Case Studies

Mark Cerrone Inc.

Leading Western New York in Unique Renewal Projects

In 1999 Mark Cerrone founded Mark Cerrone Inc. (MCI) with little more than a used backhoe and determination. Mark had been involved in the construction industry his entire adult life. At 13, he started working alongside his father at the family business, Cerrone Trucking. Between cutting scrap and washing trucks, he developed a strong sense of hard work. After high school, Mark went to work with his uncle, Armand Cerrone, a heavy equipment operator. For more than 20 years, he worked his way up the ranks, eventually taking on a role as superintendent at his uncle’s business. It was then he decided to strike out on his own.

Sadly, Mark passed away in 2007. Although he was only able to enjoy the responsibilities and pleasures of owning his company for less than a decade, Mark set the stage for a steady and diverse construction business that has continued to grow.

Today, the MCI team continues his legacy under new leadership. George Churakos, vice president of MCI, worked closely with Mark starting in the business’ early days. “I was in construction and landscaping before this, including site work,” George explains. “I was able to help develop this business with Mark. I have always loved the changes and challenges of the construction industry. I don’t like sitting behind a computer all day. I prefer to be hands-on.”

Strong involvement from MCI’s management team has enabled the company to build strong relationships with clients and strategic partners alike over the years. These factors have allowed the business to expand, breaking out into new markets when opportunities arise. The team that seasonally reaches over 250 employees works from two office locations in Niagara Falls, N.Y. and a satellite office in Rochester, N.Y., serving clients across the state. Most of the company’s work is in the public sector, although George explains that an estimated 10 percent of revenue is from private contracts.

Helping Western New York Thrive

MCI performs a wide scope of work. As site contractors, the team is experienced in demolition, utility work and remediation projects, such as asbestos, brown field and environmental cleanup projects. The crew has been involved in some unique work in recent years, including streetscapes. The large team takes care of contracts from start to finish, from demolition to landscaping.

The company performs utility work, prep work for surfacing, demolition, asbestos abatement and railway construction in-house. For the rest, MCI relies on a strong network of strategic partners.

“We use a strong group of local contractors as much as possible,” George explains. “It’s a bidding market, but qualifications count, as well. We solicit everyone, and continue to find ways to bring more qualified local contractors to the table. As a woman-owned business, we especially seek out minority- and women-owned subs who know how to get the job done.”

As far as qualifications go, subcontractors are safety pre-qualified and must be proficient and prepared for each project’s individualized needs. “We want to continue to build a reputation for completing challenging projects on time and in budget with a successful, quality end product,” George elaborates. Commitment is even more important as the company grows with the recovering economy.

A Growing Portfolio

The MCI team has been involved in a number of public and private contracts in recent years. Currently, the crew is completing a major urban renewal project for Buffalo’s Main Street. Approximately 30 years ago, the city closed the street to vehicle traffic in favor of a light rapid transit rail system. Recognizing the failure of this concept, the city is once again opening Main Street to automobiles that will share the roadway with the light rail trains. MCI won the contract for work on the street’s 600 block and was subsequently awarded the 500 block.

The multiyear, multifaceted project involves several aspects of construction. The team is performing street construction, utility and railroad work to help rebuild the area block by block. “We’re right in the middle of the arts district,” George explains. “It feels good to be able to contribute to the Renaissance of Buffalo.” The team has also worked on renewal projects in Buffalo’s inner harbor and is looking ahead to picking up more work on the Main Street revival initiative.

One of the company’s most highly publicized projects has taken place in a truly unique and challenging environment: inside the Niagara Gorge. In 2012 Maid of the Mist Corporation, the organization that operates the famous poncho-clad into Niagara Falls boat tours, commissioned a team that included MCI to help transform a former power plant site for a new dry dock and maintenance yard on the river. A series of intense legal battles ensued between preservationists, the park and local government, resulting in halted work.

When the dust settled and work was again approved, MCI was able to continue on the project. When work atop the gorge was completed, the crew was faced with a new set of challenges. The gorge is steep and deep, meaning that equipment and materials had to be lowered by crane into the site from above, which is no easy task. The team was able to complete the required work by October 2013, in time for Maid of the Mist to pull all of its boats out of the water for the winter season.

MCI has proven time and again that the business is capable of big things. “We’re always looking for the next challenge,” George explains. “Over the next few years we will continue to distinguish ourselves as an industry leader in our region. We want to continue to expand our capabilities and take on new opportunities. We had a very busy 2013 construction season, and we’ve seen some public and private investments that have helped our area.” No matter what challenges lay ahead, Mark Cerrone Inc. is ready for new challenges and innovative approaches to providing complete construction solutions.

Published on: July 10, 2014

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