Albanelli has also found its prior experience in decorative concrete - something its crews were doing more regularly 10 years ago - has helped the company land a number of jobs in recent months. "Decorative concrete was typically 5 percent of our sales, even less of a percentage of our profits and about 90 percent of our headaches, specifically in the residential realm, so we sort of dropped out of that market for a while," Paul explains. "But now we're back, doing projects we wouldn't normally do."
A good example of a non-typical job Albanelli has taken on is a 1 mile extension of the M-5 highway in northern Detroit. Albanelli is on the job as a third-tier subcontractor, installing sidewalks, handicap ramps, truck aprons on roundabouts and stamped concrete. The project will keep an Albanelli crew busy for about two months.
Another project the company is working on is a cruise ship dock for the Detroit River Port Authority. Along the Detroit River in downtown Detroit, in the shadows of GM headquarters and across the river from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Albanelli's crews are installing the site concrete, slabs on grade, second-story slab on deck and colored concrete paving on the riverwalk. The city is working to beautify many areas of the riverwalk. Albanelli was involved with several beautification projects in the area and has secured the contract for the first section of the Dequindre Trail which will connect the city's neighborhoods with the riverwalk.
An upcoming job the company is excited about is its first project funded by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Albanelli will be working as a subcontractor installing stamped concrete work on 38,600 square feet of median along the 1.4 mile project.
Another step the company is taking that it never imagined it would two years ago is it's looking beyond state borders. "When the market was good we were a little spoiled and didn't need to travel," Wayne says. "Now we keep looking for out-of-state opportunities; we're being forced to travel. But we're a proactive company, and we're going to travel before we sit here and wait for the phone to ring."
For Albanelli Cement Contractors, concrete work is concrete work. The company has talented crews to handle any concrete project thrown their way. But Wayne says when it comes to landing a job and following through with it, municipal projects can be far more challenging on the paperwork side. "There is a lot more paperwork for government projects," he says. "You'll hear people talk about the 'transparency' of the work - the certified payrolls, labor rates and the fact that they tell you what percentage you can make on a project." And the additional managerial demands don't equate to higher profits.
For all projects the company is currently going after, Paul and Wayne say they see competitive bidding with very little room for negotiating. And owner expectation has been increasing over the years. "The pressure on owner's reps is intense," Paul says. "They're constantly raising the bar to get projects cheaper, faster and better. And you have to try to keep up, or you won't be around anymore."
Gearing up for the future
The Albanellis know this market will turn around, and they strive to remain ready for that shift when it happens. Paul predicts the next building boom will drive a wave of technology throughout the construction industry. Growth will create a need for new efficiencies such as an increase in GPS paving and grading and more work with laser screeds.
"This isn't the shovel and rake industry it was when our fathers were around," he says. "The technology is there and the youth coming into the industry are drawn to that. I have a feeling the 2D blueprints that I grew up with will become obsolete in the next building boom. We'll still have shovels and rakes, but BIM (Building Information Modeling) is coming. I know we will have to embrace it for us to compete in the future."
Albanelli has already brought some of these technologies into the company, especially in regards to the work that is done before construction starts. The company's estimating department uses digitizers and BidScreen on-screen take off system for electronic take-off, and the entire bidding process is going paperless.
"Everything is going online," says Nick Silveri, estimator for Albanelli Cement Contractors. "We don't see blueprints anymore, nor do we see a lot of full-sized drawings. All our general contractors and construction managers have Web sites we pull drawings from. That keeps me in the office more, and allows us to bid more projects than we used to."