In 2005, Zeke Zinchiak, owner of Z Con, Inc., Woodbine, Md., witnessed a pervious concrete demonstration at an American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) event in Denver, Colo. Zinchiak was drawn to the technology, which allows rainwater and snowmelt to filter through a concrete surface rather than run off into waterways or other pervious surfaces.
He brought an enthusiasm for pervious concrete and his vision for its possibilities back to Maryland and quickly took a lead in researching and promoting the pervious concrete industry. Zinchiak was Maryland’s first National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA)-certified Pervious Concrete Craftsman — one of only about 30 in the United States. Over the last several years, he tested pervious concrete mixes and placement techniques with several ready mix suppliers in Maryland, presented educational talks for engineers looking to specify the system, and promoted pervious concrete’s benefits to owners and developers.
After years of contributing time and energy to the industry, that investment is starting to pay off in the form of pervious concrete placement jobs. Zeke says while five years ago he would see a pervious project up for bid every six months, today he’s seeing about one a week. His knowledge and background in the industry has helped Z Con win a good number of these jobs, resulting in the company garnering 40 percent of its 2011 sales from pervious projects.
Building a business
Zinchiak started Z Con in 1992, after the commercial concrete company he worked at for 20 years went out of business. He started with four employees in the residential and light commercial market.
Over the years, Z Con evolved into a full-service commercial concrete company, performing demolition, excavation, site prep and nearly all types of concrete construction. Zinchiak’s medium-sized firm performs work mostly for repeat customers and has a reputation for high quality and problem solving. Z Con’s niche in the Washington D.C. and Baltimore markets is a willingness to take on the jobs other companies don’t want.
“We do things no one else wants to do, and we make money on those jobs,” Zinchiak explains.
A basement lowering project two blocks from the White House is a good example of one Z Con’s niche projects. Z Con was tasked with lowering a 5,000 square foot basement by 2 feet. The team took a compact tool carrier equipped with a breaker attachment down a flight of stairs and used it to break up and tear out the existing concrete floor. They sent the rubble up a conveyor through a 2-foot by 2-foot window and proceeded to excavate in order to lower the basement floor. With concrete coming into the basement through the same window the rubble went out of, the crew used a power buggy to pour footings along existing piers and placed a new floor with a concrete pump.
“A bigger company won’t take on a small job like this, while a smaller company doesn’t have the skills and experience to perform the work,” Zinchiak explains.
Learn by association
Zinchiak’s move from running a field crew for his former employer to owning his own contracting business wasn’t always easy. “The biggest learning curve I had to deal with after moving from a superintendent position to owning my own company was learning the business side of things,” he says. But Zinchiak didn’t have to do it on his own, and credits much of his company’s success to his involvement in associations.
Z Con joined ASCC in 1999. “The networking and exchange of ideas with contractors across the county really helped me out,” Zinchiak says. “The ASCC gave us the confidence and support we needed to take on bigger projects.”
Connections at the ASCC also opened doors for joint ventures with other members of the association. When a major rehab project came up for bid at one of the Washington, D.C.-area post offices affected by the anthrax mailings in the early 2000s, Z Con teamed up with another ASCC member company to complete the work — a project too big for either company to have done on its own but a job they could take on together.