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From Foxwoods to Harvard, D. Koury Has Foundation as Solid as Its Steel

Fri December 31, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

Only in America can a former ironworker figure out a better way to estimate steel costs for his company and then end up at Harvard to build a new part of the university.

Dan Koury has operated his own company — D. Koury Construction — in Warwick, R.I., since Feb. 22, 1993. He began in his uncle’s company — Koury Steel Erection Inc. where he was employed from 1982 to 1992 — tried to rectify old world thinking in the modern age and ended up working on many large-scale projects around New England, from Harvard University in Cambridge to Battery Wharf in Boston to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

Better Estimates, New World

“He [my uncle] was one of the largest steel erectors in Rhode Island, but times were changing and it was tough for him to adjust. I worked as an ironworker for a couple of years, was accepted to Local No. 37’s apprenticeship program in 1983,” said Koury. “From 1984 until 1985 I worked in Boston with our lawyers and legal consultants helping prepare a multi-million dollar lawsuit for a large project that KSE had completed in 1983.

“After the lawsuit was settled, I was brought into the office to learn how to estimate. I quickly realized that the bidding was being done in a primitive manner and that changes had to be made,” he added. “I spent the first two or three years in the office establishing cost basis for estimating and completely changed how jobs were priced. It was very difficult to change the ’old ways’ of the company.”

After taking over estimating, Koury began years of discussions to bring new electronic marvels like fax machines and computers into the office to help bookkeeping, estimates, communication and so much more.

“I had never used a computer, so I read the manuals and taught myself how to use a UNIX based computer. I then had to learn about accounting, so I had my uncle’s CPA give me some books to read, which eventually allowed me to automate the entire accounting, billing and job cost system [by the late 1980s].”

On His Own, Kourying Favor

After some more months of being at odds with old school thinking that came with an old school company, Koury decided to strike out on his own in 1992, with “No idea of how I would pay my mortgage,” said Koury.

He incorporated his own business in February 1993 with about $13,000 in cash and a handful of tools.

“I began bidding work from my basement and landed several jobs for the late summer of 1993. I immediately started negotiating with various vendors and equipment suppliers to provide me with some of the necessary supplies that I would need until I was able to pay them,” said the budding entrepreneur.

When his fledgling company started its first job in August 1993, he had only the bare minimum in tools and equipment.

“I utilized every credit card that I, and two of my brothers, had as well as borrowed money from a University of Rhode Island grad student that was renting a room from me,” he recalled. “I would borrow my cousin’s landscaping truck at night so that we could pick up and deliver the necessary tools to get through the next day.

“My brother David helped me when we first got started, but soon moved on to overseeing projects all around the world. My brother Jeremy began working for me in 1984 and has been our shop manager since 1988. He is responsible for providing our job sites with all the tools, equipment and material that they need to complete our jobs. He has two drivers under his management,” said Koury.

When it came time to hire field personnel to run his new jobs, Koury called himself lucky because he had developed many relationships with excellent ironworkers during his time at Koury Steel Erectors.

“I also had developed many trusting relationships with the various union representatives throughout New England,” he added.

For the first three years of being in business, Koury had to balance the lack of tools, trucks and cash.

“There were times when we were within hours of missing payroll and it looked like we would fail. By the end of 1994, my uncle was closing KSE and was auctioning off his mass amount of old equipment. We rented a small building across the street, bought as much equipment as we could afford, and dragged it across the street,” said Koury.

“Amazingly, we kept getting by and were building up a reasonable amount of tools and equipment. We were erecting a lot of smaller jobs [more than 30 Stop & Shop Supermarket buildings] as well as some medium jobs [office buildings throughout Massachusetts].”

Casino and Hotel

In the summer of 1995, Koury’s company landed a huge fish. It started the erection of the smoke-free casino at Foxwoods Casino, which would become the most productive gambling enterprise in the New England states, with revenues quickly ascending into the billions.

