summary

As a fiduciary to the Syracuse Builders Exchange, my job is to act in the best interest of the members of the Association, their employees, and the construction industry in general.  Serving in the best interest of the construction industry in general covers a broad spectrum of people, ideas, interests, and entities.  Diversity and inclusion of all people in the industry will continue to be at the forefront of our workforce development campaigns and initiatives.  Not because governmental entities, politicians, community leaders or bureaucrats say so, but because such has always been the approach when identifying, attracting and retaining our next generation construction worker.

Navigating Insurance Market Uncertainty; Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

By: Brett Findlay, OneGroup

Over the course of the past year, it is fair to say that businesses in all industries have faced new challenges. The construction industry and the corresponding insurance marketplace have been no exception. In the Spring of 2020, reports suggested that commercial insurance buyers specifically in the United States, would face sizable pricing increases in 2020 and 2021. These reports were published prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. At that time, the potential increases were predicted for most lines of insurance. Those indications were the first of a hardening market. As a contractor in New York State, the insurance marketplace is limited enough to begin with, let alone at an affordable price. The question(s) become, what has changed and how do I prepare as a buyer? Because if you do not prepare, you may be on the receiving end of negative renewal experiences.

A hard insurance market, by definition, is characterized by an increased demand for insurance coverage coupled with a reduced supply. Typically, underwriting guidelines become more stringent, policies issued by carriers dwindle, premiums are high, and insurers are less willing to negotiate terms. This was happening prior to the pandemic, and for certain lines of insurance the pandemic has only seemed to exacerbate the situation. We are now in what is considered to be the first hardening market to take hold since the turn of the century. Rates have not reached that point yet, and it is too early to tell if they will continue on that trend.

 

As a business owner there are some items that are paramount to have a handle on in order to weather the cycle as effectively as possible. Having an experienced broker and a strong relationship with them is of the utmost importance. That broker should be able to coach you on the development, implementation and/or fine tuning of your risk management & safety program, coverage adequacy, carrier relations and claims history. Having a handle on these items, and how you represent them to the insurance carrier(s) is key to maintaining or improving your current program and budgeting for the costs associated with it. So, what has changed with your program, and how do you prepare for it?

Any given broker may be the best fit for your company, but, if the agent representing your account cannot properly handle it then your company is the one that ultimately pays for it. That is why it is critical to have an experienced agent. The agent should be diligent and proactive in learning about your business. They will need that firm understanding of your industry, and how your business functions within it, to properly paint the best picture of your organization while discussing it competently with the underwriter of any given carrier. The picture being painted needs to include certain key points, as previously mentioned those points include your risk management and safety procedures, claims history and coverage needs. Being able to discuss each in depth and coherently to an underwriter will put them on the path to providing the program that you need and being able to do so will provide you with the best program and rates available to your industry class.

It is equally important to have a broker that understands the marketplace and which carriers to involve in the underwriting of your account. The ability of that broker to forecast the costs and insurance availability with the proper coverage is key. Long story short, you need someone who knows construction, and knows the carriers and underwriters that write insurance for construction operations.

                Typically, a hard market is not a fun process to go through. With that being said, you have the ability to proactively position your business to handle the situation. Talk to your agent, prepare yourself for the unexpected and the possibility of having to market your insurance, get in front of the curve to limit any potential program failures. As you have heard me say before, contractors in todays’ economic landscape, must be sharper than ever to increase or even maintain profit margins. Preparing yourself for a hard market and forecasting any potential dramatic increases to soft costs, will put you in a better position to control your margins.

            At OneGroup, we are a team of specialists, dedicated to risk management and construction industry specific insurance issues. We hope to serve as a resource to your organization for all your construction specific questions and concerns. OneGroup takes great pride in being at the forefront of industry trends and assisting others where we can. You can learn more about us at: www.OneGroup.com.

J&B Installations, Inc. Commercial & Industrial Roofing Contractors; Celebrating 40 Years of Success

By Sarah Hall

J&B Installations has come a long way from its humble beginnings. The roofing company got its start as a two-man operation in 1981. Now, celebrating their 40th anniversary, they employ upwards of 100 people during peak season and are known as one of the most reputable and safest roofing companies in Upstate New York.

Majority owner and President Robert Parker says he owes that growth to his team. “We employ good people” he said. “Our company is productive and safe because of our employees’ commitment—it’s a team effort.”

J&B specializes in commercial and industrial flat roofing. Their 16,000-square-foot corporate office/warehouse in Skaneateles Falls includes an in-house sheet metal/fabrication shop and a top-of-the-line plan room using cutting edge estimating software. They also have satellite offices in Ithaca and Rochester and are looking to increase their presence in those areas. All roofers, foremen, and superintendents are OSHA-certified. J&B’s full staff of 12 roofing crews, facilitating a 25-vehicle fleet, including its own crane and 8- 42’ to 55’ forklifts, allow the company to provide clients with complete roofing services and 24/7 roofing repairs.

J&B’s 5,000-plus clients include office parks, warehouses, supermarkets, schools, municipalities, and production facilities, among others. “We’ve performed work on over 200 Aldi’s stores,” Parker said. “Aldi’s insists on quality when selecting a contractor to install in their region. They chose us and that’s a huge compliment.” 

