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Welch Corp: An Eight Decade-Long Success Story of Post-War America

A hard-working family builds itself up, while for 80 years, building up the Boston area.

Wed August 13, 2014 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

The success story of the Welch Corp is the story of post-war America. It is the story of the American dream: A hard-working family building itself up, while for 80 years, building up the Boston area.

It is the legacy of fathers handing wisdom, experience and a career to sons, four times over.

Most people don’t know it, but when they see the high-rises and other notable structures, which dot the Boston skyline, they are often looking at a work by Welch.

“I’m proud to tell the story of my family’s long and honored tradition,” said Rich Welch, company foreman and the fourth generation of Welch’s still on site and in the field.

End of WWII, Start of Welch

Albert “Doc” Welch, Sr. and sons Albert “Albie” Welch, Jr. and John Welch founded this New England excavation and site work firm in 1945.

Decades of work and dedication to the Albert J. Welch Corp. and its affiliates helped ensure lasting success through the years, now approaching a ninth decade.

The founder, Albert Sr., was born in Brighton, Mass., 120 years ago.

A veteran of World War I, he served as a First Lieutenant of the U. S. Army in the European Theater. Honorably discharged in 1919, he married Eleanor Murphy in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1924 and had four children. For the next 20 years, he worked as a veterinarian throughout the Boston area.

Shortly after World War II, Welch traded bulls for bulldozers, cats for Caterpillars.

He started an excavation/site work business with his two sons, Albert Jr. and John. Working from just a small office over a drug store in Brighton Center, Welch and sons started work on small construction projects.

Throughout the 1950s the business steadily grew. With the help of Doc’s close friend, the renowned Cardinal Richard Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, the Albert J. Welch Corp started to take on larger commercial projects such as churches, hospitals and public buildings.

With each project success, the reputation of the company grew. Many clients came to rely on the Albert J. Welch Corp for quality excavation and site work. Welch actively participated in the company all of his life but as the 1960s approached, sons Albie and John assumed day-to-day management. Welch passed away in 1974 but left behind a family construction tradition that endures to 2014.

Second son John E. Welch, Sr. was born in 1928 in Brighton. He and wife Effie Bohannan were married for 58 years and together had seven children.

An accomplished heavy equipment operator, he estimated, supervised and ran equipment on many projects. In the 1950s and 60s, John Sr. was responsible for all aspects of the outside field operations and equipment acquisitions of the company. He became the president of the Albert J. Welch Corp when his Dad stepped away.

In the mid-1960s, the company was awarded the site work and excavation contract at what is known today as the Plymouth Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass. At the time, this was one of the largest site work projects on the east coast of the United States.

John’s experience and leadership was critical to the success of this large project. His two sons, John Jr. and Thomas currently work in the family business. John Sr. passed away in 2008, leaving behind many cherished memories to his business associates, children and grandchildren.

John’s partner and brother, Albert J. Welch, Jr. born in 1926 in Brighton, like his Dad, served America in wartime. With the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving in the Pacific Theater, seeing action on Iwo Jima. He was honorably discharged as a corporal in 1946. That same year, he married Irene Urbaczewski and together they had six children.

Albie went to work in the construction business with his father and brother at discharge. In the 1950s, Albie and John worked closely with their father to expand the services offered by the Albert J. Welch Corp.

Albie became vice president and treasurer in the 1960s. His work force increased substantially and the company moved to its present location on Electric Avenue in Brighton.

Albie oversaw the day-to-day operations of the office personnel. He worked closely with estimators, accountants, bankers and general contractors and was instrumental in the banking, bonding, insurance and financial aspects of the firm.

His three sons, Jim, David and Albert III, currently work in the family business. Albie died in 1998, leaving behind a grateful extended circle of family and friends.

Site Development, Excavation

The Welch Corp. has performed numerous site development projects throughout New England, such as Brown University, Women and Infants Hospital and the Rhode Island School of Design, along with projects in upstate New York, including R.P.I. in Troy, N.Y., and the Sheridan Hollow parking garage in Albany, N.Y., both for GC Turner of New York.

“We have worked on sites well over 100 acres in size. In our site development operation, we perform tree clearing, site preparation, site grading, building excavation, site utilities and paving,” said Welch. “To ensure the greatest of accuracy, we employ the latest in GPS satellite technology on all of our pieces of heavy equipment.”

The Welch Corp is a leader in deep hole urban excavation projects, according to the company.

