Sixty Five Years of Quality Construction

H&H Construction

Over the decades, the humble start-up has evolved and grown to become a thriving construction firm specializing in a full range of services including asphalt paving, concrete placement for curb, gutter, and sidewalk, custom crushing and specialty aggregate sales, and heavy civil construction. Even though the business has modernized and expanded, the company’s core values have remained the same, including its commitment to customers and family. In fact, H&H Construction is currently in its fifth generation of Hoffman family ownership with brothers Gerald and Dustin at the helm.

The Petawawa, Ontario company enjoys a distinct advantage over much of the competition because it has the capability to cover the entire construction process from start to finish. “We are the only company in Renfrew County that can provide all the services as far as construction goes,” Gerald reports, “right from aggregates, asphalt, and the placement of those two items, as well as the heavy civil construction. So we rely very little on subcontractors.”

H&H Construction manufactures its own aggregates and asphalt, giving the team almost complete control over their operations. At one point in the company’s history (while operating under a different name) manufacturing and selling aggregates was all that the team did. So, while it is not uncommon for a construction company to produce its own materials, H&H Construction is particularly adept in the manufacturing process due to its long time focus on this sector. Currently, the company owns and operates a fleet of crushing equipment for aggregate production. In addition, the Hoffmans are part owners in the concrete manufacturing business CH Concrete, along with RGT Clouthier Construction and R.W. Tomlinson Construction.

“Our competitive edge is that we place concrete, but we also own part of a company that makes the concrete,” Gerald points out. “So when you put that all together, we really don’t rely on very many people to provide us with material.” Only rarely does the company have to outsource product, and then only for items such as manhole structures and pipe.

Owning the entire solution not only gives the team quality control, but also cuts down on unnecessary costs. “To own your own crushing equipment is a benefit for sure,” Gerald explains. “You can control your costs.” He admits that investing in crushing equipment is quite expensive, but that the long term payoff is worth it. This is particularly the case when it comes to custom work, for which H&H Construction is well known. “We are proud of our aggregate department in this company because we do a lot of custom crushing for people all over Ontario, as well as Quebec, and some in the United States,” Gerald reports. “We provide high quality and are very picky about the [product] that we make.”

The business has steadily grown to cover the complete chain of construction services, but the team’s commitment to each other and to customers remains as strong as when a dedicated father and son first moulded blocks by hand. “I’d say that we are a pretty close knit group,” Gerald says of the company’s management, many of whom are Hoffman family members. “We are all very close. We all have the same vision.” This family closeness extends to the company’s approximately 100 employees as well. “We treat our employees well. People aren’t leaving us and going to work elsewhere,” Gerald points out. “People are pretty happy.” Supporting employees and passing along core company values also makes long term business sense, he adds. “We try to provide good quality service to our clients and customers and we instill that in our employees.” The result is a long roster of loyal customers.

The company’s commitment to its employees is particularly evident when it comes to safety. “One of the big [guiding principles] is safety,” Gerald reports. The company upholds “very strict” return to work policies and modified duties policies. Most notably, H&H Construction has a full time safety officer whose sole responsibility to the company is to constantly maintain the highest safety record possible. “We are the only ones in this area that have a full time safety officer,” Gerald points out. “He is out there every day. He attends every incident or accident. It has proven to be very valuable in many ways for us because we can control our own safety and we have very few loss time injuries.” And, while the company’s number one priority is worker health, the emphasis on safety has also paid off financially. “It has proven beneficial because at the end of every year we are actually getting rebates from the workers safety and insurance board.”

H&H Construction boasts a number of high profile projects, both completed and underway. The team acts as general contractor for most jobs, but may also subcontract out to other general contractors when appropriate. One recent notable job was a full reconstruction of Herman Street for the Town of Petawawa last summer. The company also does a substantial amount of work with Defence Construction Canada (DCC). Most recently, the team supplied most of the aggregate for the helicopter pads being built as part of the new CH-147 Chinook medium-heavy lift helicopter (MHLH) program at CFB Petawawa. With an estimated value of $138 million, the project’s state-of-the-art, multipurpose facility set a new record as the largest single conventional construction contract award in DCC’s history. “That is a very large project and we are proud to be part of that,” Gerald remarks.

Most of the company’s work comes through contracts or the tendering process. For residential jobs, the team relies on word of mouth and heavy advertising. The company markets locally via the yellow pages, newspaper, and radio, and strives to support the broader community by sponsoring local events. Supporting the community obviously benefits local residents, but the investment bolsters the company as well. “I think that helps us,” Gerald explains. “When people want to get their driveway paved, they will often think of us because our name is out there and it is a pretty good name.”

Gerald and Dustin report that work opportunities and major projects have continued to roll in over the last few years, despite the GFC. The local market has been on a “slight decline in the last couple of years,” Dustin notes. But he adds that overall, “It’s pretty stable.” He credits the placement of key industries in the local area as being a major reason for the region’s strong construction market. “We are fortunate enough to be very closely situated to CFB Petawawa as well as AECL Atomic Energy of Canada in Chalk River, so that usually provides a little extra work in the area because they are getting extra funding. It is hard to say what is going to happen in the new year, but I know CFB Petawawa [has] been investing in redoing some infrastructure and they are also expanding every year.” The opportunities presented by these organizations are crucial. “We were in a little bubble here, I think.”

A strong market does present its own challenges, however. “Our major challenge is competition,” Gerald notes. “Because we are in a little bubble we had a lot of companies from the Ottawa area and the Toronto area who are coming this way and noticing… the work. So the competition got a little stiffer in the last couple of years.”

But after 65 years in business, H&H Construction knows how to overcome a challenge. The key to handling today’s difficulties is “running leaner and meaner,” Gerald believes. “[We are] running our crews more efficiently, keeping an eye on the bottom line, and being more competitive with our tendering processes, winning the contracts and going and doing them efficiently.” He adds that the company’s long term strategy will continue to be the same one that has sustained it for six decades. “Our strategy is to forge ahead, to keep going and improving a little bit every year, growing and shrinking as the market demands, and to provide quality to the customer.”

July 20, 2018, 2:55 AM EDT

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