Case Studies

E.D. Swett Inc.

75 Years of Providing Structural and Professional Integrity

E.D. Swett Inc. (EDS) was founded by Everett David Swett in 1936. Based out of Concord, N.H., the company specializes in heavy and highway construction with a special focus on bridge building, pile-driving, cofferdams and earth retention systems.
“We consider ourselves to be bridge builders and we specialize in taking on the jobs that are technically difficult and complex,” asserts Steve Cole, president of EDS. Today, the company employs around 50 skilled professionals and works throughout New Hampshire, northern Massachusetts and eastern Vermont, primarily for the N.H.D.O.T. EDS has long been guided by the kind of team mentality that often comes naturally to a family-owned and -operated company, and this all-for-one attitude now extends to all associated with the company.
“My dad, Richard Cole, bought the company from Everett David Swett in the mid ’60s and I bought it from him in the mid ’90s, but about a year-and-a-half ago we decided to become an employee-owned company through the Employee Stock Ownership Program [ESOP],” says Cole. Though the company couldn’t be happier about the new ownership structure, Cole admits it was not an easy process. EDS has a lot of long-term employees. The company felt as though it needed a plan to transfer the ownership of the company to the next generation in a way that was fair to not just the present owner, but also fair to all of the loyal guys that were responsible for the company’s success.
“I lost a lot of sleep worrying about the health of the company and our continuity plan before we made the change, but I will say … I sleep much better now that it’s in place.”
Reaping equal rewards, the entire team at EDS is even more inspired to endeavor for a common goal: coordinating comprehensive infrastructure construction with the utmost concern for all employees well being. “We do all the bridge work ourselves and all the pile-driving, cofferdams, formed concrete and poured concrete and structural steel, but we do sub out some of the earthwork, paving and guardrails,” explains Cole.
Primarily dealing with publicly funded work with a fair amount of expected hazard, the company has worked hard to establish a training program and solid record with OSHA. “We do work with some subs pretty regularly, but our primary concern is safety. There are plenty of qualified companies, but we need to make sure that everybody on the job is working safely and going home in one piece,” emphasizes Cole.

Working for the Greater Good
In preparation for one of the company’s largest projects to date, EDS partnered up with OSHA and the Department of Labor before beginning work at the Granite Street Bridge in Manchester. In total, the company ran eight training sessions for the 25 employees working on the Granite Bridge project, accumulating 900 hours of safety training, including a 10-hour mandatory session, weekly toolbox trainings and the annual three-day management safety training program. This resulted in lowering the company’s Total Case Incident Rate and DART rates more than 60-percent below the industry’s average.
The Granite Bridge expansion is part of the city of Manchester’s redevelopment initiative. The bridge’s expansion will help southbound traffic flow easily and with less congestion. The bridge was also in need of some major repairs in order to handle the increased traffic.
“We were working to widen the existing bridge crossing the Merrimack River, which also involved some rehab work and some very dangerous cofferdam work,” explains Cole. “But things got even more complicated because of massive heavy rainfall that caused the river to rise more than 20 feet above flood level. We had a construction trestle next to the bridge that was completely underwater at one point.”

Forging Ahead
EDS has always had to be especially vigilant when it comes to safety because working in dangerous high-traffic areas comes with the territory of the industry, according to Cole. “Last year we had a project for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation where the contractor had to replace the superstructure on two of the I-93 bridges,” says Cole. “The work was so extensive that we had to close the bridges to all traffic for a 60-hour shift. We had to organize some pretty extensive detours and work around the clock so we could get the work done.” Additionally, the firm had to notify affected businesses ahead of time of when crews would replace the bridge decks, but EDS managed to complete work on both bridges about one month apart.
Sticking to the sectors the company knows well has served EDS well over three-fourths of a century, and Cole doesn’t expect EDS will need to veer too far from the company’s specialties in order to spur more healthy growth.
“We have a healthy backlog and, knock on wood, we have been very fortunate to be the low bidder on many of the jobs we received when we needed them,” says Cole. “There’s still plenty of competition out there, but I expect us to be very busy in the next year. We have a really timely cost-reporting system that we keep a close eye on and we’re anxious to see what the government will do with some of the highway projects. It definitely seems like there are fewer opportunities to bid these days.”
With a team of loyal employees and a reputation for tackling the most difficult projects with aplomb, E.D. Swett Inc. will be responsible for enabling many more smooth drives throughout its region.

Published on: December 22, 2011


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