Case Studies

Freeland Construction Company Inc.

South Carolina company provides expertise in demolition and excavation

Freeland Construction Company Inc. began in 2001 as a small, four-man operation, completing small jobs for naval weapons bases and the U.S Government. The company was purchased in 2008 by current president and CEO, Kenneth Canty, P.E. Since then, Freeland Construction has developed into a premier general contractor specializing in demolition and underground excavation for commercial, industrial, transportation and government work. Headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, Freeland Construction also manages locations in North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Maryland and Massachusetts.

A niche in the market

In 2009, Freeland Construction was certified as a Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB). “Our goal was to develop an exit strategy from being a disadvantaged business within 15 years,” Canty explains. “Overall, we put together a 20-year business plan and decided that we were going to utilize the SDB program to receive federal and military contracts like we had always done before.”

Freeland Construction used its certification to build a diverse workforce in terms of in-house capabilities. “We wanted to become diverse in terms of geographic footprint as well as clients,” Canty adds.

After noticing a lack of heavy civil projects being completed by companies of similar size as Freeland Construction, the company decided to leverage this void and establish its own niche within the market. “There weren’t that many people who were doing that type of work that were our size and demographic,” recalls Canty. “We starting looking for clients who could help us get there and one of them was Amtrak.Freeland Construction Company Inc.

Freeland Construction began performing historic restoration of railroad stations for Amtrak, which fit nicely into the suite of services the company was already providing. “It was nice because it’s considered railroad work because it’s actually on the tracks, but it’s still the bread and butter of what we have always done for the federal government,” Canty explains.

In such a competitive industry, Freeland Construction has managed to find a way to stand out from its competition. The company provides a unique level of service through its ability to perform work in any geographic location from east of just over the Mississippi River.

“Our superintendents and project managers are standalone business units,” Canty Explains. “We are currently working in eight states.”

After purchasing a construction company in the midst of a recession, Canty was presented with the challenge of guiding Freeland Construction through the economic downturn. After being laid off from his previous job, Canty decided to take a chance. “I felt that things could only go up for me from that point,” he recalls. This proved to be true. Since he took ownership of the company, Freeland Construction has increased annual revenue by 140 percent in just seven years.

Notable projects in which Freeland Construction has been involved have included the rebuilding of the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) railroad station in Prince, West Virginia, which is the oldest railroad in the United States. “It’s such a beautiful spot, but the biggest challenge is getting to the location,” says Canty. The station sits at the bottom of the New River Gorge. “It was very challenging but very rewarding,” he adds.

In December 2015, Freeland Construction completed a stormwater repair job for the U.S Army at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, which involved excavation of 30 feet. “That job quadrupled in size due to unforeseen site conditions,” says Canty. “It was due to a self-induced sinkhole from the construction of the project 13 years ago.”

More than a construction company

In addition to increasing revenue, each year, Canty measures the success of his company by numerous factors, including the training and retention of employees. Quarterly retreats are an activity that Freeland Construction conducts to help shape and mold its workers and build teamwork. “Everybody completes a different training program every quarter as well,” says Canty. “We recently completed a round of the information technology, business development and estimating training.”

Canty says he is motivated every day to go to work and do his best by his family as well as his employees and their families. “There have been a lot of people who have sacrificed for us to be where we are,” says Canty. “As a minority-owned business, a lot of people expected us to fail. We push ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally to prove those people wrong and provide a great service.”

As the company moves forward, Canty says Freeland Construction will continue to partner with Amtrak. After completing six projects for the rail company, Freeland Construction is preparing to start its seventh. “We’ll also be doing a lot of horizontal work for military bases such as road clearing,” says Canty. “In addition to that we will continue with demolition and bridgework.” With cautious optimism, Canty and his colleagues at Freeland Construction Company Inc. maintain a positive outlook on the economy and the future of the industry.

Published on: May 9, 2016

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