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Mon August 21, 2017 - Northeast Edition #17
The Gorman Group has a story to tell.
This combination highway construction and materials company has run continuously for the past 100 years and plans to keep to the open road for many more years to come.
From early 20th century beginnings of dirt roads traversed by horse and buggy riders to paved roads and interstate highways, The Gorman Group has adapted, experimented, innovated and survived. The company continues moving the business forward into the 21st century.
As a centenarian company, The Gorman Group has adjusted its methods, materials, equipment, and technology to keep pace with the development of U.S. roads over the past 100 years.
Starting with just two workers, brothers Albert and Walter Gorman in 1917, the company now ranges from 215 to 300 employees during the working season.
A third-generation family-owned company, brothers Mark and Tony Gorman have been running the business for almost 30 years.
“We've got a family tradition and a good name. We've got a great brand and the people make the business. We've got a great group of people,” said Tony.
“It was the only thing I've ever wanted to do,” said Mark. “It's really a labor of love.”
“Since I've been in the business, about two-thirds of the family-run highway companies that existed when I got into the business are no longer there in the industry in general. There has been a lot of consolidation. There's a lot of third-generation that are simply not going into the business,” Tony said.
“We've [the company] made it through the Depression and circumstances in the market. We've developed new products, price points; we've integrated in terms of buying raw materials. It wasn't without risk. We've made a lot of good strategic relationships with customers and suppliers and other people in the industry,” said Tony.
“I think the original vision of the company was survival,” said Tony. “I think the vision for the company now is to be the best highway construction company in the world. We're innovative. We love working on new technology. We're not just a heavy highway construction company.
“We work for over 700 municipalities year in and year out. We've got a great sales team in the field. We're totally integrated in terms of our product.
“I think my father had the vision of getting into the wholesale asphalt business and trucking. So, I do believe we fulfilled my father's vision in setting-up the Rensselaer Terminal,” said Mark.
In 2014, The Gorman Group was deemed a best in class company, according to benchmarking data by a national consultant.
“Our customers are year-in, year-out, repeat business. You have to be able to execute and guarantee your work. We have the reputation. We've always guaranteed our work,” said Tony.
“We're a best in class company. Our end goal is working toward being a world class company. That's our long-term goal,” said Senior Vice President and COO Kevin Nichols.
Senior Vice President and CFO Joe Farone said that the company's ability to adapt to change has become a survival skill for the company.
“The only thing that is constant is change. We're open to it and embrace it; we're not satisfied with the status quo. We're always looking for innovative ideas on how we can improve our processes,” Farone said.
The Gorman Group utilizes cold in place recycling (CIPR), which is a green and cost effective method to revitalize the upper 1.5 to 4 in. of road surface. It can eliminate wheel ruts, cracking, and in many cases, replace both grade and slope.
Along with CIPR, The Gorman Group has amassed a long list of products and services offered over the years, including micro surfacing, paver placed surface treatment (PPST), full depth reclamation (FDR), FiberMat, chip seal, cold mix paving, crack seal and fog seal. The company is a supplier of asphalt cement, asphalt emulsions and calcium patch materials.
The Gorman Group has been able to stay on the road to success, although not without challenges.
“We've tried a lot of different things,” said Tony. “We're certainly human. Anyone that's lasted this long has arrows in their backs, especially if they've been innovative. We've got our share of them.”
“It's been a steady climb,” said Tony. “In the late 1990's we put up our wholesale facility terminal where we would bring in ships and barges of asphalt by water. That was a big move on our part in terms of the wholesale business. We've done very well with that supply. We supply plants with asphalt to make the blacktop in upstate New York and New England. We're integrated to the point that now we supply the people who make the blacktop but we also have our crews that go out and work directly for municipalities in pavement maintenance techniques.”
While there may not be a Gorman family recipe for company success, Mark Gorman mentioned a few in a long list of ingredients that the company has refined in the mix over the years.
“It just had a lot to do with marketing, research, getting a maintenance plan in place and quality control,” said Mark.
The family legacy has become part of the framework that defines the company.
“One of our most important objectives is to maintain the company legacy,” said Vice President of Sales Kim Wilson. “Working for a third-generation family business means that there is a lot of tradition, as well as pride in how far the business has come. We will continue to invest in our people and operations to keep that going. Due to our diverse backgrounds and strengths, our sales team really provides the highest level of service. We understand and partner with our customers versus trying to sell them.”
Third generation workers at The Gorman Group are not reserved for just the owners, as attested by Gorman employees Dick, Doug and Brian Jones, (grandfather, father and son, respectively.)
“I really enjoy the people that I work with. You're not just a number, you're family. I do hold it as my Gorman family. Having the family ties of third-generation means quite a bit to me,” said Brian Jones.
“When I first went to work, Albert Gorman [Mark and Tony's father] was the chief executive. There's a family atmosphere. Everybody's goal was to improve the company and that's what I think we've accomplished. It started with Mr. Gorman, [Albert], but Mark and Tony are just driven. They insist on things being clean and neat. When you're proud of the company and the owners have that type of pride, I think that does contribute quite a bit,” added Doug Jones.
Vice President of Supply and Distribution Ed House has been working for The Gorman Group since 1994. House has experience working with the large rail siding facility at the Port of Rensselaer Terminal.
“I like the industry here, the asphalt side of it that I'm in,” House said. “The Gorman company is innovative. They're willing to expand, to take chances, to make the investments that are necessary to grow.”
“It's a good family atmosphere. They give you the authority to do what you have to do to run your side of the business. They continue to invest in the terminal, keeping things modernized and state-of-the-art,” added House.
“I look forward going to work every day. Even though there are challenges, it doesn't feel like it's a job. I came from the corporate world into this family business and it's been extremely rewarding to know you make a difference and have a voice. The connections I've made working here aren't just business relationships, but friendships,” said Wilson.
“My coworkers are great. It's not just a job, it's a part of my life and what I do. It feels like you're a part of the team here. We all have a common goal and believe in the success of the company,” said Farone.
A 100-year anniversary celebration to commemorate the company milestone is tentatively scheduled for September 2017.