UTICA — After a mild winter that enabled the company to keep a number of projects on schedule, Charles A. Gaetano Construction Corp. is gearing up for a busy building season in 2012.
Among the projects are an expansion of the American Alloy Steel plant in Rome, an addition at the TRI-Valley Beverage, Inc. facility in Westmoreland, the renovation and expansion of the Liberty Gardens housing project in Rome, and a project at Matt Brewing Co.
“We’ve got a really nice project going on at the brewery,” David Kleps, vice president of Gaetano’s design-build / Butler Building division, says. Gaetano is building an anaerobic digester at Matt Brewing in Utica that will convert waste product into methane that will, in turn, provide energy to the brewery.
The projects aren’t the large building initiatives the company saw in the 1990s, Kleps says, but even these smaller projects are welcome after several lean years during the recession.
“The private sector, I think, has been sitting tight for the past few years,” says William Gaetano, executive vice president. Now, he notes, those businesses are starting to loosen their purse strings and invest some cash in their facilities.
The result for Gaetano Construction is that it has been able to land new projects as soon as it completes others. The company recently built a primary-care facility in Little Falls for Bassett Healthcare and will wrap up a 40,000-square-foot building addition at St. Luke’s Home in New Hartford by September. While those health-care projects conclude, work will ramp up on other projects, Gaetano says, such as the construction of a new 80,000-square-foot theater and studio arts building at Hamilton College that will break ground this month.
The company has also landed a number of jobs renovating buildings it constructed years ago that now have new owners, Kleps says
Gaetano Construction has been a franchised builder of Butler Manufacturing Co.’s pre-engineered buildings for 30 years. As of this spring, Gaetano has constructed 2.5 million square feet of Butler projects across Central and Northern New York.
Now, Kleps says, some of those buildings are cycling back around to Gaetano again as new owners seek to have them renovated. One example is the 160,000-square-foot former Curtains N Fabrics facility on Gros Boulevard in Herkimer. Gaetano just finished renovating the facility for ELG Utica Alloys, a steel-recycling company, he says.
“There are more projects like that,” Kleps says. It’s that mix of expansions and renovations, almost all involving Butler buildings, which has helped Gaetano Construction weather the recession and start this year strong with a number of projects in the works when the construction industry, as a whole, is still somewhat depressed. Gaetano generated revenue of $46 million in 2011 and expects to meet or exceed that number in 2012.
Tough construction-industry climate
Nearly a quarter of upstate construction companies, 24 percent, are losing money, according to the 2012 Upstate New York Contractors State of the Industry Study by The Bonadio Group accounting firm. That’s an increase of 10 percentage points over the survey’s last edition in 2010 (see full story in this issue, page 10.)
And according to a June 1 report from Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc., a national association representing 22,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms, non-residential construction spending declined 0.7 percent in April, and private-sector, non-residential construction spending declined 0.2 percent.
Sectors seeing a decline in construction included lodging, manufacturing, conservation and development, religious, public safety, sewage and waste disposal, amusement and recreation, power, communication, and education. At the same time, construction spending increased in the health-care, transportation, water-supply, commercial-construction, office, and highway and street sectors.
“This current trend is largely a reflection of the way the economy has been when decisions to move forward with projects were made,” Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu said in the report. He expects non-residential construction will continue to lag.
Gaetano notes that New York state is holding off on construction projects, aside from highway repairs, which has resulted in struggles for some firms. He’s thankful his company has stayed busy enough to keep about 45 field employees in work all through the winter and this spring. That number is normally closer to 80 people for the busy summer season, and Gaetano said the number will start growing by the end of this month. Gaetano also employs 24 people in its office at 258 Genesee St., Utica, and employs 18 superintendents.
Other notable area projects Gaetano Construction (www.gaetanoconst.com) has worked on include the expansion at Nirvana Water’s plant in Boonville, a new Harley-Davidson store for the Carbone Auto Group near Amsterdam, a new student center at SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome, a new athletic/events center at Mohawk Valley Community College, and an expansion project at Meyda Tiffany in Yorkville.