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Changes Put Brockton’s J. Derenzo Co. on Rock Solid Foundation

Fri December 14, 2007 - Northeast Edition
James A. Merolla

There have been many changes — new ownership, a new headquarters in a new city, completely self-sufficient services added — but the quality name has remained the same.

J. Derenzo Company’s history spans nearly six decades of committed service. Originally founded as a real estate development company and residential contractor by Jerome Derenzo in 1949, through the years the company has matured and redefined its scope and expertise.

Located in Needham, Mass., for decades, the company now operates from an impressive headquarters at 338 Howard Street in Brockton, Mass.

Howe, Loconte Take Over

In 2001, Derenzo passed ownership of the firm onto longtime company employees and trusted colleagues David Howe and Anthony Loconte. Under the new leadership, backed with the skill and dedication of all its employees, J. Derenzo’s services have evolved from small-scale site development projects, to some of the most complex excavation projects in the New England area.

“After the war [World War II], Mr. Derenzo came home and started the business as a site business,” said J. Derenzo CEO Anthony Loconte Jr.

“He was doing residential work in the town of Needham. He was born, raised and lived there his whole life and that’s where he’s buried. He built the company up and molded it to where it is today.”

Jerome Derenzo’s first great project was the build up of Route 128, the well-traveled east-west highway that rims the suburbs of greater Boston.

Derenzo made the evolution from residential to commercial building. His first big client was Cabot, Cabot & Forbes, the revolutionary developers who built one-story buildings all along the highway. At every interchange, the company tried to grab four corners of real estate at every ramp. It figured on and off the ramps would make for great visibility.

“They created a bunch of pits to build 128. Because of Derenzo’s work there, the trees were already cleared off then and they had already developed the grade. It was prime site real estate,” added Loconte.

From Route 128 into Boston, Loconte said that the company’s forte is “digging deep holes in the city.”

“We made the evolution to be a union contractor. In this state, the union is alive and well, inside 128. Outside, it’s sort of a crap shoot,” said Loconte. “The key thing in being a union contractor is the availability of a skilled and trained work force. You have unlimited resources to draw from. We take a good deal of time and effort to screen and get the best foremen and supervisors we can, and then draw from the union pool.”

J. Derenzo employs union operators from the Operating Engineers, Local 4, and work under a cooperative trust agreement with the union, allowing them to be competitive when working on an open-shop project.

Most of his core staff has worked at the company for many years, Loconte added.

“We’ve had people retire and then come back,” he laughed.

Currently, his company has 45 active job sites, with 31 on the schedule.

“The farthest we go out is Worcester. All the rest are within a 50-mile radius of the Boston area,” he added. “That’s our bread and butter.”

Loconte and his partner David Howe had a combined 17 years at the company when they bought it in 2001.

“At the time David went to work for the company, it was a $7 or $8 million company,” said Loconte, who, along with Howe, graduated from the Wentworth Institute with a degree in civil engineering. “I arrived three years later, and it was a $12 million company then. And, after David and my efforts, it was a $25 million company at the time we purchased it. And now, we are collecting $150 million a year. Thus, I have no hair left.”

Company Mission

J. Derenzo Company strives to establish lasting relationships with its customers by exceeding their expectations and gaining their trust through customer service and performance by every member of their employ.

It also seeks to strengthen the company through repeat and referral business achieved by customer satisfaction in all areas, while maintaining the highest level of professionalism in its relationships with suppliers, subcontractors and customers.

From the day-to-day operations on their construction sites, to operating a modern fleet of construction equipment with the latest in emissions control technology, to recycling and reusing construction materials from their projects, to roof-drain water reuse at its corporate headquarters, J. Derenzo Company is an environmentally responsible organization with protection measures at the forefront of every day operations.

The company also is committed to giving back to the community it serves, whether it’s sponsoring local projects within the Brockton area, or seasonally donating to local charities in a client’s name.

J. Derenzo Company offers a full range of site development services, from deep hole excavations within the congested city streets of Boston, to major suburban mall developments and everything in between.

“There have been big changes since Mr. Derenzo. With most of the older contractors, you did what you did. We moved the earth and then subbed a lot of stuff out,” Loconte said. “When David and I took over, we looked at the big line items, for which all of our competitors had the same problems.”

