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Reaching for more: affordable demolition & hauling works its way into Northern Ohio's demolition market.

Starting up one's own business is a vital outlet to attaining the American dream for many people, including in the fields of construction and demolition contracting and the vast networks of subcontractors that serve those sectors.

For Vincent Collazo, that dream has occasionally been interrupted by a nightmare, but the Clevelander has been persistent in establishing Affordable Demolition & Hauling Inc. (ADH) as a competitor in northern Ohio's demolition market.

The company has undertaken increasingly larger projects as it attempts to work its way into the "big leagues" of large-scale commercial and industrial demolition.

A BAD BREAK

Vince Collazo's first exposure to the construction industry was as a laborer on job sites, but after just a few years of that he started up in the construction debris hauling business.

"We were trying to find innovative ways of saving time for the construction industry," Vince says of his initial business.

That business was growing modestly when, two years after the start-up, a serious fall resulted in Vince suffering severe internal injuries. "I was injured pretty badly and couldn't walk for a substantial amount of time," he says.

During his recovery, friend and construction colleague Randy Kinney came by to visit and proposed starting up a demolition firm. Vince jumped at the chance, or at least jumped as far as his injuries would allow him to. "On our first job, I was still on crutches," he recalls.

The duo's first job consisted of demolishing a house in an eastern suburb of Cleveland, using a rented skid-steer loader with attachments.

"Shortly after that, Randy began having heart problems," says Vince, "so I had to look for additional people to work with." Among those has been Lou Blagojevic, current site supervisor.

The residential demolition opportunities proved suitable enough for Vince and his co-workers to begin building a business that initially allowed them to work together at times, while also allowing each individual to do some excavating or hauling work on the side.

"Our turnaround time is very fast. That is one of the reasons the growth has come about so quickly," says Vince. For a residential job, the company will typically rent its equipment for just one or two days to ensure that the incentive is there to work quickly.

Affordable Demolition & Hauling, based in Cleveland, has continued to focus on residential demolition, while also concentrating on the recycling of debris and bidding on increasingly larger commercial jobs in order to grow the business.

AVOIDING THE LANDFILL

Even though Vince has a hauling background, he is not one to automatically send debris to the landfill. In fact, his first instinct is to find the salvage or recycling value of resulting materials.

"Because we're smaller, we can do a lot of salvaging of things like bricks, bath tubs, windows, foundation stone, even some types of glass," says Vince.

Since Vince knows the cost of hauling, he is happy to avoid it. "If it's a matter of either paying to dispose of something vs. getting rid of it at no cost or even making money, the choice should be pretty clear."

In addition to metals and wiring, the company sets aside brick and block for re-use or recycling and has also recycled demolition wood and salvaged entire beams.

On a job site in East Cleveland where several multi-unit residential buildings are being taken down, a pile of concrete that can be crushed is staged in one area for pick-up, while red bricks that can be re-used are in a separate pile. A container placed by a scrap metal company serves to hold metals recovered from the 1920s-era buildings.

"Recycling is always a great alternative vs. the cost of disposing of the debris," says Vince. He says that in just the few years that ADH has been in existence, landfill costs have doubled, while fuel costs have also escalated.

The East Cleveland project, along with occasional commercial jobs the firm is able to land, has been an important one for ADH, as it has allowed them to work on several buildings in one neighborhood and reach new levels of bonding and parallel activity.

The city is working to replace older abandoned homes and commercial buildings with large parcels of land that can attract new development. On the site where ADH has been working, an East Cleveland church is putting a development plan in place to build on the newly vacant land.

"They're doing quite a bit in that city and making quite a bit of progress," says Vince. "There have been 40 new homes built recently and quite a lot of demolition before that could occur."

MOVING UP

The experience gained from larger jobs has been important to ADH, but so has the ability to secure bonding for larger-scale jobs.

Vince says he started learning more about the scrap metal markets from his first commercial jobs. "On our first commercial job, I didn't realize the amount of metal and iron that would be generated," he recalls. "I learned from the guys in the scrap industry about recycling and cutting. Now we do quite well with interior steel."

Growing fast in the demolition industry is not easy, as both equipment capital costs and the ability to get bonding to work on large jobs can be barriers to such growth.

"It's a catch-22 and a glass ceiling for demolition contractors," says Vince. "Other new contractors have made mistakes along the way, so customers can be reluctant to give a new contractor a chance. They typically ask if you have done these kinds of projects in the past, and if you haven't, that's not what they want to hear."

The result, says Vince, is that "it's not easy to bond out for $1 million. One of our most recent jobs came out to $220,000. It gets us a little closer. I think we're cracking that barrier right now, but if you make a mistake along the way, it can be impossible to recover."

ADH is being careful to avoid those mistakes, says Vince. "We do not cut any corners. We have built up letters of reference and we try to reward our people so we do not have to be concerned with new and inexperienced operators on the job."

Vince extends much of the credit to long-time business partner Randy Kinney. "He is used to working with heavy equipment and keeps things rolling on the job site."

Other key employees include site supervisor Lou Blagojevic and dozer operator Rick Hannah, who has recovered from losing an arm in an auto accident to become a highly productive dozer operator on demolition job sites. Vince says such employees have been instrumental in the company's growth. "What creates success is people--the operators on the job. I have seen a lot of mismanagement in construction in the past. We have created a team environment. If you're not treating the people around you well, it will be difficult to be successful," Vince remarks.

While working to meet the requirements to tackle larger jobs can be a challenge for Vince and ADH, he is trying to walk a path that will allow for growth while also letting him reward his best people.

"We hope to be up there bidding against some of Cleveland's biggest contactors," Vince says of the future. But at the same time, he is not in a hurry to emulate all of their policies.

"Bigger companies try to cut back on people; they switch employees or look for the lowest-cost employee. We get loyalty from our workforce and are extremely efficient using good people."

RELATED ARTICLE: Confident renter.

A growing contractor such as Affordable Demolition & Hauling Inc. (ADH), Cleveland, faces many choices when it comes to the equipment it uses on the job.

The philosophy of ADH and its President Vincent Collazo has been to avoid the temptation to purchase or lease equipment in favor of renting equipment as it is needed.

Vince has avoided the temptation of measuring his success by how many loaders or excavators he owns in favor of the efficiencies he sees in renting.

He credits a Cleveland-area NationsRent dealer he works with for having a suitable supply of skid steers, excavators and attachments to help him accomplish any job in the timeframe he requires.

"We have rented equipment from the beginning," says Vince. "And at the beginning, to make any profit we had to get done on the one day we had the equipment rented."

Renting equipment has made ADH more efficient, Vince contends. After an initial prep day to remove any garbage or salvageable items that may be in a home, the machinery can be brought on site early the next morning. "Using, say a Komatsu track loader, a skid steer and three or four people, we can demolish a home in one day," he notes.

Then, "Once a house is down, the process keeps moving quickly, with trucks hauling out the recyclable material and the garbage," says Vince. "Not having a large capital budget has kept us running a tight ship. We still find it more beneficial to rent."

While renting may require some planning and help from a reliable rental company, it also offers the benefit of knowing a replacement machine will be on site quickly should a breakdown occur.

He credits the NationsRent dealer with being staffed with "people who want to see your business grow. The people there will go the extra mile."

The rental firm has expanded to include enough choices for a contractor like ADH to get the job done. "Years ago, the rental places didn't have the right equipment, but now they do and they are willing to lease it out. They have skid steers, front-end loaders or pretty much anything we need."

The author is editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net.
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Title Annotation:Affordable Demolition & Hauling Inc. management
Author:Taylor, Brian
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Words:1639
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