A wet job site does not dampen the interest of P&D Construction of Vineland, N.J. In fact, it’s their specialty.
P&D Construction has been doing water, sewer and stormwater pipe work in southern New Jersey since it was founded 15 years ago.
“We focus on the deeper, wet excavations in the shore areas,” said Bob Perna, who founded the company with his brother, Anthony Perna. “We do a lot of dewatering.”
Bob and Anthony Perna were no strangers to the earthmoving business when they formed P&D Construction in 1991. Their father, Bob Perna Sr., had formed his own company, Perna Excavating, in the mid-1960s.
“Because our father had the business, and we both grew up around earthmoving, it was just kind of natural for us. That’s what we know,” said Bob Jr. “When we were kids, we worked on the jobs in the summertime.”
After working various construction jobs, Bob and Anthony decided to go into business for themselves.
“We’ve always done the pipe work,” noted Bob. “We’ve evolved with that and now we specialize in sewer and water.”
“P&D also installs the sanitary pump stations,” added Rob Finnigan, who manages the business side of the company. “Obviously, when we’re working along the shore, it’s wetter and the conditions are unique. We’re geared for the dewatering that needs to be done and we have more pumps than you can count to keep on top of that. We’re familiar and comfortable with that — the soil conditions and everything that goes along with it.”
The Pernas credited Finnigan for the significant growth P&D has experienced in the past five years.
“When Rob came here in 2001, he brought a lot of business sense to the office operation,” Bob explained. “The last five years have accelerated more quickly in terms of our growth and our focus compared to what we accomplished in the first 10 or 12 years.”
“During the last five years we’ve turned around and grown,” agreed Anthony, who oversees much of the work in the field. “We’re on a record pace this year.”
Some big jobs have helped to get them there. For instance, a recent job had crews replacing 2,000 ft. (610 m) of sewer and water lines in the town of Wildwood.
“A unique aspect of that job was that part of the road was contaminated,” said Bob. “Three gas stations there had soil contamination, so we had to put a filtration system in to filter the ground water as we were dewatering. We had to treat it before discharging it.”
“None of the area businesses thought we were going to make it,” recalled Anthony. “It was a very, very sensitive thing because the project was on the main street in Wildwood. Everybody was really worried.”
“We did almost a million dollars worth of work there in six weeks,” Bob added.
More recently, P&D had to complete 10,000 ft. (3,048 m) of pipe work on five streets in Cape May in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
“We started right after Christmas,” said Anthony. “We were installing sewer, water and storm. It was a big job to complete in a short period of time. Then we did another tough job in Margate City on Madison Avenue. That’s another project we had to finish and open up for Memorial Day weekend.”
P&D also handles emergency work if there’s a water main break or sewer collapse.
“We were working in Cape May and Margate City this year when they had some collapses. We were able to mobilize and act right away,” reported Anthony. “When there is a collapse, the key is who can get there the most quickly and take care of it.”
“We work closely with city engineers and try to help them out when we can,” Finnigan added.
That kind of work builds relationships that can pay future dividends in the communities where they do business. The vast majority of P&D’s jobs are for public entities, whether it be city, county or state.
Equipment Aids Success
To handle those jobs, P&D Construction receives plenty of help from its six Komatsu tight-tail swing excavators from Binder Machinery Company, including two PC40s, a PC50, a PC78, a PC158 and a PC228.
Finnigan said the equipment makes a big difference in the tight-space work in which the company frequently finds itself.
“For example, Cape May is an old, historic town with many narrow streets,” Finnigan pointed out. “You don’t have room to swing. We often have jobs like that where space is at a premium, so these machines are ideal. That’s the beauty of the tight tail swing — we can get a bigger machine into a smaller area.”
In addition to the six Komatsu excavators, P&D also owns a Komatsu WA200 wheel loader and frequently rents equipment from Binder. The company currently has a PC308 excavator on rental, which it may soon convert to a purchase if the work load justifies it.
“We demo’d the PC308 against a competitive machine and the operators liked the Komatsu machine better,” Bob reported. “The Komatsu excavator was much quieter inside and had much more room inside the cab.
“When we need a machine, we call our sales representative Patrick Warren and he gets us what we want, when we want it,” Bob commented. “I know I can depend on him and on Binder.”
P&D’s Komatsu machinery has also demonstrated dependability. “We’ve had the two PC40s since 2001,” Anthony explained. “Other than basic maintenance and basic wear, they have never let us down.”
P&D officials said the service Binder Machinery Company provides has been just as reliable. Machines that are not operating mean money lost, so they need to be up and running to be productive. Shawn Mulvenna is the Binder product support representative who serves P&D.
“Binder has good service, and when something goes wrong, they get on the job quickly,” Bob reported. “Service is the important thing. Our equipment is the lifeblood of our business. We don’t do anything without it, and if we can’t count on the service from the distributor, then it just won’t work. We can count on Binder.”
P&D Construction also has a group of quality employees it counts on. The company currently has four crews and approximately 30 employees. Anthony’s brother-in-law, Ed Snodgrass, runs the shop. Marcia Haines works in the office and handles payroll and accounts payable. Teresa Gerbereux deals with contract administration, receivables and billings.
Finnigan said keeping a close eye on job costs and adding quality employees have been fundamental to P&D’s growth.
“Good people make the difference,” Finnigan insisted. “If you have good people, you’re going to get good work. We’ve managed to assemble four great crews. When it’s slow, we would rather pay them to sit at home than have them potentially go somewhere else. Our people have had the biggest impact on our growth and productivity.”
The company handles 25 to 30 projects a year ranging from $200,000 to $4 million. The future may offer more opportunities for growth, but P&D officials said they’re comfortable with the company’s current size.
“Right now, I think we’re at a size where we can still manage the bidding, keep our finger on the pulse of the jobs, and know the faces of the people who are working out there,” said Finnigan. “I don’t know that we’d want to be a company where the management and the work don’t necessarily cross. In order to be successful, we have to know what we’re doing out there and I don’t think we would be very comfortable moving away from that.”
A New Name
One thing P&D Construction is moving away from is the name of the company. At the end of the year, Finnigan is becoming a partner, and the name of the company will change to Perna Finnigan Incorporated, or PFI.
But the level of service everyone has come to expect from P&D Construction will remain the same.
“We’re good people and we do good work,” stated Finnigan. “We work as a family. If business is good, it’s good for everybody, not just those of us running the company. It would be easy when times are good to just load up our pockets and not worry about everybody else, but that’s not going to help us in the long run because when times are bad, that’s when we need people to help us out.”
Fortunately, for P&D Construction, the past few years have been good. As the company moves forward as PFI, it expects the good times to continue.
(This article appears courtesy of “Building With Binder” magazine.)