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Relationships, Trust Drive Savannah Civil Sitework's Success

Thu April 06, 2023 - Northeast Edition #8

To meet the company’s excavating and earthmoving objectives, Peter Iwanicki needs a reliable fleet of excavating equipment.
(CEG photo)
To meet the company’s excavating and earthmoving objectives, Peter Iwanicki needs a reliable fleet of excavating equipment. (CEG photo)
To meet the company’s excavating and earthmoving objectives, Peter Iwanicki needs a reliable fleet of excavating equipment.
(CEG photo) Peter Iwanicki, owner, Savannah Civil Sitework
(CEG photo) Ideal for underground utility work, this Volvo ECR145DL is one of the Volvo workhorses in Savannah Civil Sitework’s excavator fleet.
(CEG photo)

Savannah Civil Sitework of Syracuse, N.Y., was founded in 2010 by Peter Iwanicki. Its market extends from Binghamton, N.Y., north to Watertown, N.Y., and from Rochester, N.Y., east to Utica, N.Y.

Iwanicki had a significant history in the industry prior to opening his own company, including decades doing site work for other central New York contractors. But he had long dreamed of owning his own civil excavating and site work company and, in 2010, the opportunities presented themselves to make it possible.

Peter Iwanicki, owner, Savannah Civil Sitework

The typical project for Savannah Civil Sitework involves managing the entirety of a project from the site clearing and utility installation to pouring the pads if necessary. Jobs usually cost upwards of $500,000.

Through years of working in the industry, Iwanicki had developed relationships and a strong reputation with developers throughout the central New York region. These same developers were willing to work with him right out of the gate when Savannah Civil Sitework was started, and as a result the company has generally had a strong book of business from day one.

Recent projects have included North Syracuse Storage, a high-rise storage complex that involved a huge undercut and a 6,000-ton granular pad and was completed last year. Another project in the works is a housing project in Cazenovia, N.Y., called Caz Barns Apartments, which involves access roads, utilities and four buildings each with 16 apartments. Iwanicki just completed a $1.3 million phase of the construction and is in the process of starting another $1.1 million phase.

Iwanicki has an optimistic outlook for the next couple of years of growth for his company, despite increasing interest rates. The Syracuse area has major infrastructure projects planned around Interstate 81 and the 481 beltway and there are some major industries moving into the area that could offset other economic impacts that would otherwise slow the economy.

In 2022, the company had a strong year, due in part to weather conditions. Unlike 2021, when rain was a factor most of the year, Mother Nature cooperated in 2022 and allowed projects to be completed in a far more efficient manner. For instance, at the Caz Barns Apartments project, the company moved 15,000 tons of material, which would not have been possible the previous year.

To meet their excavating and earthmoving objectives Iwanicki needs a reliable fleet of excavating equipment. For his excavators he uses Volvo from Alta Equipment, including a Volvo ECR235, a Volvo ECR220, a Volvo ECR200, a Volvo ECR145 and a Volvo ECR88.

When asked about his excavator fleet, Iwanicki replied, "If you are moving dirt, and putting in utility lines, obviously excavators are a key tool and very important to us. Most of our excavators are relatively new so it's hard to tell how they will hold up in the long run. However, we just traded in a 2014 Volvo 235 size machine for a new ECR235 that had held up very well for eight years."

Support and value are important parts of the equation, Iwanicki said, adding that parts availability has been great and has not been horribly impacted by the pandemic supply chain.

"The pricing has been good," he said. "We've heard a lot of nightmare stories of suppliers taking advantage of the pandemic and price gouging; that does not seem to have been the case at Volvo. The product itself gives us some strong assurances. The Volvo engine has a great reputation, and they offer a lifetime warranty on the undercarriage.

And while Iwanicki likes his Volvo machines a lot, not all of it has to do with the iron.

"A lot of the credit has to go the people," he said. "We deal regularly with the sales department and the service department on a personal level and how those relationships go has a lot to do with who we do business with. I can't say enough about how well we are treated at Alta Equipment.

"Our sales representative with Alta Equipment is John Dygert. He has been super. Very reliable and very personable, but more important is his role in the sale process. He will find the right size machine in the Volvo lineup to meet our needs and he will give us the sale price. But he will also allow us to negotiate to some extent. He's willing to go back to the dealership and keep working on our behalf until we are able to come to terms.

"We are in the business to make money and we understand that Alta has to make money as well. But being willing to show some flexibility and work on our behalf is important to us.

"In our business, down time kills you, and I will go back to that relationship with the service department. We were on a project at Hamilton College and had an issue with a key machine. I called Chip in the service department and asked him how long it would take him to get here and I was amazed at their response time. Alta Equipment truly understands how critical their machines are to our bottom line.

"One of my favorite expressions is that ‘I mean what I say, and I say what I mean.' When I talk to fellow contractors, I am often asked what I think. I let them know that we recommend Volvo and Alta Equipment with no reservations. I look at Alta Equipment and their business model and find that it is very similar to ours. I've been in this business for 42 years. I surround myself with experienced people, some of whom have been with me as many as 30 years. They take absolute pride in their work; they will never cut corners or deviate from a spec even if I am hurrying them to complete a project. We are always looking down the road to see what's coming, what could possibly go wrong, and letting our customer know so that he can get ahead of the curve. We are always willing to go the extra yard." CEG

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