Etre Associates Ltd. and ELQ Industries Inc. – sister civil construction companies based in New York – are using the poor economy to focus more on their corporate infrastructure and risk management, General Counsel Sam Etre says. “We are paying particular attention to our corporate policies and employee training, ensuring that all of our supervisors and project managers complete 30-hour OSHA training, significantly more than the former 10-hour OSHA requirement,” he says.
The companies, based in New Rochelle, N.Y., specialize in site development, as well as road, bridge, utility and heavy highway construction. Etre focuses on private sector projects and ELQ works in the public market, but both have the same management and core employees, owner Robert Etre explains.
The increased focus on safety and infrastructure is not the only change the firms have experienced because of market conditions. “It’s very competitive,” Sam Etre says. “You must have strict control over job costs and risk management to ensure that the companies are as efficient as possible, especially knowing the markets are not what they were three to four years ago. That means playing close attention to job costing with subcontractor costs and material costs.” Marc Etre, the project coordinator, closely focuses on crew size, making sure there is no waste.
“We don’t put extra labor or operators on the job,” Marc Etre says.
In March, ELQ began rehabilitation work on the Popham Road Bridge, a three-lane structure in Scarsdale, N.Y., and the main bridge in the downtown area. The bridge spans over rail lines for the Metro Transit Authority and is the main railway to New York City and White Plains, N.Y. The two-year, $13 million project is supported by federal stimulus funds.
Because it’s a highly congested area, the project will be completed in three phases – one for each lane. “The project will be done in phases to coordinate the traffic and there will be a heavy focus on maintenance and protection of traffic,” Lead Estimator Nicholas Schurick says.
It will also require a huge coordination effort because many entities are involved, such as the Village of Scarsdale, New York Department of Transportation (DOT) and Metro Transit Authority – all organizations the company has worked with before.
Working with the rail lines will be the most challenging part of the project, Schurick says. Because the lines are in operation, they can only be worked on >> >> during a six-hour period overnight. “It entails significant planning given the allotment of time,” he notes. “If there is any delaying on your behalf or any issues, it has to be addressed during the six-hour period. It could mean you accomplish nothing if there is a set back or even heavy fines. It takes a lot of scheduling and planning.”
The deterioration of the structure was the main reason the village decided to take on this project, Robert Etre explains. The project was nine years in the making.
Taking on challenging and unique projects is not new to ELQ. Last year, it completed a $6.5 million project that involved installing a steel arch bridge over the six lanes comprising Interstate 95 in New Rochelle. The project involved completely shutting down
the highly populated interstate during overnight hours.
The 170,000 pound bridge was manufactured in the Midwest and transported to New York. “Shipping the bridge into New York State took weeks and weeks of planning,” Marc Etre says. “When the bridge was delivered, we had to install utilities under the pedestrian walkway before putting it into place, such as gas, fiber-optic and water lines.
There were approximately 60 workers on-site to ensure the task ran smoothly. “The bridge was in two pieces and we had to swing it over the freeway and set it in one night,” Project Manager Matthew Viviano recalls. “It was pretty impressive.”
ELQ and Etre are in the midst of or about to begin several other projects:
ELQ has changed significantly since it was founded in 1963 by Robert and Marc Etre’s father and Samuel and Marc Etre Jr.’s grandfather. It started as a landscaping and paving company that performed small non-union projects in Westchester County, N.Y. Robert and Marc took over the company over in the early 1990s. The firm is now a union company focusing on road, utility and bridge work.
“Etre was formed in 1995 primarily to do site excavation in the private sector,” Rob Etre says. “Etre has been involved in many prominent projects in the county, particularly in the early 2000s with big-box development projects involving high profile anchor tenants such as Costco, Home Depot and Best Buy.”
The companies have continued to expand, especially in the mid-2000s. For example, ELQ and Etre are now performing work for agencies such as the New York City School Construction Authority,the New York State Thruway Authority and the Department of Transportation.
Being family owned and operated, as well as offering diverse services, are two assets that set Etre and ELQ apart in the industry. “Our focus on both the public and private sectors has been a great advantage,” Sam Etre notes. “When one sector struggles, another keeps us afloat.
“I can’t think of another company that is as diverse as we are for our size,” he adds. “Additionally, we have a great staff of superintendents, project managers and estimators and when the downturn hit, we were able to pick up even more great employees.”
He notes the firm is prepared to take on whatever the economy might bring.
“We are geared up,” he says. “We understand the market, and we’re just going forward with a full understand of what we’re encountering. We are prepared for the tough times.”