J&B’s reputation has netted the firm a number of clients. “Most of our work is word of mouth,” Parker said, “which is the best form of advertising. We strive to exceed clients’ expectations and have gained many loyal customers as a result.” 

The company, which typically does work all across New York State, has ventured into Pennsylvania and Massachusetts as well. They even followed a client to Colorado Springs. “We were doing work for a company in Fulton,” Parker said. “They had a roof problem at their plant in Colorado Springs and they were very happy with our work here, so they asked us to re-roof their plant in Colorado. It was a new type of long-distance challenge we had yet to experience, and the crews and superintendents that ran the project ultimately brought it in on time and budget.

The firm has taken on some significant projects, including the 1 million-square-foot Tops Distribution Center in Lancaster, New York, and a $5 million roofing project for the Webster Center School District.  J&B will be starting a $4.9 million roof project for Ithaca City School District, a $750,000 project for Community Hospital in Hamilton and a $650,000 project for JMA in Syracuse, to name a few upcoming projects in 2021.

It’s a far cry from Parker’s kitchen table, where he first drew up plans for his own company back in 1981. As a 23-year-old newlywed who had worked for Rochester Roofing & Sheet Metal Co. for three years after college, Parker couldn’t find anyone local who was hiring. So he decided to start his own company, “to be outside,” he said. When the business outgrew his “home office,” he moved into an office building down the street, where he slowly added staff, an administrative assistant and an estimator.

 

In 1988, the warehouse caught fire after being struck by lightning, making it unusable. In 1989 the current office/warehouse was built. In 1993, Mark Anderson, the owner of a local competitor, came on board as vice president and part owner, and he has been with the company since. By 2014 the company had again outgrown its space. A 6,000-square-foot addition was completed that year. Keeping up with the consistently changing industry and company growth has kept Parker and his employees extremely busy over the last 40 years.

Longevity has also brought recognition to J&B; the company is the recipient of numerous honors. J&B has been named Firestone Master Contractor 25 times. “The award is only bestowed on the top 125 contractors in North America,” Parker said. “It’s based on the quality of installation and workmanship.”

J&B has also been a Sarnafil Partners Club member for more than two decades, receiving Sarnafil’s Elite Contractor Award for a number of years. In addition, J&B has earned Carlisle Syntec’s Excellence in Single Ply Award, which Parker said is only awarded for “perfect work.”

Parker said his employees undergo rigorous training, both to ensure they’re producing top quality work and to guarantee everyone’s safety.  “We are a safe company,” Parker said.  “We preach to them by saying, ‘we want you to come to work on time, rested ready to work, and we want you to go home to your family safe.’”

Community and family are important to J&B, which is why the company makes sure to give back on a regular basis. The firm has done pro bono work for a number of local charities, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Southern Cayuga Observatory, the Elbridge Fire Station, and the American Legion Post 317 in Skaneateles Falls. And their generosity doesn’t stop there.

“We like to give back to the community,” Parker said.  “We donate to a variety of causes.  Locally we’ve contributed to the Christmas Basket for the elderly and to the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District, which helps families in need of Christmas presents for kids.  We’ve donated to several cancer charities and have helped raise suicide awareness, both of which have personally affected our J&B family. We also try to take care of our employees if they need something, such as help with funeral expenses or food for a benefit. We try to give where we can.”

Parker said J&B has been fortunate during the pandemic to not have faced as many losses as other businesses. “We were considered essential,” he said. “We had a lot of work going on. As far as the pandemic went, yes, it affected us somewhat in sales and with labor. Navigating the legalities of the ever-changing landscape and day-to-day updates in the beginning took a lot of focus and our office team really came to the plate. We wanted to ensure that our staff was safe and compliant. We got hurt a little bit, but not as harshly as other companies. Your smaller businesses, they really took a hit.”

That’s not to say the business is without challenges. As the new administration takes over, Parker said there is some concern that the tax bill passed as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Acts may be repealed. The tax bill allows for 100 percent expensing of a new roof in the first year up to $1 million per property instead of the old 39-year depreciation schedule it replaced.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act also helps with the cost of bringing existing buildings up to the new energy code. The new building code requires R-30 minimum insulation on all new construction and re-roofs. Parker estimates that 90 percent of existing buildings presently do not meet the code.

Parker also states that “multiple metal buildings/roofs built in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s are leaking and are at the end of their life cycle.” These buildings are easily re-roofed using fill insulation between the flutes and adding additional insulation to bring the system up to the new energy code. The building owner then receives a 20- to 30-year leak-free warranty from the roof system manufacturer.

