G.M. Crisalli & Associates, Inc.: Celebrating 35 Years of Excellence in Construction Contracting

By Elizabeth Landry

When Gary Crisalli first began his own general contracting business in Syracuse in 1989, he was working out of a two-bedroom apartment in Solvay. After the first year and for the next seven years, he and his team operated the business out of a residential home they had renovated to meet their business needs before finally settling into their long-term and current location on Hiawatha Boulevard West. From humble beginnings, Crisalli took on projects in almost every industry, growing the business’s portfolio and demonstrating its commitment to excellence while meeting the needs of a diverse array of clients.

Today, G.M. Crisalli & Associates, Inc. (GMCA) is one of the top general contractors in Central NY, having completed approximately 1,700 projects over the course of the business. With a team of about forty people, the organization works on projects across the entire Northeastern United States, from Wisconsin to Maine to Maryland.

As the company celebrates its 35-year anniversary this year, this important milestone serves as a time to reflect on the growth and accomplishments over the years and to look ahead to the many projects still to come. Between Crisalli, President and Owner, and Rocco Paone, Associate, who joined the company in 1991, the team at GMCA has over one hundred combined years of experience in construction contracting and has achieved much success by focusing on meeting the needs of clients for every project, every time.

Diverse Clients and Industries

Working as a mason when he was just sixteen, and through his college years, Crisalli worked with a large engineering firm, an architectural firm and a construction contracting company before venturing out on his own. Obtaining such valuable field and office experience in his teens and early twenties allowed GMCA to take on any job in many different industries from the first day of business.

“I’ve been telling people since the day we went into business that we build everything except roads and bridges,” said Crisalli. “Due to a past client that Rocco had worked with, GMCA obtained a contract on a very large construction site in our first year. The Solvay cogeneration power plant in Solvay. We were contracted to do a small job at first. The contract exponentially grew as we performed our base contract.  We were asked to work in many areas of the plant. We ended up being there for three years doing anything they wanted us to do, from asbestos abatement to assisting with the walk-down and commissioning of the boilers. That project was a blessing to our company, but it was also a project we knew we could perform well. From day one we did anything that was requested of our company by our client.  The company philosophy is to acquire the knowledge, expertise, and experience to meet any of our client’s construction needs. That philosophy got us in the door and has retained our relationships in many different industries.”

The team at GMCA has completed projects for clients in both the public and private sectors, in industries including education, military, commercial, industrial, medical, retail and grocery, as well as building restaurants and places of worship. Having completed numerous original-build and renovation projects for such a diverse range of clients, Crisalli has a long list of favorite jobs the team has worked on over the years, starting with brick removal and replacement for Onondaga County at the Civic Center in 1991. That same year, the team built the first neuro angiogram room at Upstate Medical Center, which led to numerous build and renovation projects for the health center in the following decades. In 1996, GMCA built the flagship Franklin Covey store in New York City across from the Rockefeller Center. In the early-to-mid 2000s, the company assisted with the building and construction management of the Clarence Jordan Vision Center for Mercy Works in Syracuse, the Island Health & Fitness Center in Ithaca, the Abundant Life Discipleship Training Center and the FedEx distribution center, both in East Syracuse, various five-story college housing projects, and Athletic clubs.  One of the most unique projects GMCA has completed is building the penguin exhibit at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.

Perhaps the most stand-out project in Crisalli’s list of favorites is the Blodgett Dream Center, a sprawling, one-of-a-kind library located within one of the most impoverished schools in the Syracuse City School District. “Many different artisans worked on this project,” Crisalli explained. “It has a spaceship with twenty-nine computers, a Renaissance-themed area with beautiful arches, a prehistoric-themed space with dinosaurs, a Roman Amphitheater where James Earl Jones read to the Blodgett children on the opening day of the library, and a beautiful Egyptian-themed tiled wall entrance and greeting area. 

Adapting to Change

To continue meeting the diverse range of client needs over the years, the GMCA team has been able to adapt to many different settings and requirements. For Paone, working with such a wide range of clients has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the business.

“Probably what’s been most exciting for me is meeting so many good customers and diverse clients over the years,” said Paone. “We’ve worked with so many different types of clients and we always strive to adapt to their individual wants and needs. We’ve done a tremendous amount of work in medical institutions and hospitals, which have many layers of requirements, as compared to a client who’s planning a building that’s coming out of the ground. Having the ability to adapt to our clients’ needs and re-educating ourselves for every different project has been so important.”