“This was a fast-track ’million dollar job’ for a very demanding client,” said Koury. “We put the job up so fast, and so efficiently, that we were invited to bid the Grand Pequot Tower at Foxwoods [the 26-story hotel and casino]. We were awarded the Grand Pequot Tower, some interior work at the Mashantucket Museum as well as the precast concrete parking garage. From the summer of 1995, until late 1998, we employed up to 100 ironworkers and completed more than $20 million of contracts there.”

Since then, Koury Construction has worked on many projects in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“We have developed an excellent reputation of providing quality and safety without compromising our customer’s deadlines,” said Koury.

Many Big Projects

Despite updates, growth and many changes that come with success, Koury still occupies the same building in Warwick where it started. It also owns and operates a warehouse on Route 2 in East Greenwich, R.I.

Today, Koury may employ from as many as 20 to 100 people, depending on the job, project or season. Its equipment lot is smaller than most, but filled with the right stuff.

“We own a lot of small specialized equipment and tools. We own diesel and gas welders, a Caterpillar telescoping forklift, two 250 kW portable generators and a 100 kW portable generator,” said Koury. “We regularly rent truck cranes and occasionally rent tower cranes; the most recent tower crane being at Harvard N.W. Corner Building in Cambridge. In 2006, we utilized two TG tower cranes to erect the Battery Wharf project in the north end of Boston.”

Its projects have included erecting new buildings for two universities, including the Harvard N.W. Corner Building and Garage ($4 million) and The New College Theater at Harvard, as well as the Brown University Life Science Building in Providence, R.I.

Koury also has worked at the big Providence Place Mall as a subcontractor to American Bridge and the Fidelity Investment Office Building in Smithfield, R.I.

Currently, the company is just “finishing up” with Roger Wellington Elementary School in Belmont, Mass., the U.S. Army Aviation Hangar, in North Kingstown, R.I., and the L.B.J. Apartments, in Cambridge, Mass. It also is working on the MITRE Building L project in Bedford, Mass.

Over the last two decades, Koury has worked with some of the largest and most prominent regional and Rhode Island construction and contracting companies, such as Gilbane Building Company, Turner Construction Company, Suffolk, C.R. Klewin, Skanska USA, John Moriarty & Associates, Dimeo Construction Company, Agostini/Bacon Construction Company, Lee Kennedy and Shawmut Design & Construction.

Its projects usually range from $100,000 to more than $25 million.

Always Meeting Deadlines

Timetables and deadlines vary on each project, but one of the key assets in working with D. Koury Construction is its ability to keep to those deadlines.

“We are on time and on-budget with our projects. Contractors that work with us know they can put their project on our shoulders and rely on us to erect their steel safely and on time,” said Koury.

Most of Koury’s field supervisors have been with him since the beginning.

“They have all not only witnessed the growth of this business, but more importantly, they have been a part of it. Every business owner hopes to have people working for him or her who take pride in delivering a quality product and take personal pride in their work. I am lucky to have those types of people working with me,” he added.

He gave specific credit to three general foremen: Ron Binette, Wayne Iodice and Mike Peloso.

“This consistency in leadership and management has provided a solid foundation on which to build relationships and trust with those who work with us,” he said.

“We have some of the very best iron workers in New England working with us,” said Koury. “I am a perfectionist and it trickles down to the people that run my work. Delivering quality, safety and schedule is our tagline for the company and it is what we live by.”

Koury acknowledged it is difficult to get through difficult economic times like these.

“There are many companies that are doing work at such a loss that they cannot survive. We have to try and balance reducing our prices to foolish levels with making sure that my long term employees are kept busy enough to earn their pension years and maintain their health coverage,” said Koury. “Over the years, I have given back a lot of our profits to keeping people busy.

“We have not sat back and waited, though. We have taken this time to get our certification and spent time in the office on procedures to increase efficiency and safety. We have also developed a new logo, are working on a new Web site and we are developing new relationships and reestablishing relationships with contractors. As many have said, in a down economy there is opportunity to prepare yourself even better to take advantage when better economic times return. That is what we have done,” said Koury.

D. Koury Construction has a high rating on safety and Koury continues to ensure his team is certified to the highest standards. He is an AISC Certified Erector. CEG

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