As for the future of the company, Parker says it looks pretty green. “People are getting more conscious about the environment, which they should,” he said. Parker is so invested in the green movement that he also owns a green roofing company. Chatfield Green Roofing supplies the northeast with Xeroflor mats grown at Chatfield Farms in Elbridge. These mats consist of sedum, which are flowering succulent plants meant to withstand the harsh weather conditions of the Northeast. The mats are non-biodegradable, lightweight, low maintenance, economical and can be removed 10, 15, or 20 years down the road to perform roof service/maintenance and then be reinstalled, making them a truly “sustainable” product. Chatfield and Xeroflor have supplied their products on a number of large-scale green roof projects throughout the East Coast, including the 294,000-square-foot Jacob Javits Convention Center roof in New York City. Other recognizable landmarks using these living mats are Binghamton City Hall, the Empire State Building and Duke University Medical Facility. Eventually, Parker said he plans to retire from J&B and devote himself full time to Chatfield Farms, but that’s still at least two to three years away. Right now, he’s fully invested in J&B.

“I’m really happy about our reputation as roofing contractors,” he said. “I’m proud of my team. They really work hard to get to a common goal and they do a very, very good job.” 

Parker marveled at how far the company has come since the day he sat down at his kitchen table to sketch out the plan for his company. 

“I cannot believe this is our company,” he said. “Our employees are here for a long, long time. We have people that have been here for over 30 years and we count multiple generations among our crews. Our CFO, Lynn Proulx, has been with me for 33 years. There are several other employees that can say the same. We have had very little turnover… I am proud of that fact and when I see my employees living in nice homes, supporting their families that now, in some instances include grandkids, I feel like we’ve all grown up together. We’ve helped support a lot of families, and it’s nice to see that.” 

The business is transforming to the younger generation. Chris Bacon, Parker’s nephew, will be taking over as majority owner in the near future with Brian Anderson, Anderson’s son, taking over his interest. This will happen over the next few years but both have been with the company for 20 and 15 years respectfully. “No one knows what the future holds, but one thing’s for sure—J&B will continue to provide the best quality and workmanship for years to come,” Parker says. “I have loved coming to work every day even after 40 years.”


 

Tim DeLany joins Five Star Equipment as its Used Equipment Manager

Camden Group Conquers the Difficult Projects

By: Tami Scott

As the sole shareholder of Camden Group, Ken Scherrieble’s company has earned itself a prestigious place in the world of environmental services and infrastructure restoration. Established in 2011, clients have come to know it as the solution to their most halting problems.      

Camden Group specializes in water and wastewater operations; grouting and waterproofing; and infrastructure restoration, including manhole rehabilitation and concrete rehabilitation and coatings. Its northeast and mid-Atlantic client base is comprised of municipalities, utility companies, and public sectors in the northeast and mid-Atlantic.

“Over the years we have become known as the firm you call when others have tried and failed,” Scherrieble said. “We have an exceptional corp of experienced craftsmen with well over 200 years of experience in water infiltration. We have been on many projects where the client or engineer has said there is no way we could do the job, only to hear them exclaim they would have never believed it if they did not see it with their own eyes.”

These jobs have included manhole restoration projects in the Metro NY/NJ area and in the suburbs of Philadelphia where water is pouring in and engineers are convinced nothing can be done to fix them. When Camden Group comes in, they turn it around and make it work. When the aquarium at the Dream Mall of America in East Rutherford, NJ was leaking and nobody could stop it, they called on Camden Group. The team got it to stop.

“Those are the fun things that we get into when other people just can’t solve the problem,” he said. “Pretty much anything that’s got to do with water moving, we can figure it out — [we can] stop it or move it in another direction.”

National recognition

Just last year, Camden Group earned national recognition for its role in a progressive pipeline project with the Public Service Electric & Gas Company (PSE&G) in the Metro NY/NJ area.

It involved establishing a cured-in-place lining (CIPL) of a 573 lf, 42-inch, high pressure cast-iron gas main leaking under the Garden State Parkway at Central Avenue Bridge in East Orange, New Jersey. Several challenging obstacles had to be overcome to complete the project, one of which was water infiltrating the deeply buried gas lines. Scherrieble said they had to find a way to stop the water before a liner could be put in place.

“We created a means by which to drill through and then grout the pipe so that the grout surrounded the pipe from the outside to stop the infiltration of water,” he said, and due to the complex pipe configuration, Scherrieble’s crew had to travel inside the pipe on a skateboard-type conveyance, on their backs, down 300 feet at a 45-degree angle, then straight, and then another 300 feet down, before they could begin their “patchwork.”  

According to project officials, CIPL was the only option, yet lining a very large 42-inch cast-iron pipe had never before been done.  Camden Group played a critical role in the project’s successful outcome.

This PSE&G project was named the 2020 Trenchless Technology Project of the Year runner up and was showcased at the National No Dig Show. It was also set to be highlighted in Denver but the pandemic pushed it to a virtual show like many others.

“We were proud to be a part of it,” Scherrieble said.

Holistic approach

Unique to other companies, Camden Group began as a water and wastewater operations firm and over the years was involved as a client for the infrastructure restoration services that it now provides.

“That experience allowed us to see the good and the bad and since our focus as operators is assuring clean water, we used that experience and determined that we could perform the services we were contracting better (in our mind),” Scherrieble said. “We take a more holistic approach to the contracting side since we were, and in many cases still are, the client of these construction services. This gives us a different perspective and allows us to work with clients showing them how to meet their I&I, water intrusion, coatings, or soil stabilization goals.”