Alongside diverse client needs, GMCA has been successful in adapting to changes within the industries themselves, related to software, technology, communications and more. Crisalli explained how general societal changes have a large impact on contracting, procurement, and managing projects across industries.

“The construction industry has changed a lot over the years,” Crisalli explained. “Everything moves faster now because of the advancements in communications. Society has changed overall as far as how we communicate with each other from purchasing, procurement of subcontractors, materials, regulations, building systems, construction equipment and processes, just about every aspect of building for our clients.   It has been interesting keeping up with all the changes. The different changes over the years have, in turn, altered the way we approach building in many different ways and areas of the industry.  It’s all a little different than when we started out.  The building process must adapt to our client’s needs. It’s more important to plan and schedule all these items immediately following contract procurement.  Our team obtains all the knowledge necessary to plan out the entire building: pre-construction, construction, and turnover phases in the preconstruction phase of the project, prior to putting a shovel in the ground. This practice has led us in making the construction process efficient and successful.”

“The company’s greatest single asset are the people who meet, adapt, and succeed in navigating the changes to our industry. We are very successful because of our staff of smart, knowledgeable, service-oriented people.” Crisalli continued.

Of course, to keep up with all the moving parts within the contracting space as well as the diverse needs of clients, GMCA’s team needs to remain highly knowledgeable and adaptable.  This makes all the difference with clients and ongoing success. Due to a general shortage of skilled trades, this need can sometimes be challenging, but according to Crisalli, GMCA has been successful in this area because of its focus on ongoing training and education, as well as a unique company culture that combats the stress that often comes along with working in construction.

“Over the years, the training processes that we use have changed completely. Now, we train our team on software as well as procedure, making sure everyone has the skills they need to successfully execute jobs. Not only do we train our employees on our own software programs, but we also train them on our clients’ various software programs to help us assimilate into different markets. Although we make sure the team has the knowledge and training to succeed on every site, the construction industry culture can sometimes be stressful. Many of our employees have been with us for over 10 years, and they appreciate that we try to alleviate stress through working as a team and humor. We have a small company atmosphere that works. Someone is always willing to help when another person’s workload suddenly increases.   I really think that helps,” said Crisalli.

Charitable Giving in the Community

Another important aspect of the company culture at GMCA is a great sense of pride in supporting the causes of several organizations and charities throughout many communities. The company facilitated a golf tournament to support Mercy Works’ at The Clarence Jordan Vision Center last year, raising approximately $50,000. Crisalli is a past president of the Baldwin Fund, and GMCA continues to support this charity.  The company has also supported the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) every year, as well as local organizations such as In My Father’s Kitchen and Francis House.

One charitable organization that’s especially meaningful to Crisalli is Marvelous Ways International in Lakeland, Florida. GMCA supports a golf tournament for this organization each year, which was founded by a couple from Central New York, Mark and Christin Haywood. Marvelous Ways International uses different developmental programs, teams of trained individuals and innovative technology to help monitor and improve outcomes for impoverished youth in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras. “This organization helps kids who don’t have many great options in life to succeed. They give these children and teens a hope for the future by monitoring and guiding them through these youthful years and assisting each individual allowing them to choose a path for a successful life. It’s working out well and really making a difference in the life story of many who had few options for success. I am proud we can volunteer our time and resources to help make a positive difference in the lives of others,” said Crisalli.

Looking to the Future

Having worked with an impressive list of diverse clients for 35 years and always leaning into re-evaluation of the business, learning and constructive change along the way, GMCA is moving into the future with a goal of continued progress, growth, and adaptability.

“We always try to take a snapshot of what our economy is doing – what’s hot and what’s not,” said Paone. “We’ll continue to adapt our business corresponding with changes in the economy. Everyone knows the buzzword in Syracuse – Micron – and we’re certainly keeping our eye on that industry so we can adapt our business to service that industry successfully.”

Although change is always certain, especially in the construction contracting marketplace, one thing that will continue to remain constant for GMCA is its centralized mission of focusing on client needs above all else.

“Having been in business for 35 years is a real blessing. During that time, we’ve instilled in our team a sense of slow but steady growth, and conveyed the importance of covering our bases so we can ensure the best possible outcomes for our clients,” said Crisalli. “In our industry, it really comes down to this: if you please your clients, you’ll always succeed.”