Guts and Determination
Environmental Demolition Group, LLC clears a winning path
Fifteen years into his career in abatement and demolition, Shawn McGinness decided it was time to leave his stable job at American Service Group Inc. (ASG) to strike out on his own. In 2004, he established Environmental Demolition Group, LLC (EDG) with a dream to create a company that would lead the abatement and select demolition industry throughout the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions.
With him came Sandy Dietrich, who had also spent over a decade in the sector. Dietrich became EDG’s Controller and a vital support colleague to McGinness. Eight years later, they were joined by Joe Hummel, who had also worked with McGinness at ASG in previous years and who jumped at the opportunity to do so again. “I considered my time with Shawn at ASG a quality time in my career,” Hummel remembers.
Hummel, who is now Director of EDG, heads up business development for the company, including everything from scoping to pitching for projects. Today, the 35-person-strong team has a combined 100 years of experience in select demolition and environmental asbestos, lead paint and mold cleanup, and Hummel says that, together, their skills and knowledge are unmatched by their competition.
“Shawn really values the people he has, and together there’s very little that we haven’t encountered,” Hummel says.
This vast experience of the team is reflected in the types of buildings that EDG has tackled over the past 17 years—fire stations to swimming pools, and everything in between; and across states from Wisconsin to Tennessee and from Iowa over to Virginia. Although the core of its work is performed in the states of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, the company takes on about 150-200 projects a year and is licensed in 11 states.
“We travel, and we can perform selective demolition and environmental cleanup in any building type, so we work across industries. In the span of a week, we may work on a military base, a high school, a downtown commercial building and a power plant,” Hummel says.
A Partnership Approach
Whether it’s a renovation, remodeling or conversion project, a common thread remains—EDG is never working in isolation. The nature of the work requires a high and often complex level of coordination across a number of consultants and trades. The company works in partnership with consultants that investigate environmental issues, like mold and asbestos, and in close coordination with developers, contractors, project managers, architects and laborers. The EDG team’s ability to work effectively with these partners is one of its calling cards.
“I think that’s what people really appreciate,” Hummel says. “Our role really is to illuminate the unknown and find a way to deal with it.”
As specialists in demolition and abatement, the members of EDG know at the start of every project that unexpected challenges may be found lurking beyond the ceilings, walls and floors of each structure that they gut. “When these unforeseen issues come up, people tend to panic,” Hummel says.
EDG’s approach is to always remain calm, professional and to work closely with all key partners on a project team to figure out the right solution—one that works well for the schedule, budget and design of the building. “The team members are always challenging themselves to think about ways to work collaboratively to make a project better and more cost-effective,” Hummel adds.
“That is a skill we really take pride in—to be able to bring that value to our clients, especially in what might seem like a very stressful situation,” Hummel says.
Growth and Resilience
Until 2021, EDG grew each year, eventually taking on projects worth over $4 million. From 2012 to 2019, its annual sales increased from $8 million to almost $15 million. While 2020 remained steady for business, the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that 2021 has been the company’s most challenging year to date. But through this crisis, EDG did not have to furlough or lay off a single employee.
Retaining skilled staff is challenging for many construction businesses, but EDG has bucked the trend for decades. With skilled craftspeople and technical staff current in asbestos certification, lead abatement training and hazardous waste operations, holding onto this skilled team during the past year is a testament to the company’s resilience.
The firm has also retained staff by providing free training to employees so they can continue to expand and diversify their expertise within the business. For example, longtime EDG employee Jason Hazelwood worked in operations at the company for over 11 years before he transitioned into project estimating. He, in turn, trained one of his veteran project managers to take over his former role as operations manager.
“At our company, people wear multiple hats. Our team has no problem stepping in and stepping up when needed,” Hummel says.
Deployed Across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic
Large projects have meant longer-than-typical project timelines, and team deployments across multiple states. While EDG is headquartered in Kentucky, its teams travel across states for deployments that usually average between two to six months.
The company’s lengthiest project to date is the asbestos abatement of the Tanners Creek Generating Station in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, a former coal-fired electrical power plant located on the north bank of the Ohio River. The abatement work took just over nine months to complete.
In Janesville, Wisconsin, crews did a full environmental cleanup of the Janesville Assembly Plant, a former General Motors automobile factory spanning across 265 acres. The demolition of the sprawling industrial complex was completed to make way for a series of factories and warehouses.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, EDG demolished and carried out abatement for several hundred thousand square feet of the historic Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel, gutting the 19-story structure back to the wall studs so it could be completely remodeled and reopened to the public as a modern hotel. The company completed similar works for other tall heritage buildings, including the 21c Museum Hotel Lexington in Lexington, Kentucky, and The Phelps Building, also in Cincinnati.
Perhaps no other EDG project is as iconic and memorable as the Old Fayette County Courthouse in Lexington. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the building received a $33 million renovation after EDG performed the abatement and selective demolition of this historic treasure.
An Expansive Future
EDG has ambitions to pursue more urban renewal projects in city centers. Hummel sees growth in adaptive reuse and conversion projects where older, outdated buildings with strong structures can be sustainably revived and brought up to current standards and user needs. The staff members’ technical proficiency as well as their ability to navigate unknown and unexpected challenges gives them the confidence to pursue these types of projects.
Working as a specialty subcontractor across multiple industries, the future remains expansive and bright for this business. It is Shawn McGinness’ early entrepreneurial spirit that launched EDG 17 years ago, and that continues to fuel the ambitions of the company and the team to this day.