Large company expertise, small company values

Camden Group is based in Camden, NY, which is part of Central New York in Oneida County. Here they have a 9,000 square foot warehouse for the infrastructure restoration division and a separate 2,000 square foot office which serves as the company headquarters. In 2019, the company opened a second location in Butler, New Jersey, located in the Metro NY/NJ area. That location specializes in chemical grouting, soil stabilization, waterproofing, and concrete repair. The addition welcomed a 26-year veteran to the waterproofing division, and grew the employee base from three to 13. Due to this new and enjoyed growth, Scherrieble is on the lookout for more space in the New Jersey area, specifically, about two thousand square feet for both an office for staff and a warehouse to accommodate vehicles and product they utilize.

A family-oriented company, Camden Group has 38 full-time employees. The number climbs to about 50 during the peak summer season. Scherrieble takes pride in providing large company expertise with small company values. Each year, employees and their spouses gather for a large holiday party (minus 2020) where Scherrieble gives everybody a chance to meet and get to know each other.

“The company is stretched over such a distance that sometimes people think they’re just a core group of four to six, they don’t realize that there are 38 people that are part of the organization,” he said, adding he was disappointed he couldn’t bring his team together as often as he had planned last year due to the new COVID-19 protocols. He looks forward to bringing the family back together again.

Company philosophy

The Camden Group company philosophy, which Scherrieble attributes to his German upbringing, stands out front and center in the work they do every day, no matter how big or small is the job.

“No. 1, if you’re not gonna do it right, don’t do it at all. No. 2, if you are going to do it, do it right and don’t do it a second time,” he said, noting his grandfather was first-generation German. “Sums it up. Our philosophy is very much that philosophy.”         

Scherrieble’s father, Otto, owned his own machining company for which Scherrieble did some work. In a humorous yet accurate account of his family’s work ethic, he told of an encounter he had with an inspector from the National Regulatory Commission (NRC) while touring his father’s facility. It takes place in the QA/QC room:

“[The inspector] says to me, ‘What’s your sample size for your QA/QC program?’ And I said, ‘100 percent.’ ‘I don’t think you understand me. Out of 100 pieces, how many pieces do you measure to make sure they meet the QA/QC?’ ‘One hundred percent!’ ‘Nooo, you don’t understand me. I don’t mean what measurements you take. I mean how many of the pieces do you take? So, if you made 100 pieces, how many of those pieces do you measure?’ And I said, ‘100 percent!’ And he looked at me, and my father was standing in the doorway, and my father says, ‘Did you see the name on the sign when you came in? OttoTech. My name is Otto. Every single piece that leaves this facility is measured.’ And the NRC inspector turns around and he says to me, ‘Okay, 100 percent!’”

   “That’s the way I was brought up,” Scherrieble said. “You do it right. You do it right the first time.”

Ken Scherrieble has been in the water and wastewater treatment and infrastructure business since 1991. He is a Certified 4A NYS wastewater treatment plant operator and a member of various organizations including NACE (now known as AMPP) WEF, NYWEA, NYSRWA and AWWA.

To learn more about Camden Group, visit https://camdengroupusa.com/.


 

Tim DeLany joins Five Star Equipment as its Used Equipment Manager

Advocating for the Construction Industry

Earl R. Hall, Executive Director

Earl Hall headshot

Return on investment (ROI).  How many times have you asked yourself what is the ROI on various items?  Kitchen renovation, professional Association membership, club membership, bathroom renovation, etc.  Many people want to know, which may not always be easy to quantify, but typically you can determine an estimated ROI.

Association Executives had better keep ROI at the top of their priority list when evaluating the goods and services delivered to a membership of individuals or employers.  While many of the services the Syracuse Builders Exchange (“SBE”) delivers to the construction industry, our member employers and their employees are well known, one not so well-known service is our advocacy efforts.  How does one quantify the value of “advocacy” into the ROI determination?  It is a good question which I will address.

Advocating on behalf of the construction industry and our member employers remains a vital service SBE provides.  Although SBE does not have a lobbyist, as Executive Director I do participate with my construction industry Association peers across New York in identifying items of importance to the industry throughout New York State.  The group consists of construction industry Association executives from western New York, Rochester, central/northern New York, the Mohawk Valley, Albany, Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.

Collaboration among a small group of Association Executives has proven beneficial as our strength in numbers approach has illustrated a unified message to elected officials and bureaucrats in Albany.  I would be remis to say as a group we have any political power to overcome opponents which generally donate thousands of dollars to the same elected officials; however, we do have the intellect to deliver a thoughtful message that is not only in the best interest of the construction industry, but in most cases, taxpayers.

Examples of successful advocacy efforts in 2020 include implementation of new Substantial Completion legislation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Substantial Completion is now defined by law and will prevent project owners from withholding retainage for extended periods of time after a project has been fully occupied or utilized for its intended purposes. 

SBE successfully advocated for changing onerous provisions in State University Construction Fund (SUCF) project specifications relating to COVID-19 contractor liability on job sites.  The language essentially stated contractors would be responsible for any Executive Orders or orders by public health officials which were not present at the time of bidding but may be imposed during the project.  Those unknown costs would be the burden of the contractor.  SBE opposed such language and I engaged in discussions with SUCF legal counsel.  As a result, SUCF amended the language to mitigate the contractor’s liability on all SUCF projects, including the SUNY Oswego project in question.

