Building Expertise, Building Relationships
Newport Concrete out of Manassas, Virginia supplies concrete to builders and provides other essential tools for the residential housing industry. It depends on suppliers to acquire such things as rebar and will also supply labor for these projects…
Founder Jose Morais came to the U.S. from Portugal on December 31, 1968, after marrying his wife, Josefina. He lived in Massachusetts for the first few years doing odd jobs but was given an opportunity to move to Long Island to work for a friend’s concrete contracting company. The industry came naturally to him, and after only two years, he opened his own company and worked directly for the local builders. Due to a lack of work and a weak economy, he moved to Virginia seeking other opportunities.
“In Northern Virginia, he began to expand his company and became one of the leaders in residential concrete contracting. After a few successful years, he sold the company to his brothers and moved back to his homeland to attempt some new ventures in a different industry, but concrete was his niche, so he came back to the U.S. in 1988 and founded Newport Concrete Inc.,” says Manager Antonio P. Conceicao.
Ironically, 2008 was a funny year for Newport because the Great Recession is when the company really grew. It expanded its footprint and doubled its business.
Back in 2007, there were so many opportunities for building residential homes. Newport could stay within one area, and it made no sense to drive two hours into Baltimore to find work. After 2007, the company extended its market all the way up to Baltimore. “Instead of producing less, we actually doubled in size by entering markets that we had never been to before. It incurred more costs, but we had no choice. We either extended our reach or didn’t work. It was an interesting time, and we learned a lot. When things are good, anybody can find work. When the opposite is true, that’s a whole new ballgame,” says Antonio.
Newport Concrete is a contractor for residential work only. The market in the District of Columbia is very fierce, and companies need to be aggressive to stay in business. The area is one of the best in the country when it comes to housing and is like night and day compared to other states, according to Antonio.
In the District of Columbia, there is very tight scheduling, as a house can be flipped in thirty days. Newport Concrete builds full concrete walls and basements starting with a footer, followed by a foundation and the flat areas, such as a garage. It also works on the exterior concrete. In the DC area, the company has been working for the same builders since 1988.
“Ninety percent of that is about pricing. When you work for a big corporation, you know what is coming, but you also need the quality, and that becomes the challenge. We need to keep the quality and meet all the schedules,” says Antonio.
Newport’s Concrete’s biggest contractor is Virginia- based NVR. It also works in other states and is a huge company with revenues of over $5.2 billion. Newport also works for smaller builders such as Lakeside Builders, Castle Rock, and Key Stone.
Most of the challenging jobs come from the smaller builders, and back in 2013, there was a truly difficult project that tested Newport’s capabilities. The work took place in the Maryland area, on a plot of land with some meticulous requirements. “We were not able to bring certain weights on the job site. The area we worked in was called Canal Road, and it had the main water pipe that runs through the District of Columbia, by the Potomac. It was very old, and so they restricted the weight of trucks coming in,” says Antonio.
The larger concrete trucks were not allowed, so the load had to be split three ways in smaller trucks. For this job, a concrete pump moved each load of concrete to three smaller trucks that had access to that section of the neighborhood and the site.
That was not the only concern as bringing in materials like aluminum forms had to follow the same protocol. Normally a roll-off was used to drop the aluminum onto the site, but in this case, everything had to be accomplished using pickup trucks so as not to be over the weight limits.
“The only vehicles allowed in there are from the fire department. Big trucks are restricted. All of this makes for a longer-than-usual job, with a lot more planning. It was just four single homes, but it involved more logistics than building many larger houses,” says Antonio.
Newport did not want to be the company that burst the main lines going into the District of Columbia. It was very delicate work, and if things went wrong, DC would have been without water for days, and that would have effectively ended the company.
The contract Newport Concrete has with NVR is unique in that it works as a turnkey concrete solution provider. For most projects with smaller builders, Newport will buy the concrete and bill accordingly. NVR buys concrete directly and does not rely on Newport for the concrete.
“We provide all the labor and materials on the site to be pour-ready. NVR buys the concrete and is one of the few builders in the U.S. that does it this way. It’s called turnkey. We bill for everything except the concrete. We will come with the appropriate amount of rebar also,” says Antonio.
Newport Concrete has good relationships with suppliers, most of which have been with the company since its inception in 1988. Antonio usually shops in three places for needed items but also has a preferred supplier. “When it comes to materials, we deal with three separate suppliers. They are completely different companies. It behooves me not to depend on just one,” says Antonio.
Everything now is about the rebar, and having only one supplier can be a huge detriment to business. Imagine if a preferred supplier is unable to produce the desired amount of rebar. “We always have to have three doors open because, even though it might be a good and dependable one, if we are constantly depending on that supplier, another one may not be as willing to serve us,” says Antonio. “This is what necessitates having more than one supplier at all times. The market these days is crazy and unpredictable, and our relationships with suppliers are very important for this reason.”
The biggest challenge is in finding rebar, and no one knows how the prices will fluctuate. With tariffs looming, companies are bracing themselves for price increases. Many imports are not coming in, and the rebar will become even scarcer. Any cost increase starts a domino effect. The supplier increases prices, followed by companies like Newport Concrete; this affects the builder prices, and the purchaser ends up paying more when buying a house.
Labor shortages are a challenge that has no end in sight. This has much to do with the areas in which Newport Concrete works. During the last housing crisis, people moved away from these areas in the District of Columbia because there were no jobs. This makes it difficult to find more skilled labor.
“We have to entice people by paying more as an incentive. Costs are increasing all around, and it doesn’t look like this will change anytime soon. It’s just the cost of doing business these days,” says Antonio.
The Concrete Foundations Association (CFA) plays an important role in the life of any construction company. CFA also reviews new products that come out on the market. Sometimes clients ask for different varieties of product, and CFA provides an appraisal on every item before Newport would buys, making it a good source of information for the company.
Among its services, it aids in implementing safety programs, and Newport Concrete takes full advantage of its offerings. Antonio works closely with CFA. At Newport it does not matter what kind of contracts it has or how busy, safety is always of primary importance.
“At the end of the day, everybody that works for us goes home to their families. On construction sites, the potential for incidents is high. CFA has helped me to implement things on our end that makes it safer to work. With the volume of work we do, we have an excellent record for safety,” says Antonio.