Dan Mackin Realizes His Dream of Owning Excavation, Concrete Company

Tue October 07, 2014 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

Dan Mackin.
Dan Mackin.
Dan Mackin. Mackin Construction works on the griswold playground and drains. Mackin crews install a septic system. Mackin crews demo a house.


Dan Mackin has a concrete foundation in the construction industry because, since childhood, he was always around concrete.

Mackin, the owner of Dan Mackin Construction, founded in Griswold, Conn., in 1998, comes from a family that was always in the building business. ?

“My father was a partner with two of his brothers,” said Mackin “They did concrete and excavation. At some point, that company split up and they went their own separate ways. They still got along and worked on some projects together. I was about 8 to 10 years old at this time and can still remember going to the jobs.

“I now have six cousins and one brother who are in the construction business. As a young child, I was always playing with toy bulldozers, and excavators and dump trucks,” Mackin said. “It seems I have always had a fascination with equipment.”

Mackin’s father was into concrete residential house foundations and flooring.

“I was on the job, learning about foundations and concrete work. Let me tell you something, if there is anything real in this world that can really make you alert it’s concrete. First off, you learn that when the truck comes, you move fast. You become very aware of the weather terrain around you. You’re always trying to beat something when it comes to concrete.”

But Mackin said there is much more to it than that.

“If it’s hot, the concrete can set up quick and not allow you to finish it properly. If it’s too wet, it will blow through your wall steps. If it’s cold out, it will take a long time to set up and must be heated,” said Mackin. “The time of day can be critical and the time concrete stands in a truck waiting to be poured, rain or snow can affect ground conditions to the point that some trucks can’t reach the walls. If you get concrete that was left over from another job, it can set up real fast and weaken the mix. Having proper manpower that shows up and having the equipment to handle the job are also critical.

“The job must be square and not move during the pour and to level the concrete properly. If you fail in any one of these areas there is no hiding it; it is what it is and the concrete does not care,” said Mackin. “Concrete is a tough physical job. It can teach you ways to save time, how to be more productive, to plan properly for the job and to be prepared. There are no do-overs if you make a mistake. You can’t just cut another board or add some dirt to fix it. If you don’t learn these things quick you will not make in concrete.”

Cranes and Hazardous Work

In his early years, Mackin had to repair jobs he discovered were done incorrectly.

“We would have to get the excavator back countless times and direct it as to where the hole needed to be re-dug. You were constantly losing time over this. This is where I began to contemplate starting a full service concrete and excavation company,” Mackin said.

But at the time, he was only 15 years old and needed more experience.

During that time, Mackin went to work for Ernie’s Crane Service.

“I still work with this company today. The owner, Ernie Wiese, is an expert in all forms of excavation, crane work and demolition and he has a great practical knowledge in all these areas and I appreciate all he has taught me,” said Mackin. “We did just about everything.”

Under Wiese, Mackin worked on site jobs, did many demolitions and tore down many tall buildings.

“I learned about elevations, site grading, crane hand signals and a lot about cranes. You learned how to work safe and the importance of communication,” Mackin said. “One of the most dangerous jobs in construction is demolition. You need to have common sense and a practical knowledge of building structures.

“If there was fire or water damage, you have to know where to stand. There is always some element of danger and unease during demolition work. It will teach you to pay attention. The thing I learned is: don’t push it. Take your time and be in control of the situation. Also, know the limits and experience levels of those around you and know where they are.”

Mackin left Ernie’s Crane Service for a job at Brand Underwater Construction. He was 18.

“I was hired as an operator for a hazardous waste site. I was flown around the country to work at different super fund sites running large equipment. After a while, I was promoted, given a hazwoper course, trained to use respirators and I began going into nuclear power plants during outages to work at what was called generator jumping for the same company,” said Mackin. “This job taught you about PPE [personal protective equipment]. It was very strict and safety was definitely top on the list. You learned how to work safe and double check equipment — air supply lines, com links and positive pressure suits, and you have to be sure you have all tools required for the job at hand. After all, you were going into a radiation hot zone.”

Fatherhood and Change

At this time, Mackin was about to become a father to his first-born daughter, Echo. He wanted a job closer to home, and began working at the Federal Paper Company,a split shift job.

