Case Studies

Foundation Steel LLC

Providing diverse steel services for the Midwest construction market

Charlotte Dymarkowski established her own woman-owned structural and reinforcing steel company, Foundation Steel LLC (Foundation), in December 2008. After a few years of research and education, the company began bidding work in spring 2011. Dymarkowski remains the owner, president and CEO of the company with a background in business management. “I have owned other businesses and saw a great opportunity here.”

Over the last three years, the company has built strong relationships within the construction market. As Foundation has attracted more and more business, the company has grown significantly. In the busy summer season, the team is comprised of as many as 120 people working on diverse structural and reinforcement steel projects.

Foundation operates specifically as a subcontractor on projects, which include public and private work. Furthermore, the business is certified to work with the Department of Transportation in both Ohio and Michigan. “A handful of contractors took a chance on us in the early days and it is only because of them that we were able to withstand the tribulations of starting a company in some of the worst economic times,” Dymarkowsi explains. “We weren’t perfect, our team wasn’t perfect and these contractors stuck by us and helped us grow. Over time and with a lot of hard work and a few tough personnel changes, I believe we have established a highly professional, capable team. Foundation truly reflects the vision I first had when forming the company.”

A growing portfolio

Strong ties to other industry professionals have helped Foundation build a strong reputation. In turn, the business has picked up a number of high-profile projects in recent years. The team is currently working on the High-Level Bridge on State Route 2 in Toledo. “We are working under E.S. Wagner, the general contractor on this project,” says Dymarkowski. “The bridge has been completely closed since March 17. Our team is doing all of the structural and reinforcing steel repairs. This project is almost a total rebuild without tearing it down. We really enjoy working with E.S. Wagner. They have a great commitment to safety and communication. The bridge is scheduled to reopen in October 2015.”

The business recently completed work on the Craig Bridge between East Toledo and Downtown Toledo, which reopened March 26, 2014. The complicated repair project was revamping a draw bridge. “Primarily this was a painting project, but we performed many structural repairs,” Dymarkowski notes. “One of the most challenging parts of this contract was working on and around the gears that open the bridge. We had many repairs. This was a mechanically and logistically challenging project. If a ship was coming through, we had to take down all of the scaffolding in the counter weight room and then reassemble.”

The team works year-round, which proved challenging throughout 2014’s polar vortex that seemed to hover over the northern United States for several months. Furthermore, Foundation recently wrapped up a warehouse project for Ohio Logistics, comprised of an addition and a new building totaling more than 250,000 square feet.

“We worked with Mosser Construction, a company that is great to work with,” explains Dymarkowski. “The project went really well despite the worst winter in Toledo’s history during the bulk of it. We unloaded and erected the whole building, including the roof and siding. We had some setbacks with time. The bad weather caused delays and slowed production. We worked some overtime and weekend hours to make up for lost time.”

One of the company’s current most challenging projects is the Toledo Hospital Infill and Penthouse addition. The team is performing reinforcing and structural steel erection for the project.

“We will furnish and install rebar and wire mesh as a subcontractor for The Spieker Company,” Dymarkowski elaborates. “On the structural side, we were working for Thermeq. Both are subcontractors under Lathrop, the prime contractor on the project. We used an enormous 550-ton crane to complete the work, which proved challenging because we could not operate it if the wind was faster than 15 miles per hour. There is also a helicopter landing pad close to the worksite, so we had to be in communication with the helicopter. The hospital has two large towers, the Macintosh Towers, which we had to go over to get steel up to where we were working. This project is logistically tricky, but with highly professional contractors working in tandem all is going smoothly.”

Staying ahead

Foundation is a growing business and Dymarkowski is extremely grateful for the relationships she has built with her staff, as well as clients and strategic partners. “Our company is only as good as its team,” she explains. “We have high quality people on our management team and on our staff for both structural and reinforcement work who make this company great. From our supervision staff to our estimators and to our iron workers, we are as good as our weakest link. It’s my job to make sure we continually equip our team to become better and stronger.”

Dymarkowski goes on to note that her goal as owner, president and CEO is to enrich the lives of all the company’s employees by treating them like family. “It is, and always has been, my intention for employees to be treated well at work and to structure our leadership in such a way that we are all equipping those under our command through training, time aside and leading by example to become more professional,” she elaborates, “Better at what they do and to allow them to advance their career as appropriate and desired. We also demand a lot; we are better for it and so are all of our employees. Safety is a high priority. We are constantly looking at our policies to make sure they will ensure every ironworker goes home safely.”

Foundation has built relationships with the Associated General Contractors (AGC), as well as several ironworkers unions. “AGC has been very supportive of the construction industry in Toledo,” Dymarkowski explains. “Through their efforts with unions, this industry is creating a higher quality of labor. I serve on the annuity board with Ironworkers Local 55 appointed by the AGC of Northwest Ohio. Sometimes unions get a bad rapport, but our experience with Ironworker Local 55 has proven very beneficial. The union is highly professional, contractor and ironworker friendly and works toward a win-win situation for all parties involved.”

In the coming years, Dymarkowski and her team are looking ahead to steady growth. With the support of a great team both within and outside of the company, the business will expand while maintaining a quality approach to diverse services. Foundation Steel LLC is a thriving business, building steel and relationships as the company grows.

Published on: August 22, 2014

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