Structuring Steel with Preparation and Precision
Engineers Ironworks, LLC builds the Tri-state area
Engineers Ironworks, LLC is a locally owned ironwork business in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The firm fabricates and erects structural steel, miscellaneous metals and ornamental ironwork, and performs welding and cutting. Its typical products are steel buildings, metal stairs, railings, gates and decking. The team also constructs steel and erects precast concrete walls and steel joists.
Certified as a minority business enterprise by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), the company works with general contractors on commercial and residential projects across the tri-state area of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. Engineers Ironworks has also supplied general trade services to construction managers. The firm’s portfolio of new construction and renovation projects includes high-rise buildings, schools, residential and retail properties.
Founder and Managing Member, Trevor A. Smith, immigrated from his native Jamaica to Canada and later moved to the U.S. where he went to work for excavating companies. In 1984, Trevor (also known as “Smitty”) took a leap of faith and went out on his own, first providing welding for just heavy construction equipment, and eventually transitioning to add welding for structural steel and miscellaneous metals. The business name became Engineers Ironworks in 2003 to reflect that core focus.
Alex M. Smith, Trevor’s son, joined the company in 2003 and manages operations at the family-owned business. “Dad purchased a vacant lot in Bridgeport and constructed our company’s building himself,” he says with pride. “Growing up around the business was great exposure to the hands-on, challenging world of field work. It was fun and games to me when I was young, then grew into a passion. I always knew I wanted to work in the construction industry.”
Preparation and Completion
Trevor and Alex pride themselves on their attention to detail. “I take on every project as if it’s a part of me,” Alex says. “The details cannot escape my grasp!” Careful upfront planning includes addressing any potential issues before he and Trevor meet with their crews. “We don’t let any problem sit,” Alex says. “If an issue comes up, we attack it and resolve it immediately.”
Alex regularly spends his days out in the field to ensure everything goes well and to stay in close communication with the project foremen. “I like everything to be organized and streamlined,” he says. The company sometimes has five crews out in the field at a time, with up to five team members on each job site, depending on project requirements.
Engineers Ironworks’ fabrication shop typically has five employees at work. “To meet demand, we sometimes have three shifts busy producing steel and getting it out of the shop,” he adds.
The firm’s team members especially enjoy being part of local, hometown projects in Bridgeport, like the renovation nearing completion of the Newfield branch of the Bridgeport Public Library. At the time of reporting for this article, Engineers Ironworks was putting the finishing touches on this project that will triple the size of the original library building. The company was also tasked with fabricating and erecting the structural steel for the building’s enclosed skeleton and the interior and exterior metal stair and rails.
“We have worked closely with the general contractor, Ashlar Construction LLC,” Alex says. “From start to finish, it has been smooth sailing. We invested time in preparing the schedule and thinking through any potential obstacles.”
Engineers Ironworks also fabricated and installed a stainless steel cable railing system on the exterior of the Superior Court of Bridgeport for general contractor Armani Restoration, Inc. “This was one of our first sets of cable railings,” Alex says. “They are fabricated in stainless steel with a brushed finish, which requires extra care and time to produce. We have to ‘baby’ this material to protect it. By comparison, standard metal pipe railings are welded, ground, painted and then installed.”
After fabricating the frame, the team wrapped it, transported it to the job site, installed it, then pulled the cable from one end of the railing to the other and set it into place. “I love the way it came out,” Alex adds.
Completing Challenging Projects...Quietly
One of the firm’s most memorable projects involved interior work at Stamford Media Center and Productions, LLC, a division of NBCUniversal, in Stamford, Connecticut, for A.P. Construction Company.
“We were hired to do reinforced structural steel inside the roof of the building to support installation of new mechanical units,” Alex explains. From the start, there were obstacles to plan around to ensure the work was completed within a very tight timeline.
Accessing and working in the project space under the roof was challenging because there were no existing surfaces where the crew could safely perform work. “In this case, there was nothing but track lighting where we had to work—along the entire roof,” Alex recalls. “We had to squeeze into the narrow space up in the rafters, bring up planks and build staging above the level that was accessible by scissor lift. We then performed our scope of work from that staging area, welding steel reinforcements onto the underside of the roof.”
The crew also faced a unique restriction: scheduling work around the ongoing filming of television shows. “The Jerry Springer Show” and “The Steve Wilkos Show” are both produced at this studio.
Work had to be performed quietly for three hours each day. “To accommodate this requirement, we would do our work, stop for filming, and then go back to cutting steel and making noise,” Alex explains. “Sometimes we had to work silently!” he adds.
The owner also needed the project completed within a tight timeframe. Therefore, Engineers Ironworks’ plan incorporated late shifts and overtime to meet the schedule. “We got the work done on time, making the owner and general contractor happy,” Alex says. “The success of this project has led to additional work.”
Fielding a Time-tested Team
“When you have the right team and everyone works together well, everything on a project runs smoothly,” Alex explains. He immediately names two key members of the staff: Foreman Michael Pugh and also LePriest Turner, who has worked for the company since the beginning. “LePriest is my father’s number two,” Alex adds. All of the company’s employees are from the Bridgeport area.
The firm’s leaders are committed to retaining their hardworking crew members from project to project, so Alex prioritizes keeping everyone working. “For example, if a field crew is not needed at a job site on a workday, we’ll have them perform work in our fabrication shop,” he says.
“Our team is our extended family, and everyone has buy-in in successful projects,” Alex says. Involving everyone in project discussions and meetings and regularly asking for input is an important part of the company culture. “I’ve always been the person in a meeting who wants to ask questions and share my insights. That is welcome in our work environment. Our philosophy is there are no bad ideas,” he adds. Because of this, he says employees are comfortable speaking up. Employee suggestions have resulted in providing a better result for a client or the implementation of a new approach.
Alex notes that the Bridgeport area is rapidly changing, and Engineers Ironworks continues to be a part of the area’s growth. For Alex, Trevor and the rest of the team, seeing the numerous buildings they’ve helped construct in continual use by the community is a source of personal and professional pride.
“Our work is never easy,” Alex adds. “Every day requires innovation to perform on our projects and we work tirelessly to anticipate and overcome obstacles. It’s a challenge we enjoy.”