Metal Builder 2

Zartman Construction in Northumberland, Penn., is more than a building contractor. It has to be, says Timothy Clark, steel general superintendent. The ability to provide a diversity of services to its customers keeps the company thriving through slow building periods and unpredictable Pennsylvania winters.

MB-ZartmanTemple Beth-El.jpg“We have all our own equipment,” says Clark, “so we’re able to sell ourselves an erector company if we aren’t able to construct metal buildings.”

But building contracting is the primary business of the company that’s been in operation since 1973. A Varco Pruden Metal Building dealer, Zartman Construction did over $23 million in building construction in 2006, and 2007 has been strong, as well.

“We have 28 projects going on right now,” says Clark. “And we have an incredible backlog of 13 or 14 buildings. We’ve been on a roll for about two years, and it should carry into 2008.”

Most of their work is design-build projects for a variety of sectors, ranging from schools to industrial and commercial. Zartman Construction works within a 75-mile radius of Northumberland, in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Valley region. With 130 field employees and an office staff of 25, Zartman Construction is able to do a lot of work in-house, from drafting and designing the metal buildings to a customer’s spec to on-site jobs like pouring concrete.

Delivering what’s promised
Clark’s job is to oversee the steel construction. The steel crew, he says, acts like subcontractors on a project. It is also his role to make sure his employees are trained properly so the company can deliver what it promises.

“We pre-assemble as much as possible on the ground first,” Clark says. Then they build. This is especially important when the weather gets bad. “We’re able to work on things we couldn’t do in the air.” Also, pre-assembling saves a lot on the equipment needed. It is one of many steps that keeps Zartman driven by quality.

The metal building industry in central Pennsylvania is very competitive, Clark says, and Zartman Construction is always looking for that edge that will keep it one step ahead.

The range of buildings from Zartman shows the versatility of metal buildings. One such project that stands out for Clark was for Anthracite Industries in Sunbury, Penn. “We built the new building over the existing, operating structure,” he explains, “and when the new building was complete, we removed the old building from the inside.”

Another project was on a fish farm in Shenandoah, Penn., with an auto feeder and an auger that allows the fish to swim into a fish truck. In State College, Penn., Zartman Construction recently finished a new structure for Cleveland Brothers Equipment, where they were in charge of erecting the metal building.

Metal and much more
Zartman Construction has worked with many of the Susquehanna Valley-area school districts over the years, including a major project at Clark’s alma mater, Shikellamy Area School District. The pre-engineered elementary school building was 63,000 sq.ft. and took 16 months to complete. “The entire school is a metal building,” says Clark. “We did everything, including the foundation.”

In addition to metal buildings, Zartman Construction also does conventional construction, such as the Temple Beth-El, a 10,000 sq. ft. synagogue designed by famed architect Robert Venturi.

Clark has been with Zartman for 19 years, starting as a laborer and working into management. “I like seeing the progress made on the buildings,” he says. “Three days on a steel job, and you see something different every day.” Then he smiles and adds, “And I like the heights.” That’s not surprising, since in his spare time, Clark is a pilot.

Construction can be a “hurry up and wait” kind of business, which is why Clark believes Zartman Construction’s ability to provide erector services is so important for the company.

“When you are looking for an erector, you want it right away, immediately,” he says. The company is able to step up and plug that hole for clients. It’s also a service that keeps the employees satisfied. In the past, during slow periods, the steel workers would often be asked to help pour concrete, “and that didn’t make anybody happy,” says Clark. Now, employees are able to do what they are trained to do, year-round.

Future is looking good
Clark sees nothing but good in the company’s future. “Our growth goal is right on target,” he says. “We’d like to increase another $10 million in volume over the next five years.” The company is also looking to expand out of the Susquehanna Valley area, although Clark admits it is hard to be competitive out of the market area. What he envisions is the company developing satellite offices and hiring locally.

Hiring good employees is a challenge Clark has faced recently. “It’s hard to get good people who want to make this a career,” he says. The company is looking for employees to keep up with growth.

As the metal building industry grows, Clark expects Zartman Construction’s reputation and experience to work in the company’s favor. “There are a lot of fly-by-night erectors out there,” he says. With Zartman Construction, not only does a customer get the advantage of a three-decade relationship with Varco Pruden, but he’ll know the people working with him are certified and properly trained professionals.

And that, Clark believes, is the edge that makes a difference.

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