US Builders Review                                                    

Mark Cerrone Inc.

Civil contracting built on strong values
Written by: 
Tom Faunce
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

With safety and quality as its top priority, Mark Cerrone Inc. (MCI) is one of western New York’s premier civil construction companies. Headquartered in Niagara Falls, New York, MCI specializes in demolition, asbestos abatement, site development, underground utilities, railroad construction, environmental remediation and landscaping.

Mark Cerrone Inc.

MCI is a company that not only takes on unique and challenging projects, but actually seeks them out. “We take a great deal of pride in taking on a challenging project and seeing it through from inception to completion,” says George Churakos, vice president of MCI. “To have a satisfied customer when the job is completed means everything to us.” Some of the more challenging project that the company has tackled include the abatement and select demolition of a 140-foot-tall grain silo along Buffalo’s waterfront, lowering massive machines 250 feet into the Niagara Gorge to build a new dock facility, and completely renovating Luna Island, a one acre island on the brink of Niagara Falls.

A solid system

As a tech savvy company, MCI utilizes the latest technology and sophisticated software throughout all stages of a project. Eight years ago, MCI implemented a number of computerized estimating software solutions to improve its bid quality. As this system evolved and helped to improve accuracy and hit ratios, the company grew and management realized that it could leverage technology to enhance the business. “Our return on technology has been very noticeable,” says George Lodick, director of operations. “We transitioned to an integrated project management and accounting system that now takes data directly from our estimating program moves a project seamlessly through the office and ultimately to the field.” According to Lodick, the company is now investing in improved field technologies from GPS and machine control, to tablets and video teleconferencing as the company expands geographically.

Targeting markets

Started in Niagara Falls in 1999, MCI began in the residential sector installing driveways, lawns and basements. In 2003, MCI directed its focus to commercial work and eventually to municipal projects with public work at approximate 80 percent of its revenue. Operating almost exclusively with an hour’s drive from the headquarters for most of its existence, MCI is now active throughout upstate New York with a satellite office in Rochester and operations developing just north of New York City. “We’ve had great success in our own backyard, and had been very reluctant to travel,” says Churakos. “Our clients helped us make these decisions to expand as they actively sought our participation on their projects in other areas of the state. We now have active projects at Cornell University and at the new casino project in Monticello, New York.”

With the current commercial resurgence in Buffalo, MCI has been fortunate to be involved in many of the highest profile projects across Western New York. Starting in February 2014, the company was contracted to perform the site work portion of a comprehensive $130 million renovation of Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The scope of work included demolition of existing fencing gates and structures, replacement of site utilities, new asphalt paving and complete removal and installation of reorganized patron entryway ramps and stairs.

MCI is the prime contractor on the Cars Sharing Main Street project designed to return vehicle traffic to a road that had been exclusively rail for over 30 years. The 600 Block was completed on opening last fall with completion of the 500 Block anticipated this fall. The scope of work consists of recreating street pavements, building train stations, complete streetscaping, and installing a new track bed and rail for the trolley system.

MCI is currently involved in the first phase of construction of the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls. This job consists of removing the original parkway and converting the space into a roundabout. There is also a landscaping portion of job which includes moving 200,000 cubic yards of soil. “It’s a very interesting project because it connects to the state park,” says Churakos. “The fact that it’s happening during tourist season is a big factor in the construction of the parkway.”

The state designed this project so that by summer 2016 visitors to Niagara Falls will be able to admire the view of the Niagara River more clearly as they enter the oldest state park in the nation. The park will be upgraded with a pond for fishing, bike and walking paths. The new landscaping with native plants and landscaping is more in tune with Frederick Law Olmstead’s original visions for this area. The end result will be a river way in the Niagara Falls State Park that will both further beautify the park and improve the line of sight along the edge of the Niagara River, which previously has been obscured by an overpass and Parkway ramps.

A strong reputation

While MCI is equipped to self-perform a majority of its own work, the company does maintain solid relationships within its network of subcontractors and suppliers that it will call upon when needed. “We make sure that we work with pre-qualified subs,” says Churakos. “Everybody gets a fair shot,” says Churakos.

The reputation that MCI has established within its industry and market has proven to be a factor in the company’s ability to not only survive but thrive through tough economic times. “We were fortunate enough to actually grow our business while others were downsizing during the recession,” recounts Churakos. “Our strong workforce takes pride in what they do. When you’re a company that takes all the steps to ensure safety and quality, good people want to work for you and we have great people.”

Churakos has been with MCI since Mark Cerrone started the company in 1999. When Cerrone died of cancer in 2007, Churakos and his wife Stephanie, along with Cerrone’s brother Vincent, purchased the company. “Mark was the godfather of my children and my best friend,” says Churakos. “It was in our interest to keep the company and the name going strong.” Today, MCI is a NYS Certified Woman-Owned Business Enterprise and was listed as one of the fast growing businesses on the 2014 Inc. Magazine 5000 List. “We certainly had a firm foundation to build upon despite our loss.”

As Mark Cerrone Inc. pushes forward and outward, the company will continue to build upon its success by following the principles set forth by its founder, including safety and quality as top priorities. 

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