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N.J. Contractor Grows Through Careful Diversification

Thu August 30, 2012 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Here’s a challenge faced by every contractor: How do you expand your business in a rapidly changing market place? For Ken Jacobsen, one of the owners of Nordic Contracting, it is to diversify the company while carefully identifying new avenues for growth.

“We first focus on being as service oriented as possible for the customer,” said Jacobsen. “We’re more flexible and go out of our way to demonstrate to customers our full line of services.”

For more than 18 years, Nordic Contracting has specialized in site development, concrete foundations and general contracting services. While the company name — Nordic — is a nod to brothers Ken and John Jacobsen’s Norwegian decent, the construction business has been in the Jacobsen’s family for three generations. The principles of this Ledgewood, N.J., based company are Ken Jacobsen, secretary and treasurer; brother John Jacobsen, president; and partner Ted Vitcusky, vice president. Working primarily within central and northern New Jersey, the company’s diverse portfolio of projects includes data centers, educational institutions, sports stadiums, pharmaceutical companies, retail space, housing infrastructure and train stations, to name a few. Over the years, the company has enjoyed great success thanks, in part, to employees operating by the Nordic Code of Conduct: integrity, quality, hardworking team and dependability.

Equipment that Diversifies

Along With the Business

Owning a fleet of 40 Cat machines and 40 attachments, the company has worked on large-scale projects such as the Giants training facility, the new Meadowlands Stadium foundation and the expansion of the Rutgers University football stadium.

As Nordic expands into new industries, the company relies on longtime equipment partner, Foley Inc., its local Caterpillar dealer. The two companies have done business together since Nordic first opened for business. Foley Heavy Equipment Sales Consultant Bill Grater has worked with Nordic since the beginning. He credits their innovative approach as the secret to their success over the years.

“Nordic has survived the recession due to the diversified business they have built. In addition to the Cat equipment, they own two concrete pump trucks and various concrete equipment to handle their contracting demands. Ken Jacobsen is one of the most thorough buyers of equipment I have dealt with. He really takes the time to research what equipment will be better to effectively complete his contracting commitments. We have developed a great relationship over the years which I will cherish for many years to come,” Grater said.

Most recently, Nordic has taken advantage of Foley Rents.

“We are heavily involved with the rental division today. Foley has met a lot of those needs for us with the help of Ryan Foley, as well as our Foley Account Representative Brett Barratt. Foley Rent works well for us, helping us expand our services to meet the needs of our customers,” Jacobsen said.

Nordic rents all types of equipment, from Cat excavators to dozers. Renting helps Nordic eliminate maintenance costs like service work, tooling, spare parts and storage costs. Supplementing Nordic’s core fleet on an “as needed” basis, renting quality Cat equipment from Foley Rents also ensures having the right equipment, whenever and wherever it’s needed.

When it comes to its own fleet, Nordic has no intention of cutting back on maintenance. The company operates a service lube truck and mechanic shop, assuring equipment stays in top shape, Jacobsen said.

“We keep a well-maintained fleet and haven’t held back on preventative maintenance at all.We do call Foley for parts and additional service work.”

Eric Cliff, Foley customer support representative, agreed that Nordic Contracting has not cut back on fleet maintenance. In fact, it has done the opposite.

“With the change in the economy, Nordic has focused on machine reliability and productivity, which equates to uptime,” said Cliff. ”This has forced Nordic to look closer at its fleet. They are trying to repair before failure, versus repair after failure.”

Foley Resident Technicians

To help prevent equipment failure, Nordic recently hired a Foley resident technician to assist in several large repairs. A Foley resident technician comes prepared with a fully equipped service truck, diagnostic and hand tools, and saves the customer travel time, mileage and the added expense of transferring machines. One of Foley’s technicians spent a few weeks at Nordic’s facility, and in the field, working on its large Cat fleet.

“This was a very good business decision for Nordic since they had a small backlog of repairs,” said Cliff.

“As Nordic’s construction parts and service representative, I work closely with owner Ken Jacobsen, as well as with both mechanics, Kevin and Chris. Everyone at Nordic is highly professional and knowledgeable. At times we get into or onto a machine to collectively determine the best way to proceed. Nordic and Foley also share knowledge and camaraderie while participating in EMCA [Equipment Management Council of America].We have bounced many ideas around over the years and look forward to continuing our partnership for many years to come.”

Nordic Contracting is using a notable strategy: careful diversification for growing the business. Although it sounds simple enough, choosing new products, methods and services can be a difficult task. By staying focused, Nordic has been better suited to survive the uncertain economy.

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This article was reprinted with permission from PayDirt Magazine Winter 2012 issue.

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