A Reputation for Reliability

Northway Construction

In order to cater to any high-end market a business must strive to be efficient and effective. But it also takes a bit of luck, being in the right place at the right time. Northway Construction can be seen as an example of this.
Through a residential referral, Northway Construction was enabled to begin working in the very competitive high-end auto dealership market. With three brothers at the helm, Northway has garnered a reputation for meeting budgets and schedules, much to the satisfaction of its clients. We spoke with one of the brothers, Mr. John Scarmato, about executing a successful construction project, and about the company’s future plans for growth.

Northway Construction has been in operation for about 20 years. A General Contracting and Construction Management firm, the company runs with six in-house staff members and sub-contracts out to different sub-trades depending on the project. “We obtain [sub-contractors] through word of mouth, or they bid on projects for us. So, for example, when we bid on the current KIA contract, it became an open tender. We sent invitations out to all the different divisions in the construction group. Some of them we know and some give in the best bid and are awarded the project.”

Different sub-contractors are used based on the size of the job. Some specialize in smaller jobs and some in larger, so they are chosen according to competency. While invitations to bid are given out, sometimes it is wise to stick with what works best. “We prefer to work with people that we already know because you are only as strong as your weakest link, but at the end of the day we like to give everybody a fair shot, because that keeps us competitive when we are able to get in as many quotes as possible.”

Mr. Scarmato explains that there are a variety of different ways to approach a project. With a stipulated price contract, the company prices a project according to plans and specifications as provided by the architect. In the construction management approach, the owner engages Northway to provide organization and be responsible for: assisting with preliminary planning relative to the construction requirements of the project; advising on scheduling, budgets and economics of various methods, material selection and detailing during the design phase; advising on and for all services and all trade contractors to carry out the various phases of the work; planning, scheduling, coordinating and supervising the activities of trade contractors; providing technical and clerical services in the administration of the project, and; coordinating inspection services, commissioning and handover of the project. In the case of providing construction management services, Northway would be compensated based on a percentage of the project’s budget.

Not many companies can survive without the right marketing to back them up, but Northway Construction is unique in this respect. The company does not do any direct advertising, instead relying on word-of-mouth and its strong reputation. “All of our work comes through clients, architects and referrals,” explains Mr. Scarmato. If anything, this goes to show that not only does Northway perform well on site, but the team works well with its sub-contractors as well.

Northway’s stellar reputation as a management firm is also due to its efforts in keeping within budget, and in some cases, even finding ways to save the client money. Mr. Scarmato told us about a recent job with a Rolls Royce dealership. “Initially we were going to bring the stone in from Portugal. During the course of the project we became aware that we could get the same stone via Texas and save on shipping costs. The stone had the same look, feel, and durability as the stone we would have ordered from Portugal.”

Northway Construction presently works within the GTA, and has plans for growth. Geographically, the company plans to remain close to its base in order to maintain direct project oversight and keep quality standards high. So it is expanding in other ways, growing out from its niche market into other construction areas.

One ongoing project is the new KIA dealership being developed on the Danforth. This project began in August and is slated for completion in March of 2013. “It’s a small dealership, but exciting because it is the new flagship standard for them,” says Mr. Scarmato. “It will be a difficult job due to space restrictions; however, we are up to the task, and are responsible for promoting their new corporate image.” From the street level, clients and passersby will be able to see into the mechanic shop and service area as well as the dealership’s showroom. With three storeys comprising 12,000 square feet, the dealership will have roof-deck parking, a freight elevator for the vehicles, and a customer lounge. The setup will invite full disclosure, as the service area will be visible to customers. “No other dealership has this setup. It is a first for us, and we will be hiring sub trades from 30 different companies,” says Mr. Scarmato.

The industry as a whole, explains Mr. Scarmato, is going through a bit of a rebirth at the moment. Many of the major dealerships are working toward re-branding, seeking a stronger and more unified brand presence across all locations. This has proven a boon to Northway: “Our name was referred out because we are consistent with our work,” says Mr. Scarmato. “When the architects were getting calls to work on dealerships they would recommend us as a contractor to bid on the jobs,” knowing that the Northway team could deliver consistent, quality results on every project, helping the dealerships to strengthen their brands.

Citing communication and adherence to scheduling and budgetary requirements as key, Mr. Scarmato also considers his team’s honesty, integrity and hard work as fundamental to the company’s success. He feels confident about the future of the industry and Northway Construction’s place in it. “It looks like it is going to be bereft of slowdowns in growth, at least for the next couple of years,” he says. “The recession has not hindered our phase of construction in this industry at all.” The next two years has Northway booked with a bevy of projects, and the firm can excel in its niche market as well as branch out and expand its horizons to include other areas of construction management.

July 19, 2018, 9:46 AM EDT

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