Not all advocacy efforts result in favorable outcomes.   I remain frustrated that those of us advocating for Labor Law 240 reform (Scaffold Law) have failed.  The trial lawyers lobby and the lobbying efforts of organized labor continue to be too powerful to overcome.  In addition, some legislators in Albany are also attorneys who remain very reluctant to remove this absolute liability statute.  New York remains the only state that maintains an absolute liability statute.  Reform advocates simply request New York remove the absolute liability standard and replace such with a “comparative negligence standard”.  As long as our elected officials who continue to maintain control in the New York State Assembly and Senate, Labor Law reform is highly unlikely. 

Although New York State Labor Law reform is highly unlikely, I am working with Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) in supporting his effort to remove the absolute liability standard on all federally funded projects in New York and replace such with the comparative negligence standard.  As you can imagine, unfortunately, he is not getting the support from his colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

Quantifying the ROI of advocacy efforts is difficult, especially in instances as illustrated above.  I suspect the ROI is valued differently and varies from member to member; however, it remains important the construction industry and our member employers understand that such efforts will continue as representing the best interest of contractors and the industry is outlined in the SBE By-Laws.

Advocacy efforts will remain one of the top priorities at SBE.  Dues dollars are not taken for granted but are appreciated especially during the tail-end of a pandemic, and challenging economic times.  While the pandemic may be retreating and our return to “normal” just around the corner, the economic damage done by the pandemic and our elected officials in Albany will be felt for quite some time. 

I welcome and encourage contractors, engineers, architects, and project owners to contact me with items of importance.  All items will be reviewed and discussed to determine if such impacts the industry throughout New York, or just at the local level. 

 

Tim DeLany joins Five Star Equipment as its Used Equipment Manager

Three Pillars of a Good Cybersecurity Plan; The best way to prepare for a cyber-attack is to know exactly what you would do if one occurred.

By Dennis Ast, CPUC, CCIC, OneGroup

Cyber-attacks and their corresponding insurance claims are on the rise. We all spent more time in the virtual space last year than we ever had before, making it imperative that we really think about the increased risk that virtual work, school and living presents.

As our lives rapidly shifted into the digital space last March, hackers got to work. Cloud breaches, “Zoom bombing” and misleading links promising coronavirus cures and statistics costs companies billions in claims and ransom payments. Virtual schooling and telecommuting forced cybersecurity professionals to work in high gear.

You should be thinking about your cybersecurity plan more than ever, and if you are, make sure you are including cybersecurity measures, contingency planning, and risk transfer with a solid cyber insurance policy.  The worst time to try and establish a cybersecurity plan, or to put an insurance policy in place is after the breach has occurred.

Cybersecurity measures

Make sure you have done all you can to prevent cyber incidents. 

 

Keep your software up to date, use and be familiar with multi-factor authentication and strong password protocols, and train your team regularly on how to spot phishing or malware attacks. Install reputable NextGen anti-virus software and establish protocols for remote employees. Keep your data backed up and test these backups often.

Be sure to consider all possible goals of a cyber attacker, too. Some want money, others want trade secrets or patents, and still others could want something entirely different. Be sure your risk management plan addresses any possible motive.

Contingency planning

If 2020 taught us anything, it is that we need strong contingency plans for every circumstance. Talk with your team about what you would do if you could no longer access your network or files. Know how you would reach your team, your clients and how you would access your backed up data if necessary.

Risk transfer with a solid cyber insurance policy

Cyber-attacks can be incredibly costly. After you are through paying for legal services, tech services, fines & penalties, ransom, etc., you could be looking at a bill in the millions. Cyber insurance can cover your business’ cyber liability, the costs of restoring or repairing your systems or data and more. Insurance carriers often impose certain exclusions and sublimits, though, so be sure to work with a trustworthy broker who can explain your policies to you in a complete and understandable way.

In the end, the most important phase of your cyber response plan is knowing what you will do immediately after you discover it. Know who you will call first and know what you will need to ask them. You do not have to face these incidents alone, and in fact, you should not face these incidents alone. Have the phone numbers of people like the police, your lawyer, your insurance broker and policy number and cyber claim reporting handy. Make sure you have got a team that will have your back if the worst were to happen to you.

For more information on Cybersecurity you may reach out to Dennis Ast, Senior Account Executive Cyber Risk Specialist at OneGroup.  He can be reached at DAst@onegroup.com or 716-572-2410.

 

 

Tim DeLany joins Five Star Equipment as its Used Equipment Manager

Mattessich Ironworks; Service-disabled, veteran-owned business, and proud member of the last great industrial trade

By: Martha Conway

Mattessich Iron, LLC, a New York state-certified service-disabled, veteran-owned business (SDVOB), was founded in 2008 by now 39-year-old Michael Mattessich.

Mattessich said his love of metal work developed from 

working on old muscle cars and motorcycles with his father. In 2018, Mattessich Iron was named Central New York’s third-largest service-disabled veteran-owned business by the CNY Business Journal.

