Certifications Open Doors
McCarey’s Landscaping, Inc. keeps federal, state and municipal customers happy with quality work
When prime construction contractors in the Northeast region need a reliable, certified commercial landscape construction firm, they often turn to McCarey’s Landscaping, Inc. That’s because the woman-owned business, based in Middletown, New York, not only performs quality work, but also holds a slew of prestigious and difficult-to-obtain certifications.
McCarey’s Landscaping does soil and erosion control, clearing and grubbing, excavation, final grading, drainage systems, retaining wall systems and landscape management. The firm also has regular snow removal and emergency snow services contracts with New York City, as well as a contract with New York Stewart International Airport for removal of snow and ice from ramps.
Besides being certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) in the states of New York and New Jersey, McCarey’s Landscaping is a certified business with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and the New York State Department of Transportation. The company is also listed in the Vendor Exchange System (VENDEX), a computerized data system for qualified vendors in New York City. The company has worked for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Office of General Services.
The company’s plethora of certifications sets it apart from the competition and makes the company eligible for bidding and contracting benefit programs for federal, state and municipal customers, which has opened the doors to key projects.
McCarey’s Landscaping can be found on major landscaping jobs ranging in price from $100,000 to $5 million within a 150-mile radius of Middletown, including Orange, Ulster, Dutchess and Sullivan counties in New York; Pike County, Pennsylvania; Sussex County, New Jersey; and in the five boroughs of New York City.
From Residential to Major Commercial Work
Donna McCarey, President, and her husband, Tim, Vice President, started the business in 1996. “We were newly married and wanted to become business owners,” Donna recalls.
Tim quit his job with the Orange County Public Works department and “with a pickup truck and a shovel” started doing residential landscaping jobs. Donna, a registered nurse, did job proposals and accounting for the business in the evenings, while keeping her job as an operating room nurse to support the family as the business grew.
“Years went by, and we started making a living from the business,” Donna says. “Then, we had our daughter, Rosemary, and I found it hard to keep my job as a nurse and run the office, so I left nursing full time to dedicate my time to the business,” she says.
A New Direction
McCarey’s Landscaping was providing residential and commercial landscaping services to many local companies when the economy took a turn in 2008. Customers cut back, and the firm took a new direction. Donna began filling out applications to become a certified vendor, which enabled McCarey’s Landscaping to compete for governmental and municipal jobs.
“It was a tremendous opportunity to get more work with cities and local port authorities, and I had always wanted to be a woman-owned business in the construction industry,” she says. Federal, state and local government departments and agencies look for women- and minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses to meet their minority utilization needs as some laws require that a certain portion of their purchasing contracts go to these types of businesses. Donna recognized the potential.
She also started doing more advertising, via trade shows, a company webpage, Facebook and The Blue Book Building & Construction Network. The extra paperwork and advertising paid off. “One big job led to another, and we started to grow. The first year, we doubled our business, and then the next year, we tripled it, and then tripled it again the next,” she says.
What started as a small residential landscaping firm has grown into one of the area’s top providers of landscape maintenance, soil and erosion control, masonry and construction services to municipal and commercial customers across the state of New York.
Some of its recent higher-profile jobs have included a soil stabilization project for John F. Kennedy International Airport and specialty walls, soil and erosion control and plantings for Resorts World Catskills casino and resort in Monticello, New York.
The firm is currently working on the Catskill Aqueduct Repair and Rehabilitation Project, a $158 million effort by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to rehabilitate the aqueduct that has delivered drinking water from the Catskills to New York City for more than a century. For the multiyear project, McCarey’s Landscaping is doing soil and erosion control and landscape construction for a 74-mile stretch of the aqueduct.
McCarey’s Landscaping has an office staff of six people, and the firm works with union labor for fieldwork and installations. “We do a lot of seasonal work, so our field crews vary in size from as small as five people to our largest to date of 88 people,” Donna says.
The company belongs to different registries and qualification boards, which plays a key role in getting business from prime contractors looking for WBE- and DBE-certified companies.
To win jobs, Donna typically goes through a bid process, taking specifications from a prime contractor and bidding according to job specifications.
“We are very diversified in many different types of construction,” Donna says. “We’re not just limited to planting trees or putting down grass seed. We do hydroseeding and a whole list of specialty walls, high-end retaining walls, clearing, grubbing and drainage. We’re a one-stop shop for prime contractors.
We can fulfill many line items on their contracts.”
The process of achieving WBE, DBE and other certification statuses is a big investment of time and resources. It can be tedious, as there is a tremendous amount of paperwork to complete, including financial and business information that must be shared, certain eligibility requirements that must be met and, in some cases, an office visit. It also takes time to get applications approved. But earning certification, as in the case of McCarey’s Landscaping, can increase the types and number of customers a business can attract.
As far as the future of the company goes, Donna says, “I plan to continue to grow and expand it by building relationships with major companies.”
And while having WBE and DBE certifications and being in state and municipal registries has certainly opened doors for McCarey’s Landscaping, it’s not the deciding factor behind the firm’s success. “A lot of people talk about how great they are as a woman- and minority-owned business, but we actually provide excellent work,” Donna says. “Our success is because we can perform the job and do quality work.”