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Trenton’s IEW Construction Changes With Changing Times

Fri October 22, 2010 - Northeast Edition

Komatsu equipment is easy to find at an IEW Construction Group jobsite, including the Komatsu PC308USLC and PC228USLC tight-tail-swing excavators seen here. “For what we do, we think the Komatsu line is the best fit in terms of performance, producti
Komatsu equipment is easy to find at an IEW Construction Group jobsite, including the Komatsu PC308USLC and PC228USLC tight-tail-swing excavators seen here. “For what we do, we think the Komatsu line is the best fit in terms of performance, producti

In 1925, Vaughan Grundy started a company called Ornamental Iron Works, which, as the name implies, fabricated and installed ornamental iron. Its work can still be seen at Masonic temples, churches, homes and schools in and around the company’s home base of Trenton, N.J.

Through the years, Ornamental Iron Company evolved into a structural steel company, then into a firm that did a lot of manufacturing plant work (which is when the name changed to Industrial Engineering Works, which later became IEW), and eventually into heavy highway work, including bridge building.

“One of our strengths has been our willingness to change focus, to do something different — whatever we had to do — in order to foster continued growth,” said third-generation President Vaughan Grundy III, who followed his father and grandfather in ownership of the family business. “When a market becomes soft, we’re willing and able to move into new markets that seem to be heating up.

“For example, in the 1960s and 1970s, Industrial Engineering Works focused on the nuclear power industry, and also fabricated and installed very heavy steel work,” Grundy explained. “By the mid-1970s, the nuclear work was pretty much coming to an end. That coincided with the national emphasis on transportation infrastructure work — construction and repair of roads and bridges — so it was natural for us to move into that area.”

“We follow the money,” is the way IEW Vice President Darrell Harms puts it. “Our crews are cross-trained and highly skilled so they’re able to take on a wide range of projects. For example, much of our bridge work includes a substantial amount of site work and we’re able to perform all aspects of the job in-house, with our own people. We think that’s an advantage for us and our clients.”

Today, with more than 250 employees, IEW is widely recognized as one of New Jersey’s leading full-service contracting firms. Bridge building remains a specialty (the company builds or rehabs about 50 bridges each year), but IEW is capable of doing almost any type of construction-related work, including general construction, site work and excavation, marine construction, plant maintenance, metal fabrication and emergency services.

The Early Years

Some of IEW’s notable early projects included such New Jersey landmarks as the War Memorial, the State House Annex, the State Museum, Rockefeller Institute in Princeton, Trenton Central High School, Lawrenceville School, several Princeton University projects and the heavy guard rails for the Trenton Makes Bridge.

One memorable project as the company began doing bridge work was the replacement of the deck on the Burlington-Bristol Bridge over the Delaware River. Grundy said IEW used an innovative technique that was virtually unknown at the time, but has since become commonplace.

“We chose to pre-assemble components consisting of the structural steel, the concrete deck, the hand railing — the whole section,” he remembered. “We cut sections of the bridge out and, overnight, we’d drop the pre-assembled section in so the bridge was open to traffic in the morning. That technique is now routine, but that was the first time it had ever been done in the U.S.”

Other projects illustrate the full circle of accomplishments throughout the long history of IEW Construction Group. In 2003, IEW demolished a damaged pedestrian bridge over Route 38 serving Cherry Hill Mall. IEW had originally fabricated and erected the structure in 1966. And in 2005, IEW did the structural steel work for the renovation of the War Memorial in Trenton — the same historic structure for which Grundy’s company had the original steel contract when it was constructed some 80 years earlier.

Widening the New

Jersey Turnpike

The most recent example of IEW’s ability and willingness to transition into new markets is the large amount of work it’s now doing for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. The Turnpike Authority has an aggressive widening program that will add six traffic lanes (for a total of 12 lanes) between Interchange 6 in Mansfield Township and Interchange 9 in East Brunswick Township — a distance of about 35 miles. The five-year, $2.5 billion project, designed to improve traffic flow and accommodate a projected large increase in future traffic volume, started last year and will be completed in 2014.