Born and raised in Baldwinsville, Mattessich graduated Baker High School and enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point. After graduation, his military assignments took him to Missouri and Georgia.

He spent downtime sharpening the skills he learned while working with dad. He started with Harley Davidson frames and components and moved to welding and machining for local motorcycle dealers, restaurant kitchen maintenance, construction equipment repairs and service calls to Fort Benning when contractors needed steel.

After serving two tours of duty in Iraq, leaving his military service with the rank of captain and an injured hip, Mattessich took his combined education, construction experience and love of metal-working back to 

Baldwinsville 

in April 2008. He founded Mattessich Iron, LLC, now located at 1484 Route 31, Memphis.

Mattessich started out with a 4,000-square-foot fabrication shop. He upgraded equipment 

and vehicles and started hiring well-versed welder/fabricators. The first projects were ornamental repairs, some mechanical repairs and equipment repairs.

“A lot of repair work and some construction,” Mattessich said. “It was daunting but also exciting and refreshing after leaving the military.”

He started out on his own.

“I added two people the first year, and two more after two years,” Mattessich said. “Once I gained a few employees, I used the Syracuse Builders Exchange to find public bid opportunities. I phased out repair work and equipment modification, leading me to the commercial and industrial fields where I wanted to be.”

Mattessich employs a full-time mechanic, multiple field crews and runs a night shift during the busiest times. Critical to the smooth operation of the business and project rollout is his management team including himself, wife and vice president Danielle Mattessich and Operations Manager Kelly Ormsby, an Army veteran.

“He’s a 40-year steel man, and I had an inclination he could fill our newly created operations manager role,” he said.

Danielle graduated from State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry with a Bachelor of Science degree in 2011.

“After graduation, I was hired by a local company as a project manager/environmental scientist, where I specialized in groundwater remediation clean-ups,” Danielle said. “While at the environmental company, I also worked on meth lab clean-ups for the NSYDEC and train derailments for CSX. As much as I enjoyed the field, I decided to make the move to Mattessich Iron in 2013.”

She said the creation and follow-through of company systems and policies are major focus areas for her.

“These have ranged from human resource policies and contract administration to operational policies such as inventory tracking and product shipment,” she said, adding that when she joined Mattessich Iron, Mike was finding the work, estimating, managing each project and recruiting the talent. “At first, our priority was to use my accounting and project management background to set up systems and start developing answers to the ‘how-to’ questions to streamline processes.

“Today, I play defense in operations by maintaining efficiency and tracking costs. I also create the company’s annual budgets and manage monthly finances.”

“Danielle brought a heightened level of planning and organization to the business,” Mattessich said. “Her professional background in environmental contracting has improved the company’s efficiency in legal considerations, human and business resources, manpower and financial matters.”

Ormsby said he started his career at Solvay Iron.

“I started as a second-shift foreman in the fabrication shop and worked my way up to president of the company,” Ormsby said.” I have done it all – from sweeping the floors to signing the checks – and I believe that no job is more important than the other: They all must work in harmony.

“I was a shop supervisor, field supervisor, director of operations, vice president and president. In 2004, I started Ormsby Iron Works, Inc., and ran my company until the economy fell in 2009. I closed the company in 2010, went back to Solvay Iron until it closed in 2013, then started Ormsby Iron, LLC, and ran that until I had a stroke in 2016. After recovering, I came to Mattessich in March 2019.

“I have multiple welding certifications, I have a CDL tractor-trailer and crane operator license.”

Ormsby is the operations manager and chief estimator.

“I put together 90 percent of all projects we quote,” he said. “I also hire out-source detailers, process shop and field drawings and schedule shop production. I perform project management until the job hits the field. Mike Mattessich takes it from there. He takes care of all field meetings, field measuring and field troubleshooting.

“Mike and Danielle Mattessich are the most honest and willing people I’ve ever worked with,” Ormsby said. “They are the first to accept fault and reason for every issue the company faces and work through the problem with the source. Their willingness to listen to their employees, take all the information and make the best decision for the company tells me Mattessich Iron will be around for years to come.

“With the path Mattessich Iron is on, I see the company being the go-to fabricator-erector in Central New York, taking the lion’s share of the market for this area for structural and miscellaneous steel.”

Mattessich said Ken Millward, maintenance mechanic, keeps the vehicles, trucks, lift assets and machinery in good working order, and performs periodic maintenance on shop machinery.

“He also makes site visits to fix equipment in the field,” Mattessich said.

Mattessich said things may be humming now, but in the beginning, it took many bids to start landing jobs and building relationships with general contractors.

“In 2017, we moved to our new facility, complete with two floors of newly built offices, inventory and break room space,” Mattessich said. “The original offices and plant floor were too crowded, and the existing property didn’t allow for expansion.”

He said the new shop floor expanded from 4,000 square feet to 14,000 square feet, providing more workspace and room for machinery to help keep up with the growing number of projects.

“We added a maintenance department, in-house estimator, in-house drafters with 3D capability and increased our project manager positions to offer greater efficiency, capability and quality for our customers,” he said.

He credits his top-notch staff; how does he find them?

