Gerace Construction has been on the job for over 50 years. Founded in 1963 by Francis E. Gerace, the company’s first contract was for the construction of a Technical Education Facility at Delta College, University Center, Michigan. The contract amount was just $81,000 – half of the volume of work performed in that first year.
The Midland, Michigan based business took off from there, growing rapidly over the next five decades and completing a long list of high profile projects throughout the United States. The company’s scope expanded along with its size, until the team was able to cover the entire life cycle of a project and provide construction management, general contracting, design-build, heavy civil, and steel fabrication services.
Over its long lifespan, Gerace Construction has built everything from seniors’ centers and wastewater treatment plants to airport terminals and distribution centers. Licensed and registered to work nationally, the company boasts satellite offices throughout the country, so the team can take on projects anywhere in the United States. Gerace Construction has earned a strong national presence, but as a local fixture that is well respected in the community, the company still eagerly takes on local work as well.
Most recently, the company’s focus has zeroed in on hydroelectric dams. “It is an evolving company moving toward a specialized situation in dam work,” says Todd Oosterhouse, head of Business Development for Gerace Construction. The forward thinking team is taking advantage of the growing popularity of hydroelectric energy, which is a cleaner alternative to electricity that is generated using fossil fuels. “We are strategically aligning with what is happening in the industry,” he explains.
While specializing in hydroelectric dams is a smart business move, it is not an easy one. Working with dams is a complicated endeavor that requires remarkable planning and technical skill. But, confident in their ability to get the job done, the team has been eager to dive in. “We take pride in taking those difficult jobs,” Mr. Oosterhouse remarks. “We are not going to just look for the easier jobs; we are going to take on some of the harder ones.” As a result, the company as earned a reputation as a no-nonsense operation able to tackle the toughest projects out there. “If we can do dams we can do pretty much anything.”
The company’s specific hydroelectric services include structure rehabilitation, gate replacement, underwater inspection and construction, soil anchor and rock anchor installation, tug and barge services, commercial diving and trash rack fabrication and installation.
Gerace Construction recently opened its own steel fabrication shop in order to better meet the needs of the hydroelectric sector. Many of the dams that the company deals with are outdated and the team needs to be able to create their own solutions. “A lot of the engineering on these dams was done 30 years ago,” Mr. Oosterhouse explains. “There is a better way to make them operate.” By running their own fabrication shop, the team can design crucial components, such as steel gates, to best meet each dam’s specific needs and increase its efficiency. “We have the fabrication shop so we can design those gates to meet [individual] specifications to use technology better.”
The steel fabrication shop allows the company to deliver a more complete solution to other sectors as well, making Gerace Construction more competitive across the board. “We have been able to bring more in-house and do everything ourselves so it has become more of a one-stop shop where we can take care of everything for people. The end result is better savings for the consumer.” The company’s steel fabrication shop builds everything from bridges, floodgates, water treatment accessories, and cofferdams to specialty concrete forms, handrails, catwalks, stairs, and monorails.
By providing a complete solution, Gerace Construction is able to build a larger, longer lasting client base. “A lot of our business is from repeat customers,” Mr. Oosterhouse shares. “We are their go-to person for whatever they need.”
A commitment to communication has also helped the company retain clients. “Contractors always get a bad name for change orders and overcharges, so as a company we really stress involvement with our clients and open communication. We are crystal clear on what is happening; there is no hidden agenda. It is an open dialogue so you can trust what we are doing.” This willingness to deal openly and directly with clients goes all the way to the top. “We do have a president that is very involved. You are not just dealing with a project manager; you can call the president and he will answer your questions.”
Safety is another priority at Gerace Construction. “We value our employees,” Mr. Oosterhouse remarks. “Their safety is very important to us.” Construction work is inherently dangerous, and working on dams can be particularly risky, so the team must be extra vigilant to meet their goal of zero accidents and injuries.
For starters, the company has a rigorous training program that teaches safe construction methods as well as how to avoid everyday hazards on the job. The team partners with Great Lakes Safety and a number of other suppliers and vendors to provide the latest, most relevant safety training. In-house training is delivered by supervisors, a safety director, and jobsite safety coordinators through PowerPoint presentations, videos, and general discussion groups in which everyone’s input is valued.
Gerace Construction boasts a full time Safety Director in addition to job site safety coordinators. Each of the company’s safety professionals are tradespeople whose extensive on the ground experience gives them an inside understanding of how to get the job done safely. In addition, all safety personnel and supervisors are trained in First Aid/CPR and have OSHA 30 Hour certification.
The company’s Safety Director, Project Manager, and field personnel all work together to create a specially tailored, site-specific safety plan for each and every job. Each supervisor completes a Job Safety Analysis for each task and every employee must fill out a Safety Task Analysis Card (STAC) that clearly identifies what they are doing, what the hazards are, and how they plan to manage those hazards.
Gerace Construction requires that all injuries and incidents be reported, including near hits and unsafe behaviors, and this data is tracked in a database that is regularly reviewed by management. The database provides an invaluable resource that can reveal unwanted trends, giving management the ability to stop accidents before they happen. Feedback is also shared with supervisors and employees to keep everyone aware of potentially dangerous trends. Gerace Construction Company also invests in the latest and best technology, from state-of-the-art fall protection and material handling equipment to the installation of modern computers in every company crane – anything that will improve worker safety.
Indeed, Gerace Construction has been recognized by the industry for its outstanding safety commitment; the company won the 2010 Michigan Outstanding Safety Performance Award and the 2012 Division III Gold Safety Award, sponsored by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Michigan.
To be sure, Gerace Construction has come a long way since it was founded half a century ago. Armed with industry leading safety initiatives, an advanced steel fabrication shop, and a team of experts, Gerace Construction is able to handle every phase of a project, from the initial design to handover. Furthermore, the company has managed to expand its scope of services while simultaneously honing in on a niche market to deliver specialized solutions to the hydroelectric sector. This wining combination has positioned the company for another half century of success.