Going and Growing Beyond Measure
Empire State Layout’s secret to success
One look at the architectural drawings for any construction project and you will see the level of detail necessary to ensure the architect’s vision is brought to life. Measurements provide the boundaries within which the building is developed. In a place like New York City, where every inch matters, the role of the surveyor in the construction process is vital to the successful completion of the project.
Anthony Santiago, President and founder of Empire State Layout, Inc.— land surveyors and mapping professionals based in Merrick, N.Y., and serving the New York City area—describes surveyors as the unsung heroes of the construction industry. “We are solely responsible for ensuring the horizontal and vertical control used by all trades to build the project with utmost precision,” says Anthony.
He explains the unique circumstances in the Big Apple, “In other areas of the country they don’t care if your building is off an inch or two. But here, property must be extremely tight and accounted for, which requires a lot of research and background information. Here, we build very high buildings, so as a building goes up, our crews are responsible on a floor-for-floor basis to set access lines and benchmarks. We’re in control of the horizontal and vertical position of every building we build.”
With 17 years in the industry, Anthony is no stranger to the importance of paying attention to details. In the early 2000s, after earning his degree, Anthony landed his first job out of college at an engineering and land surveying firm that did large-scale topography projects like Yankee Stadium. This is where he began to gain hands-on experience in land surveying. Then, for the next six years, he spent time studying the business and identifying ways he could bring improvements to the industry.
Innovation, Interpersonal Relationships and Integrity
Anthony recognized that there were inefficiencies in the typical surveying business model. “In our industry, when most people pour concrete for a high-rise building, they’ll pour the floor and then the surveyors will show up at 7:00 or 9:00 in the morning. There was never a set time and concrete contractors never got the job done fast, so we just changed the way we do things a little bit. We get the job done fast for the owner/general contractor, resulting in a great cost savings to the client,” he says.
When asked how Empire State Layout is able to expedite things, Anthony replies, “Let’s just say that although other firms are copying our method, we like to believe it’s still our trade secret.” This method enables Anthony’s teams to increase the rate at which they finish their tasks and allows the other crews to start pouring concrete without waiting for the surveyors to complete their job.
Armed with his process improvement plan, Anthony began Empire State Layout with only a couple of people in 2006, just prior to the onset of the nation’s recession. While others may have thought Anthony was not making a wise decision, due to the timing, there was one key individual who had faith in him and his company—Peter Serpico, at Cava Construction and Development (now part of Omnibuild Construction). He gave Empire State Layout its first job, working on a $200 million building. This opened the doors of opportunity for more collaboration between the two firms on New York City construction bids. Over the years, the two organizations have worked together on over 40 projects.
Talk to Me
Another one of the industry’s standard practices Anthony thought needed to change was the lack of interpersonal interaction. “I truly believe that where a lot of people go wrong is they treat their clients like they’re a name and a number. I looked at what other companies were doing and there were no one-on-one personal relations with their clients. They didn’t take an interest in that,” Anthony says.
So, he and his team make it a priority to take the time to personally connect with their clients. Anthony says, “Every one of our clients knows me, more or less, by first name and face. We make a very hard effort to go to job sites, visiting with them, meeting with them and working very closely. There is no client too big or small. They are all treated the same!”
While personal interaction is a key component in developing a client’s trust, Anthony knew that integrity was also a valuable element. Thus, one of his company’s foundational standards is rooted in this principle. “When we say we’re going to do something, we mean it. We’re not one of those firms that just says something to get the work. Some firms schedule the job and then once they get it they say, ‘Sorry, we can’t make it.’ We don’t do that. If we say we’re going to send somebody, we send them. If we say we’re going to be there a certain time, we’ll be there. If we say we’re going to get something done, we get it done. I truly believe in that. Your word is everything in the industry,” explains Anthony.
“Every one of our clients knows me, more or less, by first name and face. We make a very hard effort to go to job sites, visiting with them, meeting with them and working very closely. There is no client too big or small. They are all treated the same!”
Anthony Santiago, Founder and President, Empire State Layout, Inc.
Measuring New Heights
It’s clear that Anthony’s plan to impact the industry and grow his business is working. Empire State Layout has grown to about 30 employees and now operates approximately 12 union crews. The business is also expanding with its sister company, The S.A.L.K. Group. Combined, the organization is a full-scale engineering and land surveying firm.
“We do SOE (Support of Excavation) engineering, site safety plans, vibration analysis—everything. I say ‘we’ because it’s not just my effort, it’s actually everyone’s efforts,” he notes.
By assembling a stellar team of people, this organization has been able to take on some of the city’s high-profile projects. Currently, one of its most notable assignments is the Empire Outlets project—a 350,000-square-foot outlet mall that will feature 100 stores and a 190-room boutique hotel when complete. Located on Staten Island, this venue will be New York City’s first shopping outlet.
Again, Anthony attributes the company’s continued elevation to his team. “You have to surround yourself with the right people. You are not the company—your employees are. If you do not have good employees and you don’t have guys who know what they’re doing, there’s no chance of success whatsoever. I would not be here today if it weren’t for every single person here,” he affirms.
People like Joe Marano, Director of Field Operations (who has been with the company since the beginning), Vincent Teutonico, Vice President and Jeff Anderson, Director of Operations (who oversees all day-to-day operations) have played significant roles in helping Anthony take what was once just a vision and turn it into an industry-leading organization.