“For over 60 years, we have been involved with the excavation of many of the signature buildings that make up the Boston skyline. We own and operate a large fleet of deep reach excavators,” said Welch. “We routinely perform mass excavation in excess of 60 ft. deep with production of over 5,000 cu. yds. per day.

“Recently, we completed the removal of over one-half million yards of material for a project located on the campus of Harvard University in Allston Massachusetts,” Welch said.

The Welch Corp performs all types of utility installation including water, sewer, drainage, electric, gas and fiber optic.

“Deep installation of utilities is one of our specialties. We employ a well-maintained fleet of mini and mid-size excavators, loader backhoes, trench boxes and slide rail systems to install the utilities,” said Welch. “We take great care to ensure any utility we install is done properly and safely.”

Welch Corp constructs many parking lots and roadways. They offer services that include milling and overlay, curb installation, new binder and top installation and seal-coating.

“Our machines are fully equipped with satellite GPS technology that allows us to construct parking lots and roadways to the exact specification required. Roads and parking lots are quickly paved, line striped so that owners can access them as soon as possible,” said Welch.

The Welch Corp employs a staff of full-time estimators and engineers using the latest in Topcon, Agtek, Bid2Win and Build2Win engineering technology.

The Welch Corp and its subsidiary, Welch Environmental Corp, offer a full range of environmental services.

“We are a licensed asbestos abatement contractor. We have experience in groundwater treatment, soil treatment and disposal, UST removal, landfill closures and hazardous waste management. We offer clients a one-stop approach to their environmental remediation needs,” said Welch.

The Welch Corp also provides reliable sanding and snow removal services to institutional and commercial clients throughout eastern Massachusetts, with numerous front-end loaders, skid steer loaders, dump trucks and plows trucks to efficiently plow snow and ice. Staff and equipment are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Many of our snow removal clients have been customers for over three decades,” said Welch. “This winter was a great winter snow-wise, very lucrative, and kept the employees with company vehicles busy plowing while bringing income into the company.”

Family and More Family

Incorporated in the 1960s, the firm is into its fourth generation of Welch family members with vital roles in the company.?

“The current owners are David J. Welch Sr., my father, and Albert J. Welch III, my uncle. My uncle Albert has a son Michael in the business who is a laborer and truck driver,” said Welch. “My cousin Andrew Nolan is the company controller. My uncle, James P. Welch, is the safety director.”

John E. Welch Jr. just retired after 44 years of service with the company. His son, Colin Norton, is currently an equipment operator.? Paul McManus is general superintendent, and has been with company for more than 30 years. Mark Wilder, shop superintendent, also has been with the company more than 30 years, as has Tom Rattigan, senior estimator.

Welch’s cousin, Michael Urbaczewski, is an equipment operator who has been with the company for nearly 40 years.

“Our employees are also family to us,” said Welch. “Every one of them is our family, too.

“The family business has stayed the same size over the past 30 years, but the company has always evolved with new technology and equipment,” said Welch.

Employees vary from 75 to 100, Welch said, depending on season and current projects, which can range in scope from around $200,000 to $5 million.

Major Projects Over the Years

Welch Corp has done some of the most familiar projects in the Boston area: Site work for Cambridgeside Galleria shopping center, Pilgrim One Power Plant, The Museum of Fine Arts, AstraZeneca in Waltham and the massive Harvard University Science Center.

“The best project I have been a part of was removing 475,000 cu. yds. of materials in seven months from the Harvard Allston First Science Center in 2008,” said Welch.? “Another challenge was at Harvard’s rival, M.I.T. [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology], across the river in Cambridge.? “At M.I.T. NW21, we had to work in the basement of an active college and building, with very sensitive equipment being used above us,” said Welch. “We had to remove 5000 yds. of unsuitable material without impacting others daily work environment.”

Current projects include 275 Wyman St. for GC Commodore, Harvard Science Center for GC Turner, Oracle for GC Dimeo Construction, Fitchburg State College for GCs Bond and Consigli and Wentworth Institute of Technology for GC Bond. According to Welch, reputation precedes anyone in everything they do. Customers and people in the industry know who is on the up and up.

“Always do the job with integrity and honesty. You may think the construction community is big, but it really is not,” Welch said. “You run into people all the time, so your reputation follows you everywhere. Never lie or cut corners to get a job done.? Our reputation is second to none in the industry. Our company is still operated with the same values it was founded,” said Welch. “It is an honor to share our history.”???

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