Tomco Construction, a former lawn care company, has evolved into one of New Jersey’s leading site-development contractors
When Tom Schoonmaker started a lawn-mowing/landscape maintenance business in his hometown of Parsippany, NJ, in 1978, he had no idea he would one day employ more than 60 people in a highly-diversified, full-service contracting firm. Back then, all Schoonmaker was trying to do was make a living.
“I was happy doing what I was doing,” Schoonmaker recalled. “I can’t say I even had a business plan, let alone visions of grandeur. Certainly, I hoped to get more customers and grow the business over time, but as for expanding in the way we have, it was more a case of seizing opportunity than pursuing a plan. One thing led to another and we never looked back.”
Today, Tomco Construction is best known for its commercial site-development work, which covers all aspects of a project, including clearing and grading, mass earthwork, utilities, paving and landscaping.
“Basically, we take a raw site and tailor it to the specific needs of the client,” said Schoonmaker. “One of our strengths is that we do virtually everything in-house with our own personnel. Because of that, we’re in control of quality and scheduling, which are two of the most important things to our clients.”
On private commercial projects, Tomco works almost exclusively for two large development firms. Tomco, which works throughout northern New Jersey as well as neighboring parts of New York and Pennsylvania, also does site work (athletic/recreation fields are a specialty) and road work for governmental agencies.
In addition to its contracting work, Tomco also has a material supply company, Tomco Landscape Supply, which sells screened soils and recycles concrete from its yards in Wharton and Jefferson.
Standing Out Among the Crowd
Among recent large projects, a couple of jobs in the township of Vernon, NJ, stand out for Schoonmaker.
“Vernon has undertaken a number of community improvement projects and we were awarded about $7 million worth of work there,” he said. “One job was to put in some soccer/multipurpose recreational fields with artificial turf. We did the excavation, grading, drainage, parking lots and stadium lights.
“Our other project in Vernon was part of what’s called the ’Main Street Project,’ which essentially connects the Vernon town center to the state and county road system. We performed all the earthwork, structural underpinning, water, storm and sanitary and installed a major underground detention pond system to collect water runoff that will be generated by the new road.”
Other recent significant projects include demolishing an old bridge and building a new one on Brass Castle Road in Warren County, and reconstructing Maple Lake Road in Butler. The Butler job was challenging for Tomco because the area was severely sloped, requiring the installation of large retaining walls before work on the road could begin.
“We take a lot of pride in being able to do ’out-of-the-ordinary’ projects,” said Schoonmaker. “We have many people who have a considerable amount of expertise and creativity and they enjoy the challenging projects.
“Beyond that, we’re a very organized and systems-oriented company, which allows us to consistently deliver a quality project,” he added.
“Whether they’re private developers or city officials, our customers have expectations, time frames and budgets that are very important to them. Because of the way we systematically approach each job, we have a very good record of delivering high-quality projects, on time and within budget, and that’s one of the big reasons we have a large number of repeat customers.”
To successfully complete large, fast-track projects, Schoonmaker relies on an experienced and talented work force. Key personnel include Controller Rick Hardenbergh, Accountant Kathy Ascoli, Contracts Administrator Jim Leech, Project Superintendents Randy Gardella and Bill Battaglia, Project Building Superintendent Cy Amato, Operations Manager Heath Najjar, Project Managers Charles D’Alesandro and Ralph Mazzarella, and Estimator Joe Greenaway. Kim Coppola manages Tomco Landscape Supply.
“We believe our management personnel are among the best in the business,” said Schoonmaker. “Our operators and laborers are also topnotch. We pride ourselves on everybody on our team — field, office staff and management — all being on the same page and working together as a team. We believe that philosophy is a major factor in our success.”
Family members also play a key role in Tomco. In the early days, Schoonmaker’s wife, Janet, ran the office and handled all the paperwork. Today, she serves as vice president/treasurer. Their son, Tom Schoonmaker Jr. is general superintendent of Tomco Construction.
“It’s very gratifying to have family members involved,” said Schoonmaker. “In addition to Tom, another son Bryan works here during the summer. Beyond just having them around and knowing that they’ll always do what’s best for the company, they’re good workers. Tom oversees most of what we do and is responsible for all of our equipment, which is a vital aspect of our business. Tom is instrumental in helping supply our project managers and superintendents with all their manpower, material and equipment needs.”
Teaming Up With Binder
For much of its equipment needs, Tomco turns to Binder Machinery Company and Sales Representative Robert Fornini.
The Tomco fleet includes five Komatsu hydraulic excavators (two PC400s, a PC270, a tight-tail-swing PC228USLC-3 and a compact PC78MR-2); three Komatsu wheel loaders, including a new WA380-5; and a Komatsu D61PX-15 dozer. The company also rents and leases numerous pieces of heavy equipment from Binder as its projects require.
“Komatsus are our primary earthmoving machines,” said Schoonmaker. “We like them because they’re reliable, productive, reasonably priced and they last a long time. We got our first Komatsu, a PC200, in 1982, and we just recently sold it. It was a great machine for us. The productivity we got for all those years — that tells you why we like Komatsu.”
Tomco also has Ingersoll Rand soil compactors from Binder as well as two Metso-Nordberg mobile screeners (an ST356 and an ST170) and a new Metso-Nordberg LT1213S mobile crusher.
“The crusher has worked well for us and we’re excited because it’s going to be the key piece in our recycling efforts,” said Schoonmaker. “We use it for our own purposes, to crush concrete that we can reuse back on the job or sell. As things progress, we intend to take in concrete from other outside sources and crush it as well.”
Schoonmaker also appreciates the support he gets from Binder.
“Parts and service are fantastic. Their sales people are extremely helpful and responsive, and have become good friends over the years. We really appreciate that Binder is very aggressive in finding the most attractive financing package for us. Equipment is expensive, so getting the most favorable rates and terms is significant, and we think Binder is the best in that regard.”
Meeting Customers’ Needs
Tomco has grown and diversified considerably since its founding more than 25 years ago. Schoonmaker said future growth will depend on the economy and on how well the company continues to meet the needs of its customer base.
“Business has been good for the last few years, nice and steady. We’re hopeful it will continue that way, but of course, we don’t have any control over the economy. What we can control is what we do and how we do it.
“Our goal is to provide our customers with a fair price and outstanding quality. We will continue to diversify as necessary to meet the needs of our customers. If we need more skills, more equipment or more people, we’ll get them. Eventually, I think we’ll probably settle in at a size that’s manageable for us, yet big enough to handle everything our clients expect.”