Bridging the Gap between Generations

Northern Construction

Founded in 1996 by John L. DiVito and John N. Rahkonen, Northern Construction Service, LLC works throughout New England, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Its sizeable list of customers includes the United States Coast Guard, the New York State Construction Fund, transportation departments, and municipalities, as well as private clients.
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Most of us know that if you want to do well in business, people matter – especially customers. However, every now and again, one comes across a company with slightly different, perhaps even more evolved views. One such business is Northern Construction Service, LLC, for which the continued education and self-improvement of its team is a genuinely big deal.

Always there to support team members in completing their continued studies, owner John Rahkonen is a shining example of how consistently investing in one’s team and taking an interest in cultivating their futures are the real game changers for propelling a big business into a league of its own.

While it is especially famous for constructing and maintaining a great variety of bridges, Northern Construction Services is well-respected in many disciplines, with an equally strong focus on constructing and rehabilitating other traffic-bearing surfaces like roads, landing strips, and the like. It also does marine work and has recently completed several seawalls and pile-driving projects along the northeast coast.

It is working on a number of utility projects, like the site work it is doing for a handful of large gas compressor stations around New England. These projects involve earth moving, excavation, extensive concrete pouring, and more. It is also assisting in traffic mitigation for the new MGM Grand Casino at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Thanks to its great workforce of over one hundred and an extensive in-house equipment fleet, the company can mobilize quickly and work tremendously long hours, making it the first choice for emergency repairs and salvaging in disaster situations.

This Palmer, Massachusetts-based general contractor has become very well respected for its results on complex projects and also for often finishing ahead of schedule. Its valuing of the importance of building solid relationships and its understanding of people’s concerns are combined with great organizational skills to give it a talent for superb project coordination.

Considering its forward-thinking approach to team-building, it is not surprising to learn of a rather remarkable achievement that shows how well people are prepared to look after those who look after them. Assistant Project Manager Sarah Rahkonen tells of a gargantuan task completed in a single weekend. “Shawn Clarke, our project and operations manager, and his team demolished and replaced two three-lane bridges on interstate 84 – all in the same weekend,” she says. It is no wonder then that this project in Southington, Connecticut, earned the company a handsome reward.

With a $1,000,000 penalty hanging over its head if the project was not completed successfully by the Monday, the company quickly fitted the new bridges that had been fabricated on site using a method known as accelerated bridge building (ABC), restoring normal road function within a matter of hours. The company had spent months getting everything ready to ensure the smooth transition from old to new, which paid off when the last phase of this $7,000,000 project was successfully concluded in just over fifty hours on June 24, 2014, and east and westbound traffic could flow freely over Marion Avenue once more.

Some of Northern Construction Services’ interesting portfolio of work includes historical bridge rebuilding, dam improvements, and salt marsh and pond rehabilitation. The company was also responsible for implementing the electronic materials arrestor (EMAS) barrier system at New England’s first airport. From concrete decks and culvert replacements to concrete foundations for entertainment parks, this team has done it all. It even moved a very old lighthouse from its original location to a new home. On the utility side of the business, it is also well versed in landfill, wetland, sewer, and drainage work.

Northern Construction Services takes old-school pride in everything it does. From keeping its trucks clean and its workforce empowered to keeping its customers as happy as can be, its warm, yet efficient approach makes the company a pleasure to deal with. Being a business that prides itself on family values, there are no throngs of middle managers prohibiting direct access to its executive management, either.

“Whether it’s work coming out of our offices, dealing with our project managers or the work we do in the field, we uphold a high standard, and we expect everyone to excel. The bare minimum is simply not acceptable,” says Sarah. “Our people are pretty much willing to do anything. They’ll hop in a car and drive wherever they need to in order to service projects that run twelve hours a day, seven days a week,” she says. As a signatory union contractor and affirmative action and equal opportunity employer in support of small business and disadvantaged business enterprises, it subcontracts small amounts of specialty work.

Old-school as its service quality is, the company boasts a large percentage of young employees who take pride in getting as many certificates in their fields as possible. This is all part of Mr. Rahkonen’s vision for their bright future. The president also offered two local college scholarships to encourage more people to qualify in civil engineering or construction management. “Everyone here really respects him,” says Sarah.

John Rahkonen is a hands-on man with a great sense of caring and is known for driving to big projects with a job trailer loaded with snacks, candy, and drinks to make the long working hours more comfortable for the company’s traveling workers. “They come down and provide all meals and small gifts of company-branded gear to help everyone really get into the team spirit before they start the job,” says Sarah. Northern Construction Services also hosts get-togethers like lunches where everyone gets to meet each other’s families and spend some quality downtime together.

With public bidding and contracting becoming increasingly more competitive and more challenging thanks to increased bureaucracy, the company is finding that the construction landscape is changing. However, Northern Construction Services is always ready to take on new challenges and is prepared to adapt quickly to varying market needs and meet its customers’ projects with confidence. The company is committed to continuing high-quality work while providing its teams with top safety standards for many years to come.

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, 8:26 AM EST

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