Like gravel, for instance, which Loconte said, was getting “further and further away.”

“We had to go to New Hampshire to get it. The cost of fuel was going up. All of a sudden, gravel was a huge problem, to us,” he said. “Well, a yard of dirt is a yard of dirt. How can we obtain it and deliver it cheaper.”

The company made a radical and very sound economic decision to start its own recycling program on site. Thus, Boston Environmental, its in-house recycling company, was born.

Boston Environmental’s specialized services include: soil treatment, soil disposal, transportation, material processing, brownfields remediation, hazardous waste management, asbestos abatement, groundwater treatment, landfill operation/closure and site development.

“I guess we went green before being green was in,” laughed Loconte.

Big Move, Bigger Rewards

Howe and Loconte moved the company from Needham to Brockton in 2001 on a 110-acre site that had been a pavement plant that was in ruins.

“All the permits were here in place. The city welcomed us with open arms because we were willing to clean the mess up,” laughed Loconte. “We were grandfathered in. Now, we bring in all removed concrete and asphalt and recycle it into finished, graded product in our own yard.”

Derenzo now crushes and recycles 1 million cu. yds. (764,555 cu m) of concrete, asphalt, ledge product, loom and compost annually. “It was such a large line item, subbing out all environmental services. Inside Route 128, you can’t find a virgin site. They are all desecrated. Hauling everything off became too expensive. So, it has done wonderful for us. Now, we have a huge line item done in house.”

In the past seven years, knocking off one subcontractor service after another, including truck and equipment/vehicle repairs (done in its own shop now), Derenzo is now at the point where it is totally self-sufficient.

“This sets us away from the competition because we have the ability to give complete services to our customers,” said Loconte.

He pointed to the original small building to the right of the three-floor, 12,000-sq. ft. headquarters.

“We keep the reminder of that small building of where we started,” said Loconte, who gets up at 4 a.m. and gets home at 7 p.m., working six days a week. “It keeps us humble.”

Deep Holes, Large Projects

A premiere contractor for deep-hole excavations, including up-down construction, slurry wall installation, soldier piles and lagging, soil mix and more, the company offers clients the entire package of earth support and excavation, or excavation only, based on the project requirements.

This has resulted in some plum projects such as Battery Wharf, 344 Commercial St., Boston, scheduled to be finished soon. J. Derenzo Company has a $9 million contract and is a key player in the $230 million Battery Wharf mixed-use development located on the water in Boston’s historic North End.

It is completing all earth support, excavation and utility work. The project includes four buildings, which will house a 150-room luxury hotel and 104 residences ranging from 900 to 2,500-sq. ft., as well as restaurants, a spa and parking facilities. The project, done for Skanska USA Building Inc., was completed on a site with little staging area within an active area of the Boston waterfront.

J. Derenzo Company’s work included more than 1,200 linear ft. (365.8 m) of steel sheeting earth support. The sheeting was installed above the high tide line adjacent to a historic granite block sea wall. The internal bracing plan developed by J. Derenzo allowed the efficient excavation of the hole.

The mass excavation consisted of more than 80,000 cu. yds. (61,164 cu m) from the 35-ft. (10.7 m) deep foundation hole. Of this amount, more than 72,000 tons (65,317 t) of contaminated soils were removed to lined and unlined landfills by their affiliated company, Boston Environmental.

Another is setting the site for the new Mandarin Hotel, a $10 million contract for CWB/Suffolk Construction on Boylston Street, Boston. The towering structure is set for completion in mid-2008. J. Derenzo Company’s work was completed along busy Boylston Street within the Prudential complex.

The foundation system for the new hotel was excavated through an existing parking garage and pile caps, requiring the removal of more than 7,000 cu. yds. (5,352 cu m) of concrete. Soil mix walls were constructed to a depth of 60 ft. (18.3 m) below street level, with an advanced bracing system needed to support Boylston Street during construction.

“Our largest project is the Hingham Shipyard,” added Loconte. “It’s a 100-acre site, a Superfund site being redeveloped by three different developers. It’s like Marina Bay on steroids.” The Shipyard will be its own community when finished, with condos, restaurants, shopping centers and a marina. The massive project is scheduled to be finished in 2009.

