Jim Reid, founder of J.H. Reid General Contractor, is well-known within New Jersey’s heavy highway construction industry. A modest person by nature, Reid is recognized as one of the state’s most successful construction innovators. It wasn’t like that in the beginning when Reid first established his company.
Reid’s early construction ventures were primarily a “one man operation”. Initial work included grading of cellar floors for mason contractors. Those efforts led to the construction of foundations and completing various concrete work in the private sector. This also was a time when Ken Lindstrom, an engineer and graduate of Purdue University, joined the firm as the company prepared to compete for more challenging public construction.
J.H. Reid’s first public contract involved the construction of a $30,000 pumping station in West Orange, N.J., during the early 1960’s. This work was followed by the construction of a bridge in Branchburg and similar work followed in Wayne, Paramus and other towns in northern New Jersey. At about this time, John Leslie came on board to assist in the growth of the company.
With success in constructing municipal bridges, Reid moved on to county bridge work. The youthful entrepreneur’s attitude was “A bridge is a bridge, some county bridges are just larger.” Over the next two decades, J.H. Reid successfully completed the construction of approximately 35 bridges in Sussex, Bergen, Somerset, Union and Mercer counties.
During the first decade in business, Reid received considerable support from his wife, mother and father. He initially operated his business from the family home in West Orange and then continued to do so from his own house. Reid’s mother, Alice, assisted the company for about 30 years, handling various administrative and financial duties for the firm.
Over several decades, J.H. Reid completed a variety of work. In addition to pumping station and bridge projects, the company completed several large and challenging flood control projects in Woodbridge Township and Hamilton Township. This work was followed by the construction of the NJ Transit Harrison Rail Yard and Bridge. The Reid firm also completed numerous bridge foundation projects for the Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley Railroads which predated N.J. Transit.
There were years when the J.H. Reid firm also completed road, bridge and airport work in locations outside New Jersey. Road and bridge projects were completed in Wilmington and Dover, Del., while a major project was constructed at the Stewart Air Force Base in New York.
This project included the concrete paving of taxiways and parking lots. Even more memorable concrete work was the unique concrete paving train that the Reid firm employed in the 40 mi. stretch of concrete paving for the new Interstate 287 in northern New Jersey.
The last 20 years have been especially busy for J.H. Reid. During this time, the firm has successfully completed 25 challenging, multi-million dollar construction projects that have included bridges, Interstates, state highways and NJ Turnpike roadways and bridges. Work also has involved projects for NJ Transit, Ocean County, Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., Rahway Valley Sewage Authority and projects at the World Trade Center.
J.H. Reid completed two Montclair Connection projects for N.J. Transit that involved the construction of the Great Notch Rail Yard and the new Bay Street Station in Montclair. The firm also constructed the new Mantoloking Bridge over Barnegat Bay for Ocean County and completed a major rehabilitation of the Bay Head Rail Yard for N.J. Transit.
Each project required some unique phased construction to deal with various environmental constraints.
Two years ago J.H. Reid began work on the replacement of the Route 36/Highlands Bridge — the largest contract ever for the company, with a value of approximately $130 million. The work involves constructing two new segmental superstructures with a channel clearance of 65 ft.. This project involves several phases of construction with a focus on traffic control and should be substantially complete by December of this year.
A number of key personnel, besides Lindstrom, and Leslie, have contributed to the success of the J.H. Reid firm over the years.
Eric Reid, Jim’s son, now president, has worked with the firm since 1988 and now is responsible for its continued progress. Ken Lindstrom Jr. is a carpenter foreman who has been with the company for about 25 years, while Kevin Brennan, vice president of engineering, and Peter Alley, project engineer, have been with J.H. Reid for more than 20 years each.
Al Peterman, J.H. Reid’s first civil engineer, was with the firm for 10 years, while Charles Arteglier, Richard Gifford and Bob Ely were with the company for many years when some of the early bridges were completed. David Reid, an ironworker foreman has been with the firm for 13 years.
Tom Reid, another son of Jim Reid, operates Reid Recycling which has been involved in wood and top soil recycling since its inception in 1996.
Jim Reid has come a long way since handling that first shovel and wheelbarrow 50 years ago. Through the years he has gained the respect of all those involved in the industry and has positioned his firm for continued success in the future.
This story was reprinted with permission from Utility and Transportation Contractor Magazine, August 2010, Volume XXXV, Number 4.
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