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E. T. & L. Corp.’s Success Started With Father, Remains in Daughter’s Hands

Thu July 10, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Jennifer Hetrick

Anthony Colosi got his start in the construction industry when he was in high school. He worked for his uncles as a water boy, earning a tremendous 10 cents an hour. Today, Anthony’s daughter Jennie Lee Colosi is president of E. T. & L. Corp., Stow, Mass., a successful 63-year-old construction company, which has a large interest in landfills. The Colosi family has come a long way from jobs bringing in 10 cents an hour.

E. T. & L. Corp. was founded in 1945 by a group that included a woman, which was very unusual for the times. The company became a part of Anthony’s life in 1952 when he started as a foreman there. At the time, the company was known as Eastern Tree and Landscaping of Dedham Mass., and was primarily a residential and commercial landscaping company. By 1956, Anthony had been named president and owned 50 percent of the company, which he began to move out of landscaping and into site preparation, land development and road construction.

In 1964, Anthony made the decision to expand the business, so he changed the name to E. T. & L. Construction Corp. and officially made the transition from landscaping to construction. In the ’70s and ’80s the company began to build bridges, work on landfills and other various site applications. The company had grown so steadily that new, larger headquarters and yard facilities were established in Stow.

E. T. & L. became one of the most experienced highway, road and bridge builders in Massachusetts and had also constructed many earthen and rock fill dams by the early 80s.

Learning the Ropes

During the years that Jennie Lee was growing up, she spent a number of summers working with her father at E. T. & L., watching how he worked and picking up knowledge and skills along the way.

“I learned quite a lot from being around my father, which definitely helped me run the business,” Jennie Lee said.

After graduating from college, she was prepared to officially enter her father’s business, but while she worked at E. T. & L. full-time, she returned to school part-time and earned her Masters in Business Administration to be even better prepared.

The construction industry, however, was not quite ready for Jennie Lee and it took her a while to become accepted at client sites and meetings. People often had to interact with her several times before they could put aside their preconceived ideas about the construction industry and start to recognize that she really did know what she was doing, despite being a young woman in a man’s world.

One thing that was a big help to her was the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).

“The year that I graduated from college there was a chapter of NAWIC forming in the Worcester area and I have been a member ever since. I think it helps sometimes to know that you are not alone. There are other women in the industry and what they are going through is similar to what you’re going through and you can share with each other,” said Jennie Lee.

Filling Her Father’s Shoes

By the time Anthony decided to retire in 1989, Jennie Lee was ready to fill his shoes. Today, under her leadership E. T. & L. Corp. employs 160 people and owns more than 100 pieces of equipment. In October 2007, a study performed by Babson College, Wellesley, Mass., and The Commonwealth Institute, Boston, ranked E. T. & L. Corp. 24th in the Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts.

E. T. & L. Corp. works primarily in Massachusetts, from the western part of the state near Pittsfield all the way to the Cape. However, E. T. & L. Corp. does not limit itself and will perform work in Rhode Island and Connecticut as well. One of the larger projects E. T. & L. Corp. has completed was the Sagamore interchange for the Massachusetts Highway Department. The work began in late 2004 and was complete in September 2007 at a cost of $36 million. Another large project, completed in 2007, was the Rose Hill Landfill, South Kingston, R.I., which cost $8.6 million.

Current jobs include bridgework in Chelmsford, Chester, Barre, Orange, Holyoke and Billerica, Mass. The widening of Route 18 in Weymouth, Mass., began in November 2006 and is scheduled to be complete in the fall of 2008.

But one of the largest parts of E. T. & L. Corp.’s business right now is landfill work, both capping and expanding. At press time the company was doing work on its 84th landfill job within the past 20 years. Three landfill projects currently in the works are taking place in Chicopee and South Hadley, Mass., and in Hartford, Conn.

New Opportunity

The emphasis on landfills began in 1986 when, E. T. & L. Construction Corp. was involved in Mass Highway Department road and bridge projects and was solely dependent on revenues from the department.