“Generally, I interview everyone,” Mattessich said. “Our employees are the most important facet of the business. Talent is good, but I think attitude is more important than talent. You can train anyone to bolt, weld or run a forklift, but you can’t train attitude. I look for positive, team-oriented people who have a good work ethic.

“I’m also proud to employ a number of veterans,” Mattessich said. “Our employees are the backbone of the business.”

Mattessich said the military taught him not to ask subordinates to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.

“I work hard to make sure employees don’t feel out of place with something we ask of them,” he said. “Our people are our most important resource. We can rent or buy anything we need, but not our staff. They are running the machines and equipment. They are making the business a success.”

Mattessich said he tries to talk to every employee at least once every week in the field, shop, and office.

“It’s really important to me that our team members get the attention they deserve and our appreciation for what they are doing for our group,” he said. “I ask them in the field and in the plant if there is anything, any equipment, that will help them do a better job. Do they need anything more to work better in the field, fabricate better, improve quality control?

“I talk with our mechanic to find out what’s giving him problems and get those things replaced. I try to get out and help with installs during our busiest months. It helps maintain team cohesiveness.”

Mattessich said shop fabricators receive the steel from the mill and cut, drill, bend, weld, polish or paint the material following shop drawings and construction prints.

Mattessich Iron provides complete design and fabrication of all ferrous and non-ferrous metals, offering in-house design, fabrication, finishing, delivery, and installation of all work, performing private and public work in all but the most remote corners of New York state.

Mattessich is well-versed in structural steel and miscellaneous metals fabrication, including – but not limited to – beams, columns, decking, ladders, stairs, handrails, bollards, mezzanines, catwalks, and general weld repairs, more specifically:

  • Designing: AutoCAD 2-dimension, Advanced Revit 3-dimension, delegated design review, stamped engineer review and AISC standard connections and calculations
  • Metal Joining: GMAW (MIG), GTAW (TIG), SMAW (ARC), brazing and soldering
  • Reducing: Plasma cutting and oxy-fuel cutting up to 1-1/4” thick, bandsaw cutting up to 18” x 22”, shearing up to 3/8” thick by 12 feet long, 110-ton hole punching up to 1-1/4” thick
  • Shaping: Metal turning, 300-ton press brake forming up to ¾” thick on a 12-foot bed, threading, tube and pipe bending and notching
  • Finishing: Timesaver drum polishing up to 36” wide; painting, powder coating; galvanizing and anodizing

“Field crews receive the end product and maneuver it to the work area and use forklifts, cranes, material lifts, chainfalls, winches and other rigging devices to erect each item,” he said. “They assemble pieces according to erection drawings and contract plans.”

He said a typical job runs from $2,000 to $2 million.

Looking forward, Mattessich is considering automating beam and column work by adding CNC machines and possibly having to expand the plant and office space and increase field crew members.

“I think operations could still use improvement,” Mattessich said. “Now that we have quality heightened and procedures established, we have the luxury of focusing on streamlining and automating.”

Mattessich said the project of which he is proudest is Batavia Downs Casino.

“We did a spiral staircase with a structural circular cutout and-two-sided picket rails around the opening” he said. “It was a product of my own design, detailing, layout and eventually installation, and the result was that it all went together almost perfectly.”

He also is proud to be part of bringing to life a national-level facility: National Veterans Resource Center in Syracuse.

“It makes me proud as a veteran to have bid and executed a project that is for veterans, military personnel and those training to join the military,” Mattessich said.

He said another proud moment was completion of Mattessich’s part of the work in building LeMoyne College’s stadium.

“We did that during one of the first years in business,” he said. “I felt like I was in over my head, but I was working with a general contractor I was comfortable enough with to join the project. We worked great together.”

Mattessich said he has been lucky; the pandemic has not affected his company’s supply or workload.

“We chose to shut down operations for several weeks until the state could provide us with guidance,” he said. “I wanted to keep our employees safe. I am skeptical about budget impacts on projects a year or two out; schools, prisons, government buildings, colleges, apartment complexes and most other commercial and industrial entities will likely maintain reduced mid-term budgets.”

Mattessich said though he is a hands-on supervisor, his responsibilities have shifted greatly since his boots hit the ground 12 years ago.

“We started with keeping our heads above water and then moved toward more long-term planning,” he said, adding that he’d like to expand Mattessich’s presence in the North Country and Southern Tier regions, paying close attention to bid invitations from qualified general contractors there and developing competitive quotes.

“I want to exit my career having built a national-level fabricating business,” Mattessich said when asked about what legacy he wants to leave. “I want to have a positive impact on the central New York community. I thought success would mean after 10 years or so, I would have five employees and be fortunate enough to be able to pay the bills.”

Twelve years out, Mattessich Iron employs 30 to 40 people throughout the year and is on track to do $7 million in sales this year.

“We are a service-disabled, veteran-owned business seeking invitations to bid from qualified general contractors, designers and owners in order to establish a successful working relationship with superior service,” he said, adding that in 10 years, he would like to capture 20 percent market share for steel fabrication in central New York and the surrounding regions.

For more information, contact Mattessich Iron at 315.638.1419 or visit mattessichiron.com.