“It taught you about being punctual because your mate could not leave his post until you relieved him. Also, it taught teamwork because it took five to six guys, working simultaneously, as a team, at their prospective jobs to get the paper off the machine and processed. I once again began thinking of starting a full service excavation concrete company,” said Mackin.

Without knowing much about loans or banks at this time, he used cash only to buy some boards and a used pick-up truck and started hand-digging sidewalks.

“I soon purchased a small tractor, loader backhoe and a trailer from my father-in-law. I was now able to do small landscaping jobs, dig small additions. At times, I was working so many hours, between the mill and my small business, I would actually forget what job I had left my tractor at,” said Mackin. “During this time I learned how to deal with people. When you start off doing small work, you usually work with the owners, right there. I believe you must be strong as the experienced contractor and manage to keep the customer on the right track and do the job the right way, even if it takes a little longer.”

Though struggling with an erratic work schedule and a young family, concrete plans began to emerge.

“After all my years in construction, and listening to the gripes of many contractors and customers about their excavator or concrete man, I began to formulate the type of company I wanted to have,” said Mackin.

He heard about contractors not having the right equipment to finish jobs, or cracked or settled floors (which were not always the contractor’s fault), or scheduling problems or machines not on site. This made him better as a manager.

“At this time I took on a partner and he is my good friend, Don. Don provided the boost we needed at this time. He already had a successful business, and provided both financial support and business experience,” said Mackin. “He took the equipment I had and added an excavator dozer, and a tri-axle. Then, we added a backhoe and a set of concrete forms. We always did a great job. My father worked for us full time and Don’s father-in-law worked part time, and we hired a few other employees. In a few years, Don decided construction was not for him and left the business and moved out of state to explore new passions.”??

Full Service, On-demand

Mackin continued to pursue his dream of a fully-functioning excavation and concrete company to provide customers with on-demand performance with any size machine required to complete their jobs.

“I have never had a problem with any customer that listened to what I said and could be reasoned with. With that said, throughout the next few years, I added three more excavators, all of different sizes. We have a 70,000 lb. 792 excavator with a 10,000 lb. hammer and a Geith rock bucket. We added a 42,000 lb. 200 Hitachi. We had a 28,000 lb. John Deere 490 with a thumb. We also added an 8000 lb. mini-excavator and a six-wheeler dump truck with a plow, an 8-ton John Deere 550 dozer and a 30,000 lb. international TD 15 dozer with a winch.

“Usually, I leave the larger excavators on site for the full duration of a house job. This gives the builder or home owner much more flexibility in their scheduling and I can be there quick as soon as something is required to be done,” said Mackin. “My Tri-axle truck is set up with a 20-ton trailer and I can move my 490 and other equipment at a moment’s notice.”

Mackin loves his work.??

“I love it when I come to a site. I get a vision for a finished product when hired. I spend time with the customer and help to provide a picture of what the finished product will look like,” said Mackin. “I will use my laser, show them finished wall heights, how their yard will look. I know, through experience, that their approved plan can be changed to better meet the customer’s expectations. When I go to sleep, I know I have done above average for my customer and I have no conscience worries.”

Mackin Construction now works with some award-winning builders, such as Mike Narzarko of New Homes America.

“He gets involved with the jobs, hands-on if necessary. He does a lot of extra work for people that they never even realize at times,” said Mackin. “I like to work with people who care about what they do and don’t try to cut corners. Cutting corners only breeds future problems and slows growth in the long term.”??

Many Diverse Projects

Dan Mackin Construction also does some small building jobs. The company was hired by Mattern Construction on multiple jobs.

“We did the excavation and foundation for the new gas transfer station in Norwich, Conn. We’ve done commercial concrete jobs in mills for them. One such job required us to go in on a weekend, during the down time to cut the 8-inch reinforced concrete floor, remove concrete, excavate out an area about 4-foot-six-inches deep, install rebar, form up the area and pour both the walls and the floor at the same time.

“There was a crew to install a machine on this on standby and the machine was coming from Germany,” said Mackin. “We had a strict time limit to complete. My dedicated crew worked 26 hours straight to complete work on schedule and we received an A+plus rating from Matterns’ supervisor for our efforts.”

For each project, Dan thanks his crew each and every time.

