Adam’s European Contracting

BROOKLYN-BASED FIRM HAS BECOME AN NYC LEADER IN EXTERIOR SCHOOL RECONSTRUCTION

Aug 14, 2012

Quality, fuel-efficient Komatsu dozers

Adam and Malgorzata Skarzynski have degrees in economics from schools in their native Poland, but have succeeded in the U.S., not as economists, but as builders. The husband-and-wife team started Brooklyn-based Adam’s European Contracting in 1984 (Malgorzata is CEO and Adam is President) with an original focus on waterproofing and roofing. A short time later, they added masonry and other exterior building renovation work, which has since become a specialty.

While economics may seem far removed from construction, their son Jacek Skarzynski, who serves as Director of Operations for Adam’s European Contracting, says his parents’ background in economics actually helps the company greatly.

“They learned about money and how to manage it, and that taught them to be very conservative, which has served us well. We don’t spend money wastefully. We look for a good return on any investment. And we save. When we have to buy something, such as equipment, if the interest rate is not favorable, we use our savings to pay cash. Each expenditure has to make economic sense for the betterment of the business.”

Being economically conservative does not mean just maintaining status quo. In fact, at Adam’s European Contracting, the opposite is true. The company has aggressively sought new opportunities. That’s why it’s been able to grow from only a few employees when it started, to today employing about 200 people year around, and up to 450 people during the busy summer construction season.

“Adam’s European Contracting started out small,” acknowledged company Safety Director Ed Reluzco. “It eventually got involved with the NYC School Construction Authority’s (SCA) mentor program, working for larger general contractors. Through the years, Adam’s has outgrown most, if not all, of those competitors. Today, we’re probably the largest SCA contractor in the city.”

Big jobs/talented employees

Adam’s European Contracting has completed numerous multimillion-dollar jobs through the years. Its dedication to quality has won the firm many awards, including recognition from the New York Landmarks Conservancy and two-time SCA General Contractor of the Year.

In most years, a large percentage of the company’s work is for the SCA. Signature SCA projects include large exterior modernizations of Evander Childs High School in the Bronx and Newtown High School in Queens. The company also did a massive exterior upgrade of Beach Channel High School on the Rockaway Peninsula, which included a sea-wall restoration.

“Adam’s European Contracting has a great reputation among project managers at the School Construction Authority,” said Reluzco. “Why? It’s our work ethic. When project managers hear that we won a job, they’re happy because they know it’s going to be done right, it’s going to be done quickly and it’s going to be done safely. That’s what we’re known for.”

The company relies on a talented and experienced management staff to bid and oversee projects. In addition to Adam, Malgorzata, Jacek and Reluzco, key personnel include VP Operations Tommy Tarnowski, General Superintendent Wieslaw Tarnowski and Project Manager Mieczyslaw Knaps.

“One of the things that sets us apart from our competitors is that we self-perform much of work that they sub out,” said Tarnowski. “Things like scaffold installation, sidewalk sheds and waterproofing. Doing that work ourselves is beneficial in two ways. One, it saves time and money. Two, it guarantees quality.”

“We have a wide range of capabilities beyond masonry work,” noted Knaps, who oversaw the Beach Channel High School job. “Removing and replacing 1,200 feet of sea wall, for example, was something brand-new for us. We used an excavator with a GPS system and an underwater camera to do the work. The engineering firm wanted us to use divers, but we thought our way would be more cost-effective and safer — and it worked like a charm.”

Landfill closure

That type of outside-the-box thinking and willingness to expand beyond their comfort zone has led Adam’s European Contracting into other fields, such as earthmoving. Their biggest earthwork job to date is a landfill closure in Holbrook, Long Island.

“The landfill was first closed in the early ’80s,” said Jacek Skarzynski, who’s overseeing the job. “But through the years, regulations regarding runoff have been strengthened and the facility needed to be brought up to date to ensure against possible groundwater contamination.

“Our job is to move and reshape the trash and soil, and install a liner,” he added. “On top of the liner, we’ll put up to two feet of soil as protective barrier. On top of that, we’ll put six inches of topsoil, then hydroseed everything. In total, we’ll move about 300,000 yards of material. When we’re done, it will not only protect the environment, it will also be a pleasant view.”

Komatsu dozers and Ehrbar support

To do the landfill job, Adam’s European Contracting needed to increase its equipment fleet. The company had three hydraulic excavators, but needed some dozers. It turned to Edward Ehrbar Inc. for Komatsu D65 and D61 dozers, as well as a Komatsu WA320 wheel loader.

“We like Komatsu equipment,” confirmed Jacek. “Two of our excavators are Komatsu, so it was natural for us to look at their dozers. We also looked at competitive dozers, but we liked the Komatsus the best. For one thing, we like how fuel-efficient they are. But the biggest factor is our history with Komatsu machines; we just don’t have any problems with them.

“Another factor for us was the Komatsu CARE program,” he added. “Because the dozers are new Interim Tier 4 machines, Komatsu and Ehrbar do all the routine services for free for three years or 2,000 hours. That’s a great deal on any machine, but especially so with Tier 4 units because of the new technology. It’s a cost-savings, and we know the service is being done right.”

In addition to the quality of the equipment and Komatsu CARE, Jacek says the support Ehrbar provides was also crucial in their buying decision. “Ehrbar was aggressive on its pricing and our Sales Rep Steve Gambutti was the most responsive guy we talked to. He took care of us from day one and was always on top of everything.”

Continued diversification

Growth at Adam’s European Contracting has been little short of amazing. In the late ’90s, the company did about $10 million worth of work. This year, it will do more than $100 million.

“The last several years have been challenging, but we’ve survived them,” attested Jacek. “As for the future, the overall economy will have a large impact on what we do, but we’re certainly hopeful we’ll be able to grow in the years to come.”

“Our goal is to continue to diversify,” added General Superintendent Wieslaw Tarnowski. “Within the next couple of years, we hope to be doing not only renovations, as we do now, but building brand-new structures such as hotels and schools. We also want to grow the earthmoving and site-development part of the business to include highway work.”

Regardless of the type of work, Adam’s European Contracting will continue to emphasize quality. “We have a good reputation because we deliver quality jobs,” Jacek stated. “We complete projects on time or early, and within budget. As long as we continue to do that, we are optimistic about our future prospects.”

Cost-effective Topcon GPS systems

Adam’s European Contracting is always eager to embrace new technology that will make its work easier and/or more cost effective. That led it to install Topcon GPS systems on its new Komatsu dozers.

“The cost savings associated with stakeless grading are enormous,” explained Jim Cleary of Cleary Machinery, the Topcon Positioning Systems dealer that Ehrbar recommended to Adam’s. “To survey and stake a job is typically 2 percent to 4 percent of the project’s total cost. On a $10 million earthmoving job like Adam’s landfill closure, that could be about $400,000. Compare that to a Topcon GPS investment of about $150,000. On one job, we paid for our Topcon system and saved a quarter of a million dollars. Why wouldn’t anyone do it?”

Beyond the direct savings, Cleary says there are other benefits of stakeless grading. “With GPS, our operator typically cuts to grade on first pass, which means fewer operator hours, fewer machine hours, less fuel consumed, less blade wear and less track wear. So not only is a job done sooner at a lower cost, it also considerably lowers equipment owning and operating costs.”

For Adam’s European Contracting, using a Topcon GPS system is a no-brainer. “On large earthmoving jobs, GPS is the only way to go,” said Operations Director Jacek Skarzynski. “We expect our system to more than pay for itself on the first job. After that, it’s all profit.”