Case Studies

Concord Fabricators Inc.

High-quality structural steel fabrication in Ohio

Gary Hammel founded Concord Fabricators Inc. (Concord) in 1988 alongside partners Chuck Purdom and Don Seeley. Gary has been involved in the construction industry for 50 years, as he started off in his junior year of high school when a teacher offered him a summer job at the J.T. Edwards Co., a local steel fabrication firm.

Gary worked the summer and returned after graduation. “I worked there for 24 years and completed my college at night school,” he recalls. “In 1988, Chuck and I decided it was time to part ways with the J.T. Edwards Co. and we set out with our own plan.”

More than 25 years later, Gary, Chuck and the team have built a successful business with a strong reputation for quality work. Gary still serves as president and his son, Michael Hammel, has joined the team as chief marketing manager. Chuck is still involved with Concord, serving as vice president and overseeing the production side.

Concord’s leadership team works with approximately 30 employees out of a single location in Grove City, Ohio. The team travels throughout the central and southern part of the state to perform high-quality structural steel fabrication work.

Building connections

Recent years have been challenging for the construction industry in Ohio. According to Gary, his team has been under pressure with the changing prices in steel, as well as all the changes in the industry along many additional economic regulations.

Gary goes on to note that health care has become Concord’s largest single expense, forcing the business to restructure financially when it comes to benefits. “We have made health care a part of our salary negotiation,” Gary details. “In the past health care was considered just part of the package. It has been very difficult on top of all the industry adjustments and then add to that the economy uncertainty one has to continually fight to right the ship.”

To remain stable, however, Gary and his team rely on strong relationships with strategic partners, such as material suppliers and subcontractors. “Material is another major expense for us,” he adds. “Since 2000, the steel mills have been increasing steel on a month to month basis and with no guarantees on the prices. All steel prices are based on price at time of delivery. So if I bid a job that doesn’t start for another three months, I could experience as many as three price increases on that steel alone. You take the hit or you predict that steel price increases.”

In Ohio, the owners or contractors that Concord works for hold a retainer of 10 percent on most jobs. “This retainer could be held until the building is complete,” Gary clarifies. “Once we put the steel up, the rest of the building must be completed and sometimes occupied before we can get that retainer money. That is an operational expense that we cannot pass on. This is sometimes an opportunity for the owner to save a lot of money by reducing the wait time that subcontractors need to wait for that retainer money.”

Despite these challenges, Concord remains stable with a crew that is looking ahead to a strong backlog for 2014. The company has revamped its overhead in the past few years, building a more efficient system that will save more money in the long run.

Concord also has partnerships with reliable subcontractors that are able to perform the erection more efficiently after the company has designed and fabricated it a little more simplistic. “We have a number of subcontractors that we work with regularly,” Gary notes. “They represent us well and we know that on bid day they can help us drive home the best price. We operate the same way with our suppliers.”

Staying busy

Gary and the team have been busy, leveraging strong industry relationships to pull together unique and challenging projects. In addition to Concord’s partnerships, the company has maintained the financial stability that allows the business to go after and complete larger projects.

The team’s strong capabilities have led to several major projects in recent years. The medical market is growing and Concord has fabricated and erected structural steel for several projects. In 2008, the crew completed work on the Cardinal Health Headquarters working with the Danis Building Division, which is an Ohio-based contractor. Concord fabricated and erected 930 tons of structural steel framing for the job.

One of the more memorable projects Gary recalls was for Les Wexner, the owner of The Limited clothing retail stores. The team performed the steel fabrication and erection for the businessman’s two-story barn. The unique structure now houses a vast classic car collection.

In a related theme, Gary says another landmark project has been a Germain Cadillac and Mercedes showroom, designed and built to turn heads.

The company’s projects have been recognized several times by industry associations; Concord has achieved several Craftsmanship awards from The Builders Exchange of Columbus (BX). Furthermore, Concord has been involved with the Ohio Structural Steel and Architectural Metal Association (OSA), as well as the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC).

“I’m a past president of the Ohio Steel Fabricators and American Subcontractors Association of Ohio,” Gary adds. “In these associations we work together with our competitors for the benefit of the industry.”

Concord places great value on promoting the industry as a whole, and Gary takes great pride in the company’s employees and reputation alike. Concord’s clients have come to expect a high level of quality and service from the team, which Gary and his employees strive to uphold and surpass.

“In the coming years, I would like to see us maintaining and expanding,” Gary says of the company’s future. Furthermore, Gary and Chuck are looking to step back from the operation a bit in the coming years and hope to see Michael take on the leadership role. As the company moves into the next generation of family ownership, Concord Fabricators Inc. will continue a tradition of reliability in business and practice.

Published on: July 21, 2014

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