“Over the years. I have had many quality employees. Some are retired, some have moved on. It is very difficult to find someone that is very well-rounded in all phases of construction and cares about everything they do for the customer,” said Mackin. “It takes me awhile before I trust anyone, even if they have years of experience. What I do now is have a number of highly experienced people that work part-time and that I can call on to work when my company does work in their prospective field.”

He also relies on his brother David and several cousins who are very experienced in the field.

Mackin does complete site work — demos of an existing house or structure; provides advice; complete excavation services; hammer work or rock removal, if necessary; pours foundations and floors; designs and installs septic systems; installs utility lines; and screens and grade loams or hauls materials in or out and schedule inspections.?

“We can work in tight spots and also in large open areas because of the diverse types of equipment we offer. We are careful not to hurt any on-site trees or vegetation that may be valuable to the customer,” Mackin said.

Mackin offered his advice for anyone entering the industry.

“Unless you are an exceptional planner, and have exceptional people around you, don’t expect this to be a 9 to 5 job. You will work a lot of hours, things go wrong, machines break, trucks break, people get sick, but you still have a schedule to keep,” said Mackin. “Sometimes, material does not come on time or the order is incomplete. Job conditions change with the weather and season. There are unexpected delays such as unknown underground conditions such as utilities, rock, water — all can pose issues.

“I don’t try to sound negative, but you must be clear on your estimate exactly (in) what you include for your services. You should state where extra expenses could arise, so the customer knows exactly where they stand,” Mackin said. “The object is to make money, but also to be sure the customer can complete their project within their means. Communication is key. Be prepared to have a valid reason for anything that you do. Avoid any job that does not have proper paper work or plans that are not approved. Be sure funding is available. Be wary of people that continue to change their minds about the job at hand.”

He said the construction industry requires a network of quality people to call upon when needed.

“Most of the people I use for large repairs and maintenance I would consider friends. We understand each other and have a good working relationship,” said Mackin. “I have a great mechanic that can fix anything. His name is Dennis Caplet from Caplet Repair in Sprague, Conn. He has always come through, has a great attitude and is as honest as they come.

“I use Griswold Machine for all sorts of things like hydraulic lines and fabrication. Rich Farina is a highly skilled machinist/welder. He knows metal and how and where to use different types for different purposes to achieve the best results,” Mackin said, “For welding, I use TLZ Welding and mechanical owner Bill Buchert or Thames Valley Welding, whose owner is John Dowdel. Both these welding companies are top notch and experienced in all types of welding and fabrication. If I have a tire issues, I call John Regis, the Tire Fighter, or Jerry at Norwich Tire. Both provide quick reliable service.”

His future plans are to grow ever further with this impressive team of friends, workers and colleagues.

“Since we just relocated to a different place in Griswold, we are still getting organized. I want to get involved with the town and see if there are any areas where I may be able to help people in the community,” said Mackin.

He has five children now — Echo, Ty, Willow, Levi and Sparrow with wife, Laura.

“I’d like to thank all the people to all past and present employees and the people who worked with us along the way,” said Mackin.

For more information, go to www.DanMackinConstruction.com.

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at www.constructionequipmentguide.com.) CEG

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Mackin construction projects have included:

*The Franklin, Conn., town salt shed — money was saved by working with the town and the engineer to better fit the town’s needs and budget.?

*The Lisbon, Conn. town access through the winter — steps, sidewalks and rails to provide access for school children, a job that was exceptionally difficult because of severe winter conditions.

*Completion of a number of large foundations for interior machines within the Carastar Mill. “These were difficult because we were working around people and disturbing a large portion of their work area. But we made adjustments until everyone was happy,” said Mackin. “It’s great when you can get along with everyone. I have found working with people is much easier then working against them. By the third foundation, we had union mill workers actually going out of their way to help us to achieve are job quicker.” ?

*The site work and concrete for the Killingly, Conn., elderly housing expansion project with BRD Builders.

*Concrete and steel installation work on the new Second Street Bridge in Norwich, Conn., alongside Ernie’s Crane Service.

*All drain work for the town of Griswold’s new playground, which required Mackin to fix storm water drains at times when water was running through them.

*Installation of a salt water drain and wash system for the town trucks for the town of Franklin in the town garage.?

*Installation of large retaining walls on Beech Pond and in the town of Stonington.?