Building Connections, Big and Small
Employee-owned Rycon Construction, Inc. prospers in multiple markets
For Rycon Construction, Inc. (Rycon), no job is too small— or too large.
“We help our clients with whatever they need, whether it’s adding a doorway in a wall or managing construction of a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing plant,” says David Semler, an Executive Vice President overseeing Rycon’s Cleveland Division, which opened in 2015 and serves states throughout the Midwest.
“If a client’s job is small, it’s still important to them, so it’s important to us,” he says. “Happily, our track record brings us plenty of high-end general contractor projects. We see taking on small jobs as important for strong relationships with clients. Those relationship are a big part of the reason that we have an 86% repeat customer rate.”
Says Executive Vice President Mike Harwood: “Our work includes both renovations to existing structures and ground-up builds of structures small, large and immense. Since we opened in Cleveland six years ago, we’ve built or renovated facilities as diverse as fast-food outlets, high-end restaurants, retail stores, office and townhouse complexes, schools, colleges, warehouses and manufacturing plants.” A more singular assignment, he might add, has been managing construction of a forthcoming cannabis growing and processing facility, a 64,000-square foot project in Michigan.
“We’ve been involved in more than 100 projects, as straightforward as the ground-up construction of free-standing bank branches to as complex as renovating old department stores and malls into complexes for offices and retail boutiques,” Mike says. That’s almost a specialty.
“We work mostly in Midwestern states but as far away as Arizona and Texas,” he notes. “We’re asked to work on projects outside the region through that customer relationship factor.”
Pittsburgh Beginning, Cleveland Connection
Like teenage rock bands and Silicon Valley giants, Rycon started with founders Todd Dominick and Bill Taylor working out of a garage. From that beginning in Pittsburgh in 1989, the company has grown into a major general contractor with some 470 office and field employees in six regional divisions. Besides Pittsburgh and Cleveland, division offices are located in Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. An additional Millwork Division located in Pittsburgh provides cabinetry, paneling, shelving and other millwork to clients throughout the six divisions. Bill has retired but Todd continues as Rycon’s CEO.
Nationally, the company boasts more than $550 million in annual revenues and projects undertaken in more than 40 states.
And, the company has that 86% repeat customer statistic. “We’re an employee-owned company and our workforce is motivated to excel,” Mike says. “Our high level of customer satisfaction reflects a commitment to precision, quality, cost control, reliability and transparency.”
While Rycon began its life in Pittsburgh and is still headquartered there, David and Mike are both lifelong Clevelanders with strong backgrounds in the region’s construction industry. Before joining Rycon, they worked together at another Cleveland firm and with current Rycon President and Chief Operating Officer, John Sabatos.
David joined Rycon in 2015 to open the Cleveland office. Mike came on board two years later. As Executive Vice Presidents, they share leadership of the division.
“We have worked with many subcontractors in Northeast Ohio and have maintained strong relationships with them,” David says. “The idea was to continue with the original principles from the founders and to grow the office in Cleveland to make it one of the premier General Contracting/Construction Management (CM) firms in Northeast Ohio.” Today, the Cleveland Division has a staff of 35 employees, including superintendents, estimators, project managers and accounting and administrative support staff.
Bringing Best Value to Every Project
The firm can function as the general contractor, a construction manager at-risk with GMP (guaranteed maximum price), or an agency CM (advisor to the owner but not constructor on the project). The firm can perform design/assist (works with the design professionals), design-build (has responsibility for both design and construction)and integrated project delivery services.
“Our goal is to drive the best value to every project,” Mike says. “We try to integrate with the client’s team and serve as an extension of the owner, with transparency at every stage. We’re always working to improve our value to our clients. We seek to deliver successful, quality results and to learn from every experience.”
Rycon places an emphasis on lean construction principles and sustainability and encourages its professional staff to become LEED accredited professionals. To plan, track and clarify progress, the company embraces leading- edge building information modeling (BIM) technologies, involving 360-degree cameras, drone capabilities and virtual reality.
