MA Construction Firm Makes Rare Expansion Into Blasting

Thu October 06, 2005 - Northeast Edition
Kate Zanoni

Over the past 60 years, the construction firm John J. Paonessa Company Inc. in Massachusetts has had a “blast” working in the industry.

The company, which services northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, has expanded its business from municipal and roadwork to large commercial and residential site work, including drilling and blasting. And recently, it started a new division based in Lowell, MA, called Precision Drilling and Blasting, which offers custom crushing in addition to rock blasting.

It is unusual for a general contractor to expand into the drilling and blasting arena, but President John Paonessa Jr. said that the move has been beneficial.

“We are no longer at the mercy of independent blasters to schedule their work for us,” he said. “In addition, we have been able to offer a service to other area contractors.”

Blasting contractors often do not offer custom crushing, so this combined service is more convenient and economical for northern New England contractors, Paonessa added.

Moving Ahead of the Clock

Paonessa’s company is currently working in Meuthen, MA, at the Summit Place apartment complex. Work there will include 11 buildings with 480 luxury apartment units and a clubhouse.

The company will perform all the site excavation, utility installation, retaining wall construction, road construction and hydroseeding. Because there is very little rock on this site, Precision Drilling and Blasting will not be needed.

The $6-million project began in May 2005 and is scheduled for completion in April 2007. Eighty-five percent of the project will be completed by December 2005.

On this 30-acre (12.1 ha) site, 300,000 yds. (274,320 m) of material will be moved with 100,000 yds. (91,440 m) being recycled and reused on site. The remaining 200,000 yds. (182,880 m) of material will be removed from the job site.

Approximately 5 to 6 mi. (8 to 9.7 km) of underground utilities are being laid and 40 cuts are being made in front of the property.

Originally planned to have 50 percent of the project completed at the end of 2005, Paonessa is running ahead of schedule and estimates to have completed 80 percent of the construction by the year’s end.

Bang for the Buck

The backbone of a construction equipment company and the majority of its value stems from its equipment inventory, said Paonessa.

“If the equipment is determining the worth of your company, how you purchase your equipment may be the most important thing that you do,” he said.

Paonessa said that his company does not purchase equipment based on the name painted on the side, but rather on the basis of dollar value.

“We want to get the job done as affordably as possible,” said Paonessa, who is less concerned with his equipment’s resale value.

While some companies look to make a ’quick buck’ on a machine’s resale, his firm focuses on the purchase of quality products for a lower price.

“We are not afraid to look for equipment at auctions and we regularly purchase new equipment from distributors or work out a rental purchase program … if the price is right,” said Paonessa.

Besides being cost-conscious, Paonessa also cautions against purchasing uncommon equipment that may be difficult to service, as product support and parts availability may be scarce.

To aid with his company’s demand for products, Paonessa has developed a strong working relationship with a local dealership, Tools-4-Hire of South Boston, MA.

Paonessa chose Tools-4-Hire as his primary equipment dealer because the company offers an extensive Liebherr product line, in which his firm has heavily invested.

“We have been able to purchase machines the right way that works with our formula for buying,” said Paonessa, who has recently purchased two Liebherr 564 loaders, one Liebherr 580 loader and a Liebherr 964 excavator from Tools-4-Hire.

Because one of the loaders had been out on a six-month snow removal job for Tools-4-Hire, Paonessa was able to purchase the machine at a lower price. The 580 loader also had been ordered before steel surcharges had started to affect the industry, which helped Paonessa save money.

Although Paonessa’s company had never previously purchased steel from Tools-4-Hire, he had established a relationship with Sales Manager Brian Smith from a company he had formerly worked with.

“[Smith] was aware of how we liked to buy and what motivates us. [He] was able to put the right package together for us,” said Paonessa.

“Keep in mind, it’s not just the prices that motivate us,” reiterated Paonessa. “We are very impressed with these machines, particularly the hydrostatic drive on the loaders.”

According to Paonessa, the loaders operate smoothly because there is no shifting, which allow his employees to work more efficiently.

“With the price of fuel these days, consumption is very important,” said Paonessa. “These loaders are using 40 percent less fuel than the machines they have replaced.”

That translates to an approximate savings of $100 a day per machine for Paonessa Inc.

In addition to fuel efficiency, the loaders’ hydrostatic operating system also cuts down on brake and tire wear.

“With the hydrostatic drive, we are getting better traction and less wheel spin,” said Paonessa, who finalized his equipment purchasing decision at this year’s ConExpo.

He also is impressed with his Liebherr 964 excavator due to its fast cycle time, breakout force and multiple digging modes.

“We also have a New Holland DC95 dozer on rent to purchase from Tools-4-Hire. The horsepower all hydrostatic-driven dozer has been very popular on the job site,” said Paonessa.

“Overall, we have been very pleased with the equipment, support and service [provided by] Tools-4-Hire,” he added. “In fact, I look forward to purchasing more equipment in time.”

Tools-4-Hire’s service and support has gone above and beyond Paonessa’s expectations.

“[Their] service and support has been phenomenal. We had a minor situation with one of the Liebherr machines and [Smith] showed up the next day with a factory representative to solve our problem,” said Paonessa.