It seems fitting that new Delaware Contractors Association (DCA) President Carl Marenco has roots in Delaware, and he remains proud of his home state.
“I was born, raised and educated in the state of Delaware,” he said. “I attended a local public high school and the University of Delaware. I married a young lady from Delaware who also went to the University of Delaware.”
Currently, he and his wife, Karen, live in Landenburg, PA, where they are raising three sons.
Marenco noted that he was always around construction while growing up in Wilmington.
“I came from a large Italian family, quite a few of which were involved with construction,” he explained. “So it was very easy for me to get a construction job during my teenage years.”
His first job was working for an uncle’s masonry company, carrying block and tending for the masons. He continued working at that job during the summers while he attended college. He studied biology and business but did not complete his degree. Instead, he chose to accept a job with Payne Betty Associates.
After a few years with that company, he moved on to Bancroft Construction Company, where he stayed for 14 years. He helped to develop Bancroft’s commercial construction division and worked his way up over the next 14 years to become vice president, and a partner in the business.
When the opportunity came along, Marenco joined Barclay White, which was then bought out by Skanska, a multinational corporation.
“So I went from about a $75 million a year company to a multi-billion dollar company,” he said.
He managed Barclay White’s Delaware office for five years, leaving when he started his own corporation — Marenco Constructors Inc. — in 2002. He explained that his goal in his business is to manage commercial construction.
“Initially, I started by providing project management to local developers,” he said. “Some had their own construction departments, but others didn’t, so I provided levels of management to suit the developer’s needs. A lot of the developers either didn’t have staff, or their staff was busy already. That has developed clientele for me, and now I’m basically doing general contracting for developers.”
Marenco explained that he has built several buildings in Newark, including retail and apartment buildings on Main Street, and he also did project management for a 186,000-sq.-ft., six-story office tower in Wilmington on a 4-acre field site.
He also recently completed a 60,000-sq.-ft. office building on a 5-acre site that was contiguous with a wetlands site.
“It seems like I get a lot of challenging projects, and I certainly enjoy them,” he said.
His most recent project was completed on Aug. 15, and involved an ambulatory surgical center with two level one operating rooms. Other projects under contract include a Happy Harry’s and a 6,000-sq.-ft. dental office.
Marenco noted that almost all of his work is in Wilmington or within a 100-mi. radius. He runs the company on his own, with several part-time employees to help out.
“One of my goals was to try to keep the company small,” he said. “I went from Bancroft Construction, which had about 150 employees, to Barclay White, which I can’t even tell you how many employees they had, but quite a few. They had a lot of resources. My company is very small. My volume is about $4 million to $6 million a year right now, and I’d like to maintain about that level. I’d like to stay small, and based on the economy, be very flexible. I think I’m kind of in that little niche where the developers I work for are looking for economical solutions, and large organizations sometimes can’t provide that opportunity. So, fortunately, I have a low overhead, and I can reflect that in my pricing.”
As for his sons joining the company, Marenco noted that he is giving them all the opportunities to work in the industry, but each can make their own decision. At this point, his oldest son is interested in business and finance, which he plans to study at Penn State. The middle son is interested in the military academy.
“My youngest is probably the one who would be most interested,” Marenco said. “He asks me about projects all the time, so you never know…”
Marenco explained that he chose to stay in the construction industry because of the challenges it presents.
“It’s an ever-changing environment,” he said. “Whether it’s the weather or whether it’s the people that you work with and deal with. I deal with people from board members working in a board room to laborers in the field, so I deal with all kinds of personalities — people with all kinds of interests and goals in life. I’m not dealing with one level, I’m dealing with multiple levels, and I really, really enjoy that. I think that’s what got me hooked is the people. And not only the people, but the ever-changing environment.”
Marenco stressed that Delaware is a great place to work.
“It’s a small state,” he said. “Everyone seems to know everyone, and your honesty and integrity go a long way. It’s very important — not only important to me, because I was raised that way, but it’s important to other people in the industry. I think that’s one of the reasons that I’ve been involved with the Delaware Contractors Association for so long is the quality of the people. I’m honored and humbled to be this year’s president, because there’s a long history of really good, honest, hard-working people.”
Marenco noted that he has been in construction for 30 years, and has been involved with the DCA for a little more than 20 years.
“So, you can almost say that I matured in the industry with guidance from the DCA,” he said. “I’ve always been active. I’ve been on the executive committee for probably 12 years, and I’ve been involved as a board member for about six years. I’ve been involved in the planning and the administration of the organization for awhile.”
Marenco noted that a group of members met for a day late last year to develop their strategic plan, and his most important goal for this year is to be sure they follow that plan.
“Not only follow it, but I think it’s important from my point of view to guide, manage, and report back to the membership on how we’re succeeding on the plan. A lot of times companies or businesses or organizations develop a strategic plan and find very little time to get the action plans done. We’ve done really, really well this year. I’ve met with the staff on a quarterly basis, and we reviewed what we’ve done, and updated, and I think that’s really important, because what we agreed to in our strategic plan was to get certain items done.”
Among 20 other goals that the group agreed upon, they want to make sure that they maintain a strong presence in government to make sure that the organization helps to support education and training for members.
“We are currently tracking and making sure that things happen,” Marenco said. “I’m really, really proud that that’s happening, and if I can add anything to the organization, I think that my ability to help manage has been a success here, because I think our strategic planning action items have been met, and/or are developing.”