Mark Cerrone, Inc. champions people and processes to honor its legacy and ensure longevity  

Mark Cerrone, Inc. (MCI) provides a diverse range of civil construction services including demolition and asbestos abatement, site preparation and earthmoving, landfill construction, railroad construction, land remediation, utilities and infrastructure improvements, asphalt and concrete paving, and marine construction services.

“MCI was founded in 1999 by Mark Cerrone, a Niagara Falls native who worked for his uncle in a general site construction business as an operator,” begins George Churakos, President. “The company started off in residential construction digging basements with a backhoe and a dump truck. It evolved into commercial construction in 2003 doing a little over $1 million in sales until 2005-to-2007 when the company was doing between $5 million and $6 million in sales. I learned the business inside out, taking over the estimating and project management of the company while Mark worked the field end of the business. Unfortunately, in 2007, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died a few months after his diagnosis. Following Mark’s death, Vince Cerrone and I ran the company for Mark’s wife Candice, and then bought the business in December 2008. From 2009-to-2012, MCI was one of the fastest growing companies in Western New York exceeding sales of $65 million. Mark was my mentor, father figure, and godfather to my children. After his passing when we bought the company, I wanted to keep the name and legacy going. The company is currently owned by Vince and me and we have over 300 employees, with annual sales between $65 million and $100 million.”

MCI is committed to providing the safest possible workplace for its employees, subcontractors, clients, and the people who live and work in its communities and near its jobsites. The company culture of striving to be best-in-class spans the safety, quality, and integrity of its teams.

“I think the concept of best-in-class comes from the nature of some of the work we do. We challenge ourselves with more difficult jobs, which require greater expertise and the ability to manage challenging schedules and work plans to enable quality completion in a safe manner. Being able to bring all these pieces together is what sets us apart and enables us to be a best-in-class contractor. We also communicate with our clients and take a transparent approach to information sharing. Not every project goes exactly according to plan. Being upfront and keeping everybody in the loop facilitates greater trust.”

Transforming spaces
From major public projects to industrial plant maintenance, MCI’s clients include the State of New York, the City of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, many local towns and major industries. MCI is currently moving forward with a rehabilitation project: the Ralph Wilson Centennial Park. The $110 million design and development of Ralph Wilson Park was inspired by Imagine LaSalle, a multi-year, community-driven initiative to guide the transformation of the former LaSalle Park. Thousands of partners, community members, and stakeholders have been involved in the planning and design of this signature, year-round attraction. The construction of the park began in 2022. The waterfront park is on the shoreline of Lake Erie in downtown Buffalo. The park is undergoing a transformation to become one of the most beautiful and inclusive public spaces in the country, serving nearby residents and visitors from across the region and beyond. Construction is expected to continue through 2025.

“The reconstruction includes remediation, demolition, earthwork cuts and fills, utilities, and a large element of marine work. We’re working on utilities and the marine portion of the project to enhance the shoreline, and everything is currently moving along well,” he explains.

George highlights that workforce issues and intensifying owner demands are probably the biggest issues challenging the sector. “The lack of qualified workers is a continuing problem,” he elaborates. “Combined with owner demands for accelerated schedules, layers of management can make it difficult to get jobs up and running. We’re faced with an ageing, retiring workforce, combined with limited new entrants coming into the construction sector, which makes it difficult to fill the positions needed to complete the projects. While we don’t have a silver bullet for the solution, we have been reviewing the situation and starting to prioritize and promote training.

“While we’re seeing more apprentices on training programs, we still need to get more youngsters interested in the industry at a younger age. Getting young people interested in the trades at high school age is important and they need to know that this is a viable career option. I think the move away from promoting vocational education has hurt our industry and is partly to blame for the current shortages. College isn’t for everyone and there’s a genuine opportunity for skilled workers to make a good living in the construction sector.

“We make significant investments in training and developing our people and have a strong relationship with our union partner and their training programs. We provide a fully documented program for our professional and administrative staff and, as part of our recruitment and career development program, we deliver a Project Engineer Mentoring and Advancement program. Additionally, we are always working to incorporate the latest technology, from GPS in the field to the best accounting systems for our managers and finance professionals. I believe our training, technology, and accountability make us the best-in-class company we are today.”

Lasting legacy
MCI will be celebrating 25 years in business in 2024. “We aim to continue on the same path going forward,” George continues. “In terms of growth, while we’ll undoubtedly experience peaks, our growth will be sustained. We want to remain consistent and true to our customers, and to continue delivering exceptional projects. We’ll continue to upskill and invest in our employees to provide consistent and quality workmanship, while prioritizing our existing safety levels. Our plan for the coming years is to stay the course and continue to deliver a great product. I see the company on the same path with a best-in-class culture, performing the most challenging projects successfully, and employing a wonderful team.

“Some members of our team have been with us since we were a smaller company, back in the mid-2000s. We’re proud to have some long-term employees but also to be bringing new generations into the business. Succession planning will ensure our future sustainability as a business. Encouraging and supporting young people to upskill and move through the ranks to take on more senior level positions, such as project manager or estimator will facilitate continuity and longevity for the future,” he concludes.