“We recognized the need to become more diversified both with our work and our clients. Landfill closure projects were just beginning to be designed and advertised as mandated by Mass Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] regulations. We looked at what was involved in landfill work, which was predominately earthwork at that time, and realized we had the right equipment and expertise to transition into the landfill arena,” said Colosi.

“Historically, every city and town had its own ’dump’ or ’landfill.’ In the 1980s, state environmental agencies implemented strict regulations on how a landfill could operate. The new regulations required all existing landfills to be closed or capped with an impermeable membrane or clay cap. This forced almost all 365 cities and towns in Massachusetts to shut down, cap and close their landfills from 1985 to 2000. In addition, the DEP required any landfill still operating to build an impermeable linear and leachate collection system below any rubbish placed in that landfill. Since no new landfills have been permitted in Massachusetts in over 20 years, only the existing landfills with operating permits could expand their existing facilities using liner expansions. These two DEP regulations created a new business for E. T. & L., which we took full advantage of,” she continued.

“Using our large fleet of heavy equipment, we move trash, re-grade slopes to a maximum of three to one percent and a minimum of five percent and then cover them with either a clay cap or newer high density polyethylene [HDPE] or linear low density polyethylene [LLDPE] linear caps before placing drainage sand, vegetative soil, and planting grass. Landfill expansion projects involve earthwork and even more sophisticated clay installation as well as several layers of liners, synthetic materials and a leachate collection system.

“A landfill project can be done in a season, sometimes three to six months or it could go into another year. It depends on how many acres are being expanded or capped. You can’t really work on a landfill project too much in the winter because of the freezing temperatures.

“The challenges might include excavating trash and relocating it. You have to be careful of what you might find there and notify the owners immediately,” she concluded.

The most common things that can be found in landfills that require notifying the owners, according to Colosi, are buried drums and other hazardous waste that has to be removed before the landfill can be closed.

The Right Equipment

To tackle this challenging work, E. T. & L. Corp. has a roller fleet that includes 10 Ingersoll Rand/Volvo rollers. The company has had a relationship with Ingersoll Rand for 40-plus years, according to Colosi, which started with her father and Carl Licoapoli, the former general manager of the Ingersoll Rand office in Southborough, Mass.

In addition, E. T. & L. recently added to its fleet with the purchase of two Volvo SD116DX rollers from Volvo Construction Equipment and Services (formerly Ingersoll Rand Equipment & Services) of Southborough, Mass.

“These rollers have an optional traction kit on them that make them even better on slopes. When we go to compact the different materials on a slope, the sand and clay, they climb bigger slopes at a better clip. This new traction kit they put on the Volvos works great,” she said.

The Volvo supplier in Southborough is full of what Colosi calls “good people.”

“Bill Perla is now our salesperson at the facility and everyone is good to work with, which really makes a difference. They stand by their word and when they say they are going to do something, they’ll do it in a reasonable amount of time. If we have a problem with one of the rollers, we’ll give them a call and they’ll come right out or within a couple of days and check it out for us. And when there is an issue they take care of it, which is what you want. You want someone to stand by their machine,” she said.

Enjoying Her Work

Working with good people doing something she loves makes Jennie Lee particularly proud of her work.

“It’s exciting. It’s challenging. Something different every day. You wake up every day and you don’t know what you will be faced with. It’s not routine at all. It’s so exciting to be able to see a project on a set of plans such as a bridge and then build it and knowing you had a part of constructing it. Our E. T. & L team is so proud of those accomplishments,” said Jennie Lee.

As to the challenges of her non-traditional career, Colosi is candid. “Sometimes, there are hurdles being a woman in construction but you just persevere and it pays off. The rewards are tremendous.”

And to any woman contemplating a career in construction, Colosi offers this advice. “Find out about construction. Ask people what’s involved and if you’re interested, follow that passion. It’s a wonderful industry.” CEG

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