Case Studies

Bergeron Land Development Inc.

A legacy of restoration in the Florida Everglades

When Ron Bergeron was 18 years old, he set out on his own with $235.12 in his pocket. Little did he know that he would eventually parlay that sum into a commerce empire. In 1965 he founded Bergeron Land Development Inc. (BLD). Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, BLD has grown into one of the largest general contracting companies in the state. Specializing in land development, construction, environmental rehabilitation and real estate, BLD is a division of Bergeron Family of Companies Inc.

The Bergeron family entered the state of Florida in the 1840s. Eight generations later, Bergeron began his entrepreneurial pursuit in the agricultural and real estate industries. “I began buying real estate when I was 21 and in 1963 I started working in the agricultural market in a little town called Davie,” says Bergeron. “I saw the need for some light construction work in the community, so I bought a little two-cylinder, gasoline bulldozer and started building driveways and house pads.”Bergeron Land Development Inc.

Over the past 50 years, Bergeron has expanded his business into numerous industries and sectors. In addition to land development, the Bergeron name is associated with recycling, cattle, mining and emergency services, among others. “We have what are called pre-event contracts with cities, counties and states all throughout the United States,” says Bergeron. “This means that we are prepared to do whatever we have to do when a natural disaster strikes.”

Logistically challenging projects

BLD is currently involved in a three-year project involving the expansion of Stormwater Treatment Area 1 West (STA-1W) in Palm Beach County, Florida. This $79 million job is part of the Everglades restoration initiative with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). The scope of the project includes developing 4,600 acres of inactive farmland located within the 11,100-acre Gladeview Water Control District.

BLD is managing the construction of an additional stormwater treatment area for the agricultural stormwater runoff in the surrounding areas. This phosphorous rich runoff will be treated by way of particle sedimentation and phosphorous uptake by both floating aquatic plants and submerged aquatic plants within the stormwater treatment area. The flow of the stormwater treatment area will be regulated through the use of a series of newly constructed spillways, overflow weirs, box culverts and ultimately conveyed by way of approximately 11 miles of newly constructed collection, spreader and discharge canals. The objective of the stormwater treatment area is improved water quality prior to discharge into the Everglades.

The work will include more than 3.2 million cubic yards of excavation and embankment to create the canals and levees. This project, which is anticipated to be completed in 2018, will eliminate the need for the SFWMD to construct a new seepage canal and seepage pump station.

Chad Widup, operations manager for BLD, says that one of the major challenges of STA-1W is the fact that it takes place on federal land that is the habitat for several endangered species. One of the added benefits to the stormwater treatment area, aside from improved water quality, is the creation of thousands of acres of wetland habitat. All personnel on-site for the project have been trained how to respond when the creatures wander onto the jobsite. “Everybody knows not to do anything except let the animals wander around until they leave,” Widup explains. “It always makes construction in these areas interesting. None of these endangered species have any fear or concern about the work ongoing.” BLD, along with SFMWD, work closely with the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to ensure that there will be little to no impact on the native wildlife in the area.

Additional obstacles include the location, volume of work and type of land the project sits upon. With STA-1W being in the Everglades, logistical challenges are presented to BLD, such as getting materials and supplies to and from the site, which takes time and strategy. The land that the project is being built on consists mainly of hard rock, which has generated the need to blast in some areas in order to be able to dig. “There are some other areas that have structures or utilities in the way,” says Widup. “That can slow us down in order to work around those structures.”

Over the past two years, BLD has been working with the City of Miami Beach to combat rising tide and flooding issues. With the cities pre-existing system lacking the ability to prevent back flooding through its drainage systems, BLD provided design-build services for four pump stations for the City of Miami Beach and an additional three for the Florida Department of Transportation. Since completion of the project, the city has experienced zero flooding.

Widup says that the major challenge of this project was one that is typical of municipal jobs. “Whenever there is a utility system that has been in place for a long time, its documentation is usually lacking in detail as far as what is in the ground,” he shares. “Nobody knows where anything is at. You could have the best design in the world and then it changes as soon as you open the ground. Fortunately we have a great field and design team that was able to work around those challenges.”

A passion for habitat restoration

Through experience and passion for natural habitat restoration, BLD has been recognized for its contributions to the preservation of the Everglades. For its restoration work on Stormwater Treatment Area 2 WC2A Hydropattern Restoration Works for South Florida Water Management District in 2003, BLD received the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) award for best design, quality, importance and completion.

“I’m proud to have survived more than 50 years in the construction business, but it’s never affected my heritage or my roots,” says Bergeron.

Bergeron cites preparation as a factor for the survival of his company through tough economic times. “There’s a big difference between leveraged wealth and unleveraged wealth,” Bergeron explains. “Entrepreneurs are risk takers and there’s a point where you have accomplished what you set out to do. That’s when you start diversifying your portfolio so when these recessions hit, they are not as hard on you.”

When the recession hit in 2008, Bergeron was prepared. “I’ve witnessed six recessions in my 50-year career,” says Bergeron. “I’ve learned to prepare for them. I was not prepared for the first one and it was very tough on me. As the years went on, I became better at preparing and staying out of debt.”

After 50 years in business, Bergeron has learned that two of the most important assets in business are respect and a great reputation. “You have to earn respect because you can’t buy it,” says Bergeron. “I tell my children that that is more important than any financial success. The challenge is to find success while making the world a better place.” The Bergeron Ranch has become well known for hosting charities every year. With an 1800s theme park located within the estate, 15 to 20 charity events will take place in 2016 and will record the largest attendance of any other charity function in the state of Florida.

Bergeron has not allowed his success to change him or his culture. “I’m proud to have survived more than 50 years in the construction business, but it’s never affected my heritage or my roots,” says Bergeron. “I still rodeo at a very high level and I still wrestle alligators in the swamps.”

As the company moves forward and continues to grow, Bergeron has paved the way for the next generation to take the reins of the company. His son Ron Bergeron Jr. is currently a partner in ownership. With values rooted in integrity and respect, Bergeron Land Development Inc. will continue to build relationships while giving back to the community for generations to come.

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