Lean, Green and Sustainable
Sustainability was front and center in the new PITT OHIO Terminal, an 111,000-square-foot trucking and shipping facility in Parma, Ohio, completed in late 2020. Rycon provided preconstruction and construction management services for the facility. The design incorporates green technology, including more than 1,500 solar panels, eight 60-foot wind turbines and a geothermal heating and cooling system with 96 geothermal wells running as deep as 600 feet.
“It was a fun project and unique,” David says. “It was the first time we worked with an owner who was so serious about sustainability. The system more than offsets energy requirements for its operation. The technology draws the most attention but, of course, we also oversaw construction of an immense warehouse, machine shop and other facilities.”
Rycon served as general contractor for two new steel-framed factory structures, plus renovations of existing facilities for the Kennametal Inc. manufacturing plant in Orwell, Ohio. The project was done in three phases, beginning with construction of the shells of the two buildings and the relocation of a specialty gas farm and a new 35kVA electrical service for the site.
Phase 2 included all of the interior construction for the proposed facilities—specialty chloride exhaust ductwork, new high voltage electrical service, bulk gas supply tanks and distribution piping, three diesel backup generators, new engineering offices and orbitally welded stainless steel piping for ultra-high purity gas systems.
Phase 3 consists of the interior renovations throughout the existing facility to increase quality and production efficiency as well as upgrading the comfort/working conditions for the employees.
“With projects like these we’ve developed a significant familiarity with the unique processes of specialty gases and alternative energy sources,” David says.
Still, Rycon’s workload goes well beyond industrial complexes. The following epitomizes the breadth of its work.
- The Cleveland Division has completed multiple retail complex renovations, taking large abandoned spaces and shuttered department stores and reworking them into thriving retail/office complexes, including spaces in Ohio, New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin.
- For one, the company renovated the Shoppes at Parma complex in Parma, Ohio, into a mixed-use center for shopping, dining and entertainment. The 756,000-square-foot project involved demolition, remodels, white box and outparcel construction and renovation of a four-story office building. Today, the complex houses more than 50 tenants, as diverse as Dick’s Sporting Goods, a Walmart Supercenter, Aspen Dental, Panera Bread and a FITWORKS health club.
- Building new corporate offices for ERT, a global data and technology company, involved clearing and rebuilding 21,100 square feet of space on the 24th floor of downtown Cleveland’s 1111 Superior Avenue skyscraper. Among its elements: new conference and project team rooms, collaboration spaces, a café and a complete upgrade of HVAC and electrical systems.
- Rycon took on the role of construction manager at-risk to build the 40,000-square-foot Cyan Park Townhomes project in Cleveland’s Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. The 20-unit complex of luxury townhomes features upscale design, expansive picture windows, granite countertops, high-end cabinetry and rooftop terraces.
- Construction of the Casal Aveda Institute beauty school involved building out a new 13,000-square-foot space within the Eastwood Mall in Niles, Ohio. The work involved mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) upgrades, construction of interior walls and panels, and installation of millwork throughout manicure, pedicure, shampoo, retail, lounge and storage spaces.
An Employee-Owned Win-Win
David and Mike credit Rycon’s Employee Stock Ownership Program for a big part of its success. “It’s a win-win for both the company and employees,” Mike says. “It makes our workforce feel invested in the company—literally and figuratively—and that’s a terrific motivation. When the company does well, we all reap the benefits. It enhances productivity and attention to quality. And, it’s a great recruiting tool.”
Employees are entered into the program after their first year of full-time employment, continuing as long as they remain with the company. Enrollment is automatic with no employee contribution involved. At the end of each fiscal year, each eligible employee is awarded shares in the company reflecting its overall profitability for the year. Once employees have been with Rycon full time for six consecutive years, they’re completely vested.
“The company has remarkable staff longevity,” David says. “We have people in our corporate office in Pittsburgh who have been with the organization for 20 years or more. Even as our firm has grown, it still feels like a family-run company.”