Like Father, Like Daughter; Steel Sales, Inc., a Second-Generation Company, Builds on Customer Trust

By: Tami Scott

When Brenda Westcott was a young girl, she was engaged in her father’s business — but only after hours. And only for recreational purposes. Once the doors were closed for the day, she’d enjoy the space as her very own indoor skate park. Aside from her time zipping around the facility on four wheels, her interest was nil. Little did she know that as an adult, her father’s business would become her passion, her purpose, and eventually her own — just as it was her dad’s during his prime.

Entrepreneur Donald Westcott founded Westcott Steel Co., now a second-generation steel fabrication company, almost 50 years ago in Sherburne, NY, where it still produces today. His daughter joined him in 1988.

“After I graduated high school and I was not ready to go to college, my father insisted I come work with him,” she said. “This was the best decision I have ever made.”

Just nine people (including Westcott) comprised the business then; she was charged with accounting. 

Steel Sales

“The first task I tackled was to computerize all bookkeeping, sales, and inventory processes in the business,” she said.

From there, Westcott focused on expanding her knowledge and hands-on experience about steel products, welding procedures, and job estimation within the company.

“It was challenging being a woman in a man’s world at the time, but as I continued to learn, our customers came to respect my knowledge regardless of my gender.”

Over the years, the Westcott family business evolved from being a manufacturer of metal products such as wood stoves and garbage dumpsters to the fabrication and erection of grandstand/bleachers and metal buildings throughout New York, Pennsylvania, and other northeastern states.

In 1991, the company began stocking steel, stainless, and aluminum products to distribute to its wide and varied customer base of contractors, agri-businesses, maintenance departments, municipalities, aggregate industries, other welder/fabricators, and the general public.

Two years later, the father/daughter duo developed a succession plan for Donald’s retirement and for Brenda’s desire to continue the family tradition of working with steel but not managing field erection crews. Hence, the creation of Steel Sales, Inc., designed to focus strictly on distribution and custom fabrication of metal in-house only.

“From the inception of Steel Sales, Inc., it was known between my father and me [that] the business would become fully owned and operated by me within 10 years,” Westcott said. “By January 2001, my father had stopped all daily involvement in Steel Sales; his focus and desire were solely on his lease/build company.”

Operating as a WBE/DBE Company

A year after acquiring Steel Sales, Inc., in 2002, the New York State Department of Economic Development granted Steel Sales, Inc. certification as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE). In 2015, the New York State Department of Transportation certified the business as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE).

Before, during, and since these designations, Westcott has grown the business and made significant changes. She has expanded the product line to include more than two million pounds of steel, stainless, and aluminum in a variety of structural shapes, pipe/tube, sheets, and plates in stock.

Its fleet of trucks and outside sales team serves 18 surrounding counties. Its estimating team, in addition to its inside sales team, provides takeoff services for larger jobs and in-house AutoCAD and SolidWorks shop approval drawings.

The company has a little more than doubled in size, from employing just 14 people in 2001 to a current number of 30. Its gross sales have quadrupled in the last 10 years.

Though Donald has long since retired, his daughter, mindful of the insight he gained and shared, implemented his savvy business spirit.

“My father taught me to work hard, always keep a “never give up” attitude, and be willing to change based on the needs of the customers you serve,” Westcott said. “I believe our reason for success and what sets us apart from our competition is staying focused on customer service. Our experienced, hardworking team makes this their No. 1 priority every day regardless of the size of the customer.”

Services Abound

Due to the company’s diversified customer base, it offers a unique combination of fabrication abilities and quality products. Specifically, it’s equipped to shear ½” x 12’ mild steel, saw up to 18” x 20”, roll ½” x 8’ mild steel, and bend ½” x 12’ mild steel. It also offers a variety of punching, drilling, milling, and welding services — by certified welders — of all metals, along with pipe threading for ½” to 4” pipe and rebar bending from ⅜” up to 1 ½” diameter. The company also has a High Definition CNC plasma table 8’ x 24’ with the latest True Hole technology.

Customers can also count on Steel Sales, Inc as an authorized Wearparts center for Hardox, a premium wear plate; a distributor of ADS/Hancor™ plastic culvert pipe, drainage pipe, sewer pipe, stabilization fabric, and septic changers; CONTECH™ metal culvert pipe, multi-plate pipe arches, and aluminum box culvert; and TENCO™ plow parts. It also offers metal roofing/siding from ABC™ with a large choice of colors and grades, cut to an exact, customized length.

In 2010, it introduced a product line including sander chains, tire chains, snowplow blades, snow plow wear parts, and construction edges. The sander chains are fabricated at the Sherburne facility with one-week maximum lead times.

Its Mission is Simple

Westcott describes the Steel Sales, Inc. mission as simple: “Build and Maintain Long-Term Relationships with Our Customers.” This is achieved through trained, motivated, and friendly staff members who are dedicated to serving the company’s entire customer base.

“Every day is a challenge and no two days are the same, which is what I enjoy,” she said. “I intend to continue our constant improvements and continue to answer our customers’ needs with my outstanding team, which is my family, not just employees, for many years to come. We are all passionate about serving those who keep us going.”