Case Studies

Philadelphia D&M Inc.

Eyes on its Goal

Philadelphia D&M Inc. has one goal: to be the preferred specialty contractor in its Tri-State area, specifically Southeast Philadelphia and South Jersey, the region surrounding the company’s base in Plymouth Mouth, Pa. Philadelphia D&M concentrates on offering drywall, rough and finish carpentry, acoustical ceilings, E.I.F.S., gypsum wall board and exterior framing to well-recognized and award-winning construction projects within its geographical region; as company president and co-owner Craig Melograno asserts, “We are committed to that area. We’re not trying to be everything to everybody.”

A tightly maintained focus is what sets Philadelphia D&M apart from its competitors and allows a thorough, efficient deliver of services to repeat clientele believes Melograno, saying, “Our customers know us and trust us.” By remaining directed as intently as Philadelphia D&M does on applying its 135 years of combined experience to complicated projects in its expertise, the company is well poised to maintain and grow its presence. With extensive experience, cutting-edge technologies, OSHA-trained workers, LEED capabilities, and a solid customer base, Philadelphia D&M delivers skills directed by the vision spelled out in its initials: Professional, High-performance and productivity, Integrity throughout the company, Leader in the Industry, Attentive to our customers’ needs, Attentive to our customers’ needs, Dedicated to safety, Matchless capability.

Tenacious Tactics

Philadelphia D&M is a union contractor established in 1999; Melograno joined in 2008, with 14 years of experience in specialty contracting. Fresh on the market, Melograno was snatched-up post-graduation in 1994 by Lutter Inc., where he steadily worked his way up to part-owner, learning valuable experience about the business and the industry that he then brought to Philadelphia D&M, which maintains five estimators, three project managers, two accountants and anywhere from 100 to 300 workmen out in the field depending on workload. Melograno also has a Green Advantage Certification, which allows him to help secure LEED Innovative and Design Credits for Philadelphia D&M.

“We’re pitching rather than catching,” says Melograno of the company’s strategy. “We’re going after jobs. We’ve done $25 million hotels in Atlantic City [AC] and $100,000 wholesale club renovations. We treat each one of them like it’s the last job.”

One source of repeat business for Philadelphia D&M has come from the PHA [Philadelphia Housing Authority]. Philadelphia D&M has built a number of residential housing projects for PHA, “using a new product called SIPS – a structurally insulated panel system,” explains Melograno. “It’s a Styrofoam panel with plywood on both sides of it. They come out 20, 30 foot in length and nine feet tall. We stand them up, and that’s how we build the houses.”

The benefit of the new SIPS product, explains Melograno, is found over the lifeline of the housing structure. “It’s about being green and LEED. What it does is give a high-energy rating for buildings … the buildings are sealed super, super tight, so it requires less electricity to run the heating and ventilation system.”

Tackling Challenges

Philadelphia D&M has always been known to take on new challenges, incorporating new techniques, head on, applying the same attention to detail and commitment to safety to every endeavor. So, with the downturn that hit the area in 2007/2008, Philadelphia D&M faced setbacks, but since that time “we’ve redefined ourselves,” states Melograno. The lasting effects of the economic downfall resulted in Philadelphia D&M taking on projects smaller in nature, and revamping its business internally.

“We completely changed our cost accounting system as numbers – volume and profit – continued to drop,” reflects Melograno. Fortunately, Philadelphia D&M has long been conservative with its revenue, which has provided a cushion for the company. “Not having to worry about having enough money has allowed us to concentrate on making money and being good for our customers,” says Melograno.

“We didn’t take the fact that we were arguably the largest company in the city for granted; we did what we had to do,” Melograno continues. Philadelphia D&M’s original niche – tall and repetitive high-rise structures – has virtually vanished from the company’s regional domain. “We’d get into a flow and just march up the building,” states Melograno. “But that work doesn’t exist anymore. So we’re taking that thought process elsewhere.”

Instead of wallowing, Philadelphia D&M went where the work was, a move that kept the company ahead of the competition. “Some of our competitors weren’t prepared to be humbled, in a sense, by the economy.” Instead, Philadelphia D&M was proactive, says Melograno, explaining, “We’ve adapted and we take the same attitude toward a $10 million or $100,000 job. Nothing is too big or too small.” Becoming diverse has served Philadelphia D&M extremely well. The company also does fireproofing, which many of its competitors do not offer.

Revitalization on the Horizon

One big project won by Philadelphia D&M years ago was for Revel Entertainment Group’s Revel Casino, a major casino resort development on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Although originally conceptualized in 2007 and set to open this year, the massive project was stalled in 2010 after repeated set-backs in funding beginning in late 2008/early 2009. The whole of 2010 was riddled with uncertainty, legal proceedings, and investors pulling out.

Revel is currently less than half-built, with a ways to go on its 53-story dual high-rises – set to be the tallest in AC -encasing 3,800 rooms. The 20-acre development was thought to be a long-gone victim of the economy and the four-year decline of gambling profits in Atlantic City. However, in February of 2011 it was reported that the project is coming “back from the dead” with a bump of $1.15 billion in capital.

Melograno has hope Revel will come through for Philadelphia D&M. “It’s one big job that would completely change what we’re doing. We have the casino floor, the back of the house, the theaters … we have a wide range of work on that project. It that goes through it’ll completely change our complexion.”

Even if the Revel Casino project doesn’t materialize fully, Melograno is optimistic for a good fourth quarter in 2011, and into 2012. He is predicting volume will increase around that time, which will ease the currently overwhelming amount of bids per project. And, fortunately, Melograno is an educated guesser; he also knows that Philly has been a pretty conservative area, experiencing relatively mellow highs and lows compared to elsewhere in the U.S.

With its sharp focus on its strengths within its industry in the immediate locale, Philadelphia D&M should continue to lead the way as a preferred specialty contractor partnering with customers to provide efficient, practical solutions on every scale in the Southeast Philadelphia/South Jersey region.

Published on: March 9, 2013

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