Hartford Construction Firm Reaches $1 Billion Milestone

Newfield Construction, a 43-year-old commercial construction company in Hartford, prides itself on its diversity of services. Now it has a new distinction: It has passed the $1 billion mark in business.

Newfield officials credit the firm's abilities to acclimate to a changing market climate and address the complex needs of its customers with helping the company do steady business in an unsteady economy.

The company performs general contracting, construction management and design-build work for a variety of private and public sector industries.

Newfield Construction President Damien Davis said the company has its hands in just about every industry outside of residential housing. "When markets change, we're not stuck in a corner," he said. "You go through trends, but we've always been able to adapt to the market. During the 1990s real estate crash, we were diverse enough that we could concentrate on public work effectively."

Newfield - which does work on public and private schools, municipal buildings, hotels, retail stores, churches, hospitals and nursing homes - has developed a reputation for being able to handle the complexities of intricate projects.

"We've been known by clients to pick up the more complicated work," said Diana Colcord, Newfield Construction's vice president of business development. "We can go in and help them solve problems. With schools, for example, we're a strong go-to firm to help keep the kids in the building while we work - we've done that over and over again as a company."

Similar challenges arise with hospitals and nursing homes. "They never shut down - it's about being sensitive to the needs of patients in those facilities," Davis said. "There aren't too many types of projects that our managers haven't been involved in - they've seen it all."

Newfield's employee and management structure, which is more linear than hierarchical, allows the company to develop strong relationships with clients from the beginning. "They're dealing with an owner," Davis said. "I will be involved as much as a project manager or an estimator."

The firm, which has done about $100 million in business for the past several years, now does approximately 75 percent construction management work.

"It has allowed us to get involved in the design phase as well, where you can bring a whole different level of service to the client," Colcord said.

Colcord said the company's project planning skills help set the tone in the beginning. "We give an owner 150 percent up front in the pre-construction phase," Colcord said. "If that's done correctly, the actual physical building is simple - it's noneventful."

"In pre-construction, it's potentially where money is made or lost, based on the planning," Davis said. "Your primary function is to manage the risk for the owner - to give them a clear, efficient road map to getting this project out of the gates and built."

While the company has decades of experience, they provide potential clients with specific reasons to hire Newfield. "We're not going to go into an owner and say, 'Hire us because we've built 10 office buildings,'" Davis said. "We tell them, 'We know how to build your office building.'"

Davis said the company will do the legwork to understand the project, the business and what the client is trying to accomplish. "We're not necessarily winning new business based on price," he said. "We're looking to win new business on our expertise. We try to sell the intangibles."

Colcord said the quality of the firm's work is proven by its repeat business. "The town of Southington - we've done five projects for them, and Wethersfield, we've done four projects," she said. "Once we get in with a client, we stay on with them."

Newfield has a strong commitment to green technology. About 75 percent of the firm's staff is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. Davis said Newfield has embraced green building like it has embraced technology. "It's where construction is right now, and where it's headed in the future," he said. "It's an interesting change because we spend more on software for our computers than we do on backhoes."

Newfield has been recognized with several state and national construction awards, including a National Associated General Contractors Build America Award of Excellence for restoration work on the Old State House in Hartford. Other major projects the firm has completed include renovation and construction at Cathedral Green in Hartford, Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, the state Department of Transportation in Newington, and the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.

Newfield completed the $7.7 million waterfront Riverview Banquet Facility in Simsbury, for which it won a 2010 Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., Excellence in Construction Award. Asbjorn Gjertsen, project manager for Riverview and the three other facilities in the Elegant Banquet conglomerate, said Newfield was easy to work with.

He said the subcontractors doing the interior trim work, which is extensive and elaborate, went out of business halfway through construction. "Newfield managed to find another subcontractor on very short notice so that we did not get delayed by it," Gjertsen said. "If we had tried to do that ourselves, it would have been a major problem."

Gjertsen said the project was completed on time and slightly under budget. "Even though the building was a bit challenging in design and choice of materials," he said. "They handled it very well and I think it really speaks volumes of their professionalism that we didn't really have any issues."