To date, IEW has won four different contracts worth more than $125 million as part of the Turnpike Widening Program. The company’s work includes construction of 11 bridges and a substantial amount of highway work, from earthwork to drainage improvements to culvert extensions to MSE (mechanically stabilized earth) walls.

“While the percentage of site work versus structure work is somewhat higher than is typical for us, doing site work is not new to IEW,” said Director of Business Development James Snyder. “There’s an element of that on most of our jobs. Where the Turnpike widening really falls in line with our strengths is the combination of a wide variety of tasks and the requirement to get it done in a short time frame. We pride ourselves on our ability to take on complicated projects with an accelerated schedule and complete them on-time and on-budget.”

Komatsu and Binder Are ’Excellent Partners’

Challenging projects require topnotch machinery, which is why IEW Construction Group utilizes a primarily Komatsu fleet, along with other equipment, from Binder Machinery Company. IEW owns more than 30 Komatsu units including Komatsu excavators ranging in size from PC78s to PC400s; Komatsu WA200, WA320 and WA380 wheel loaders; Komatsu D31, D39, D41, D61 and D65 dozers and Komatsu WB140 backhoe loaders.

“Our equipment purchases are obviously performance-based,” said IEW Equipment Manager Jim Pennell. “We look for machines that are productive and reliable, that our operators like to operate and that our mechanics like to work on. Komatsu equipment fits the bill on all counts. We especially like Komatsu tight-tail-swing machines, such as the PC228s and PC308s, because we can put a machine that has a large lifting capacity in a small work zone.”

“We turn to Binder for the vast majority of our equipment, not just for Komatsu, but also for Hamm rollers, compressors and a Kobelco crane that we got about a year ago,” said Harms. “The 100-ton Kobelco CK1000 has been a great addition for our bridge work.

“Binder Machinery has been an excellent partner to IEW through the years,” he added. “We have seen considerable growth in the last decade. When we first started needing earthmoving machinery, we were conservative in our approach to equipment acquisition, and Binder was willing to work with us. We appreciated that and we’ve been loyal to them. They, in turn, have been an excellent partner, delivering high-quality products and outstanding support.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called our Binder Sales Rep Harry Rice after hours or on weekends and told him I needed something first thing the next morning or Monday morning, and it’s always there,” related Pennell. “Harry and everybody at Binder understand our situation. They know how important it is to us that our equipment works every day.

“They take great care to keep us up and running and to help us in any way they can, and that means a lot to us.”

Infrastructure Opportunities

With the Turnpike project in full swing, IEW has a large amount of work right now. That’s a testament to a strong, aggressive, forward-thinking management team led by Executive Vice President Harry Coleman, Vice President Robert Tampellini and Controller John Dempsey, along with Grundy, Harms and Snyder. Together they have worked with all of the valued employees of IEW to get the company to where it is today.

“With the Turnpike work, we’re in good shape for the next couple of years and we’re very thankful for that,” said Harms. “During that time, we hope that the economy will turn and we’ll see more private work as well as more state funding for needed infrastructure repairs.”

“There’s no question that opportunities for future projects exist, as long as the necessary funding is in place,” said Snyder. “Government officials understand the need and so does the general public. They also understand that public works projects do more than improve infrastructure; they also generate jobs and jobs are how we’re going to build our way out of this economic slump.”

Grundy said he believes IEW is well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities in the years to come. And with three young sons and a daughter at home, he’s hopeful this longtime family business will extend to a fourth generation.

“I’m very proud of the work our company has done. Many of the projects we build are statements. They’re something people will drive by and see for the next 80 years, just like the projects that our earlier generations built before us. It’s a family legacy and a company legacy, and we certainly intend to continue it in the years and decades to come.”

This story was reprinted from Building With Binder, September 2010.