Another project is utility installation at Lenox Farm.

J. Derenzo completed the site work on this 41-building luxury apartment complex, including cleaning and grubbing the 25-acre (10.1 ha) site, drilling, blasting and processing 85,000 cu. yds. (64,987 cu m) of ledge, balancing the site cut and fills of approximately 124,000 cu. yds. (94,805 cu m), installing 60,000 sq. ft. (5,574 sq m) of Keystone Walls, excavating and backfilling for the 41 building foundations and installing more than 40,000 ft. (12,192 m) of utilities, including water, sewer, drainage and electric.

Digging in at Colleges, Hospitals

The company also does a great deal of work for many of Boston’s finest colleges like Harvard, M.I.T., Northeastern, Brandeis and others.

“That’s tricky construction,” smiled Loconte. “Only a handful of guys succeed at it. There are sound and noise problems. You’ve got kids taking final exams, paying to be there. They need to study. Guys who think about their pockets only, will fail every day. They don’t want the low bidder. They want the responsible bidder.”

The same logic and skills apply to work at other clients like Dana Farber Cancer Institute or Beth Israel or Mt. Auburn Hospital. “Again, you are co-existing with people who are sick,” he added. “You have to be flexible in the work.”

Dana Farber’s new medical building for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute is located in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area. J. Derenzo is performing earth support and the deep foundation excavation for Walsh Brothers, the general contractor, a $10 million contract.

A slurry wall foundation will be built, and J. Derenzo will excavate within the wall to a depth of approximately 70 ft. (21.3 m). The work will include installing 268 tiebacks through the slurry wall for earth support on the way down. The deep foundation will accommodate a seven-story underground parking garage. A total of approximately 85,000 cu. yds. (64,987 cu m) of soil will be excavated and removed from the site.

J. Derenzo Company also provides snow and ice control services for both municipal and commercial clients, with more than 100 pieces of equipment, which can be deployed for winter services. Drivers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet customer’s needs.

Owning and maintaining the latest equipment and technology is a key component to their success. Having the correct tools and equipment at the appropriate location ensures that that complete the project on time and within budget.

In addition, J. Derenzo has a full heavy equipment repair garage at its Brockton location, allowing it to do everything from the simplest of repairs to the complete rebuilding of heavy equipment. It employs 15 mechanics, both in the garage and on its five mobile service trucks to ensure that equipment downtime is minimized.

It currently uses some 167 pieces of equipment.

“Our fleet is now 90 percent Caterpillar and 8 percent Komatsu and 2 percent John Deere,” said Loconte. The J. Derenzo fleet includes:

• Large track excavators (Cat 307 up to Cat 375) — 45

• Mini track excavators (Cat 301.5 up to Cat 307) — 7

• Rubber-tire excavators (Cat M318 up to Cat M322) — 6

• Rubber-tire backhoes (Cat 416 up to Cat 446) — 15

• Front-end loaders (Cat 924 up to Cat 988) — 18

• Dozers (Cat D3 up to Cat D9) — 19

• Vibratory rollers (1 ton up to 12 tons) — 17

• Skid steers (Cat 226 up to Cat 287) — 11

• Sweepers — 6

• Screeners — 5

• Crane (25-ton Link-Belt) — 1

• Hoe ram hammers (500 lbs. up to 12,000 lbs.) — 13

• Support equipment (compressors/generators/pumps/compactors/saws) — 400

• Trench boxes (4 X 8 to 10 X 24) — 39

• Road plates (4 X 4 to 10 X 20) — 229

• Jersey barriers — 7 miles

• Lowbeds — 3

• Water trucks — 9

• Fuel trucks — 2

• Service trucks — 7

• Pickup and utility trucks — 70

“You can have all the equipment in the world, but it’s the people who matter,” said Loconte. “You have to surround yourself with the best staff you can find and that’s the key. Without them, you’re nothing.”

With all of the changes, the moves, the new services, they never for a moment thought about changing their company’s name.

“It’s a rock solid name,” said Loconte. “Everything that signifies a rock solid company is there.”

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