From One Truck to a Key Construction Services Provider

W.L. French Excavating Corporation

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It began with a single Mack truck, forty-five years ago.

Today, the W.L. French Excavating Corporation (WLF) is a leading site contractor and soil management company in New England. WLF offers a wide range of services including heavy utility construction and installation, soil and waste management, snow removal, mass excavation and site remediation. The firm has experienced explosive growth in recent years and is a well-regarded union site contractor.
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Headquartered in North Billerica, Massachusetts, the W.L. French Excavating Corporation was founded in 1972, by William French Senior and remains a privately-owned family company. With a huge fleet of over two hundred pieces of equipment, it primarily serves clients in the New England region. Customers include contractors, government agencies and commercial real-estate developers.

The company’s site development work can involve land clearing and grubbing, site cuts and fills, excavation of building foundations as well as backfilling, blasting and drilling, utility and site demolition, drainage, sewer and water work, plus curbing and paving.

Within the mass excavation category, the company does site grading, deep excavation work for below-grade facilities and structures and supports excavation systems.

On site remediation assignments, WLF can monitor air quality, sample and test soil, mix and treat soil, transport and dispose of soil, conduct remedial excavations and develop engineered dewatering and groundwater treatment systems. The company has environmental engineers on staff for such work and veteran site supervisors.

It is one of the largest common carriers and haulers of hazardous waste materials in New England. In addition to its heavy equipment inventory, the company has an in-house truck fleet licensed to transport hazardous waste in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, New York State, Connecticut and Canada. Through partnerships with disposal facilities in the Northeast, it can offer very competitive rates for disposal-related jobs.

By the company calculates that it coordinates and supervises the transportation of over a million tons of soil annually. WLF also handles ancillary soil transportation services, such as loading, taking care of permits and checking manifests.

It runs a pair of soil reuse facilities in Tewksbury and Dudley, Massachusetts. These sites take excess soil from large-scale construction projects in the New England area.

The company also offers integrated transportation-related services to several Massachusetts municipalities. WLF has been contracted by over forty towns and cities to haul and dispose of street sweepings, debris, sediment from catch basins, asbestos and other hazardous materials.

The company does a variety of sanitary sewer work within the utility construction category, involving pumping stations, grease traps, holding tanks and pipe systems. Other services, for drainage purposes, include piping, infiltration systems, water quality units and detention tanks. The company can install water distribution pipes as well.

New England is a very snowy region, so it is not surprising that W.L French also specializes in snow and ice management. The firm plows, removes and disposes of snow, manages ice and is a major regional distributor of winter salt. The snow and ice division has over one hundred pieces of equipment and is on call any time customers need it – a huge selling point in a region known for unpredictable snowfall. The fleet uses GPS technology, making it easier for WLF officials to schedule snow removal and determine where plows are.

This division ensures that over 2.5 million square feet of Massachusetts-based commercial property remain snow and ice free. Ice and snow management services are also available to private developers, municipalities, state agencies and institutions.

W.L. French’s prowess on the snow removal front has been duly noted by the national media. The company featured prominently in a cheeky article published January 26, 2016, in the Washington Post that contrasted Washington, D.C.’s fumbling response to a major snowfall with the fast, professional service provided by WLF. Following a major blizzard that D.C. crews seemed unable to cope with, W.L. French sent a team to help and quickly cleared clogged streets.

“The efficiency demonstrated by French’s crew raised questions about training for the District’s usual fleet of 150 plow operators,” read the Post article.

This is not the only media coverage the company has received. It was also included in a New England television program called Chronicle that looked at family businesses operating in Massachusetts.

The company’s high profile is in stark contrast to its humble roots. French Sr. began the firm at the very young age of eighteen. This serious-minded teenager launched the company by purchasing a Mack wheel dump truck. French Sr. began drumming up business in Boston and other areas, trucking and disposing soil from construction sites.

From a single vehicle, French Sr. steadily expanded the company’s fleet, services, client base and personnel. Today, WLF has over 160 employees and reported revenues of over $65 million in 2015. The company is eager to continue growing its workforce. The company prefers construction professionals with experience who plan to stay with the company for some time. To help maintain loyalty, it offers comprehensive benefits for its staff and ample opportunities to advance.

French Sr. is currently chief executive officer while son William French Jr. is president. French Sr.’s daughter, Jessica French Goyette serves as vice president.

Notable projects the firm features on its website include mass excavation, site remediation, site development and utility work during construction at the library at Salem State University in Salem, a site remediation and soil management assignment in Burlington, with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and site remediation and development and mass excavation for a redevelopment initiative called the Centre Street Project in Brockton.

Last year, WLF won a major contract involving the construction of a new theatre center at Boston University. Among other things, the company will be responsible for 15,000 cubic yards of mass excavation and the disposal of 33,000 tons of soil, according to a press release. The project also involves new water, drain and sewer installations.

WLF has received industry honors. Last year, the company was named 2016 Massachusetts Family Business of the Year in the large firms (of one hundred employees and up) category. The award was given out by the Northeastern University Center for Family Business. Also in 2016, it was cited by the Boston Business Journal as one the largest private-sector companies in Massachusetts.

The company has been listed among the Top 600 Specialty Contractors for 2014 by Engineering News-Record (ENR) and among the Top 5,000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in 2010 and 2014 by Inc. magazine.

Given the nature of what the company does, safety is central to W.L. French’s operations. The firm follows the motto ‘Think Safety – Work Safely.’ In addition to providing its employees with top-notch equipment and technology, the company follows risk management principles, has a corporate safety director and provides comprehensive safety training for both new and existing employees. This includes OSHA training, HAZMAT/HAZCOM training, learning first aid, DOT training and continuing education.

The company takes ethics very seriously and lists its requirements for prospective subcontractors, vendors and subcontracted drivers. W.L. French makes clear that, in addition to having tax and insurance documentation, companies and individuals who work for the organization are expected to adhere to high ethical and legal standards.

This concern for ethical behavior extends into the community. It is very active in Billerica, supporting local businesses and charitable efforts. To this end, the company supports Habitat for Humanity, Toys for Tots and the American Red Cross.

As for the future, the W.L. French Excavating Corporation is moving confidently towards its fiftieth anniversary in five years. The firm is looking to acquire new equipment and attract new workers.

When WLF does hit the half-century mark, it will be a time of celebration for a firm started by a hardworking teenager with a vision.

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 18, 2019, 6:38 AM EST

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