The Connecticut River and Long Island Sound converge near the quintessential New England town of 0ld Saybrook, CT, home to B&L Construction. With one of the region’s largest concentrations of 18th century colonial and 19th century federal buildings, 0ld Saybrook is a fitting headquarters for a construction company devoted to lasting quality.
Allen Hull made quality the B&L hallmark from its beginning in 1993. Prior to that time, Hull developed a sand and gravel business, and also worked in landscape construction. “We are a small company that does projects ranging from paving a driveway all the way up through a large commercial complex,” Hull said of B&L, which handles all aspects of site work from clearing the land and grubbing to site utilities, paving and some landscaping. B&L is also bondable.
“We provide our customers with a quality job, completed on time at a fair price.” B&L started with seven employees and now serves clients throughout southeastern Connecticut with a team of 35. Hull eliminates the superfluous layers of management by dealing directly with clients and then coordinating job requirements with seasoned foremen and superintendents.
“There is no successful company without a great working staff because the owner, whether it be one person or a joint partnership, cannot do everything himself,” Hull elaborated. “The owner can’t be on every job every day. We would not be where we are without good people in the field.”
The good folks in the field include Frank Soares, Pete Taylor, Bob Moon, Scott Hoyt, John Serbaschewicz, Rod Brown, Jim Mack, Peter Rodgers and Bruce Sypher. At the helm in the office for B&L is manager Denise Sypher. “The reason this company is successful is because we have great people and great resources,” added Hull.
Although relatively small in the number of employees, the range of B&L projects is vast, from $500 up to $4 million. The quantity of projects is impressive as well. B&L typically completes from 40 to 50 projects a year in the $50,000-plus range and another 40 to 50 jobs of paving smaller driveways.
“As our client’s schedules change, we have to be able to change the way we operate and adjust both equipment and personnel needs in order to meet the completion date, especially on the commercial end,” the owner explained.
“With site work, there are many different problems that you can run into. For example, subcontractors on the job may not perform their services when they are supposed to, which can affect the completion date of the project. However, we have a large enough staff and fleet of equipment that we are able to adjust to meet these schedules. That is why we primarily have repeat customers.”
The region is dotted with improvements by B&L, such as Waterford Medical Group outpatient facility, water main work for the Connecticut Water Company, and North Cove Crossing and Hill Farm developments for those over 55 years old.
“It is very rewarding to start a project from conception, to take a set of plans, and evaluate how to approach and complete the job,” Hull recounted. “It is also challenging because on many projects, owners are looking for ways to cut costs. We are able to provide the owner with ideas for cost savings. I like negotiating and bringing a project to fruition.”
A first-time visitor to B&L headquarters might mistake the company for a Komatsu dealership given the well-kept equipment and the broad selection of models. With 24 units, the ratio of B&L field employees to Komatsu machines is nearly one-to-one.
“I started buying Komatsu back in 1984, and have had outstanding success with the product in general and especially as far as downtime and repairs,” Hull reported. “I’m a firm believer in the product.”
With 14 units ranging in size from Komatsu PC30s up to PC300s, the excavator is the most well-represented machine in the B&L fleet. This year, B&L purchased a new Komatsu PC300LC-7 Power Plus excavator.
“Not a day goes by on any of our jobsites that we’re not using an excavator,” asserted Hull. “We use them daily, from the stumping right up through earth cuts and fills, utility work and excavation backfill for foundations. Our crews use excavators from the start to the finish on most any construction project.”
B&L also puts several attachments to work on its Komatsu excavators. Grapples and hydraulic hammers extend the effectiveness of the machines. The JRB quick coupler greatly trims the time needed to switch attachments and, therefore, cuts expenses.
“When you have a pipe crew that is costing you a couple hundred dollars an hour on a job and you have to go from a hammer to a bucket or vice versa, you can save 75 percent of your transfer time by using a quick disconnect,” Hull noted. “That is all added savings on a project.”
Hull supplements his excavators with five Komatsu dozers, the smallest is the D31 and the largest the D65. The dozers are matched in quantity with five Komatsu wheel loaders, starting with a new Komatsu WA250-5 up to the WA380. Hull says the Dash-5loader with hydrostatic controls is a favorite among his operators due to its ample cab design.
“The visibility from the cab is one of the big selling points of the machine. It gives the operator a wide range of vision so he can see what he’s actually doing, whether he has the forks on to move pipe on the site, off-load trucks or if he’s using a side dump along a trench,” Hull said.
Two generations of sales representatives from East PBE have partnered with B&L: Walter Augur Jr., and before him, his father Walter Augur Sr.
“We rely on our dealer to respond in a timely fashion when we have problems or need repairs, parts or advice,” Hull maintained. “They are not literally a financial partner, but they are a partner just the same. If you don’t have a dealer who can supply you with your parts and repairs as needed, and you are not capable of doing a repair in-house, every day a machine is down you either stop production on a job or you’re forced to rent equipment. So the partnership with an equipment dealer is quite a serious aspect of the bottom line of any site-construction business.”
East PBE has access to a replete stock of parts to keep machines rolling. A part that is ordered one afternoon is often installed and the equipment is back in service by the following morning.
“The parts inventory for Komatsu is excellent,” Hull adds. “Basically, within 24 hours or less, I have what I need. East PBE can usually supply us with a machine for the interim until we get ours up and running. They have a large rental fleet to back up any situation.”
The nearly 100 projects B&L completes each year are a reflection of the company’s dedication to quality. The same can be said for the type of equipment it operates as well as its commitment to maintenance.
“Machines have to be well-maintained, and cosmetically, we do normal painting every five or six years because I believe that your equipment is your image,” the owner related.
“We have records of every machine we own from the time we acquire it to the time we sell it. We track hours and log every repair and every bit of maintenance. We bring every piece of equipment we own into our facility during December through February for a complete overhaul.”
Another ongoing B&L program underscores the importance of keeping the entire crew focused on safety first.
“Safety is a very important part of the industry today,” Hull pointed out. “We have our weekly toolbox talks about safety, and once a year, we bring in a speaker to discuss safety with the entire staff. It is a necessity today to emphasize trench safety, working around construction sites and working with moving equipment.”
Hull doesn’t expect B&L to grow in numbers of employees. The additions he plans for the future, however, will help secure the natural beauty and preservation of the picturesque Connecticut Shore.
“I would like to eventually increase the recycling end beyond what we do today,” Hull predicted. “We already have crushers that we use with material we used to discard from a project. We actually take that material into our yard and make a product, which has helped us become very competitive.
As the area where we are located continues to grow, there is more need for recycling facilities, which we have. That end of the business will probably grow. But as far as enlarging our company by adding employees, I have found that 30 to 35 people among our gravel operations, our paving and our site work is the right number for B&L Construction.”
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Associations & Memberships
AWWA (American Water Works Assn.)
Builders Assn. of Eastern Connecticut
CBIA (Connecticut Business & Industry Assn.)
HBA (Home Builders Assn. of Hartford County)
MTAC (Motor Transport Assn. of Connecticut)
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