Atlantic Construction Company LLC
Based in Northern Virginia, Atlantic Construction Company LLC serves underground utility clients throughout the mid-Atlantic region with a full range of services including directional drilling, auger boring, duct bank and pipe bursting services.
From its main office in Berryville, Virginia, and a satellite office in Maryland, Atlantic Construction Company (ACC) completes work throughout northern Virginia, Maryland and the Washington, D.C., metro area.
“We value our quality of work and are one of the few small companies left in the area,” says Steve Guntang, owner of ACC. “In northern Virginia, a lot of utility companies are using big businesses that have 300-plus employees, but we’ve found a niche market with directional boring and specializing in rock boring.”
Learning the trade inside and out
Founded in 2008, Guntang hopes to build the company into one of the D.C. metro area’s preferred utility contractors by drawing on his experience in sales at one of the region’s leading construction equipment suppliers, Vermeer Mid-Atlantic.
“I worked at Vermeer from 2001 to 2008 and really got the bug selling equipment to everybody,” says Guntang. “You see them grow and succeed in the business and I figured I would go try it myself.”
In 2008, Guntang left Vermeer and set out on his own with just one partner, installing underground utilities using directional drilling and open cut methods as a two man team until 2010. With a focus on electrical and gas distribution contracts in the D.C. metro area, Guntang was able to grow ACC to the 40-employee-strong enterprise it is today.
ACC’s slate of services includes horizontal directional drilling, a process in which crews first drill a pilot hole, enlarging the hole on the second pass before placing the product or casing pipe on the third pass.
Working as a subcontractor on projects for major regional utility companies like Baltimore Gas and Electric and Dominion Power, ACC has been part of a number of marquee projects over the last eight years, including a recent gas relocation effort for a Maryland utility company with ACC drilling a 700-foot bore under an active highway.
“That one in particular was pretty cool. We were drilling 60 feet under I-695 and putting a 10-inch gas line across the road and the traffic kept moving while the installation took place,” says Guntang.
The company also completes pipe bursting projects, a trenchless method of replacing buried pipelines in which an expanding bursting head is snaked through the existing pipeline, breaking it into small pieces before introducing a new replacement pipeline. The method is particularly useful for maintaining a pipeline’s existing grade without disturbing other utilities in the area.
ACC often acts as a subcontractor to a project’s primary contractor, as on a current duct bank project in Alexandria, Virginia, under D.A. Foster. “They’re knocking down a ton of Old Town Alexandria and putting new housing in, so we’ve been doing the dry utilities on a lot of those jobs, including all the electric and telecom work,” says Guntang.
As a fairly young company, ACC does not currently have the internal infrastructure to tackle some of the larger jobs that come across its radar, but it is slowly building up the capacity. “Some other companies have been around for 30 years. We don’t have the cash to go for the larger jobs, so we’re just looking to slowly build this company,” says Guntang.
Training from the ground up
As unemployment drops to record lows across the country, the lack of qualified labor has been one of the biggest hurdles to growth for ACC. “Finding good, experienced construction guys is a challenge; a lot of manufacturers have started schools to train guys with directional drills for that very reason,” Guntang says.
While it’s often difficult for a small company to offer employees the same benefits as a larger competitor, the threat of a shrinking labor pool has inspired ACC to offer a full slate of benefits, including health insurance and an individual retirement account plan with matching company contributions. “We treat them extremely fair, and as long as you do that, they will do well for you,” he says.
As the construction market continues to emerge from the recent recession, Guntang says ACC’s roster of projects has been growing at an ideal pace. “They’ve been steadily inclining for the last 18 to 24 months. It’s not like 2004 through 2006 when it was going gangbusters either; it’s nice, steady growth.”
Guntang has built ACC on a reputation for seeing the job through. While directional drilling projects can often be difficult undertakings, ACC is committed to seeing every project through to the end. “I think a lot of companies continue to use us because no matter what the situation is, we stand by the work and stick around until it’s completed,” he says.
While ACC might have started out as Guntang’s own attempt to make a name for himself in the construction industry, it’s now grown beyond this initial aim. “At first I wanted to make money, but as we have grown I like the fact that I can provide a paycheck for these guys,” he says.
As ACC continues to grow, Guntang aims to become one of the area’s preferred utility contractors. Enthusiasm, a strong core of dedicated employees and a strong reputation throughout the D.C. metro area are all vital assets to the continued growth of Atlantic Construction Company LLC.
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