Long Island firm capitalizes on green initiative with productive approach.
As a startup company, MANA Construction Group has developed a highly efficient system for planting trees across the boroughs of New York City.
Three 10-man crews, each utilizing a Cat® Skid Steer Loader equipped with a different attachment, travel to one of the city’s five boroughs and plant 35 to 50 trees per day. As part of a systematic approach, the first crew comes through with a hammer that breaks the concrete. The second machine follows and excavates, while the third crew plants the trees and covers them with topsoil.
“It’s like a three-step assembly process—we go right down the street in succession with each crew executing its specialty,” says MANA co-founder and vice president Natale Cardino, who estimates that his crews have already planted some 12,000 trees in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s stated goal of planting one million trees across the city.
But apparently not everyone was impressed. Competitors complained to parks officials that Long Island-based MANA was cutting corners and not adhering to job specifications. Following up on the complaint, parks officials monitored MANA’s crews covertly over a period of days, and determined that they were simply very productive with their process.
“We came in as the new kid on the block, and won several jobs,” says cofounder Mark Feldman. “We were just doing it better and faster than the rest, so our competitors really had nothing to hang their hat on. Anytime you can do a job cheaper and faster and better than your competitors, chances are you will continue competing successfully for future jobs.”
MANA was founded three years ago by Cardino, a construction industry veteran, and Feldman, an entrepreneur who was the first to bring switch-based prepaid cellular phone service to North America. Cardino has the industry contacts and the construction industry savvy, while Feldman brings the financial acumen.
“It’s a good partnership, because I was a field person and Mark is on the business end,” Cardino says. “I am learning more about the office side of the business, and Mark is learning more about field operations. It’s a good combination, and it’s what you need to get ahead in this business.”
Scope of work
MANA is projecting 2012 revenue to triple that of 2011 and to more than double in 2013, surpassing $30 million. Planting trees accounts for 60 percent of its business. The company also has a $3 million maintenance contract maintaining nine Park ‘n Rides along the Long Island Expressway, performing plowing, mowing and other work. It also has begun work on a $7.5 million contract to install overhead reflective sign panels up and down the entire length of the expressway in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
As MANA builds its equipment assets to take on new work, it purchases all of its machines new from its Cat® dealer, H.O. Penn.
“Caterpillar gives us a great deal through Cat Financial with zero percent financing, and you can’t beat that,” Cardino says. “So the money we save goes back into the business. I don’t think you can beat zero percent financing on any kind of equipment, and they stand behind their equipment. There has never been an issue with Caterpillar and H.O. Penn.”
MANA performs regular maintenance on its equipment at a yard close to its office in Jericho, New York. Any equipment issues are addressed right away, Cardino says. On those rare instances when it requires a part that is not on the shelf, an H.O. Penn representative will deliver it to the equipment yard later that day or first thing in the morning.
“Our downtime is very minimal,” Cardino says. “And in our business, uptime is very important. With a 10- man crew, having a machine down costs a lot of money.”
With a total of 75 employees, every member of MANA’s team has worked in the construction field for a minimum of 10 years.
“We strive for respect in our work crews,” Cardino says. “MANA has become known as a great place to work—word gets around. We have no shortage of well-qualified people who would like to work here. I must have a list of 100 applications. We take good care of our crews—they are happy to work here.”
Every crew member takes a required 10-hour OSHA safety course. MANA also holds weekly tailgate meetings that focus on a broad range of topics. Safety.cat.com has proven to be a great resource for fresh topics.
“We’re proud of where we are right now,” Cardino says. “MANA Construction is going to continue growing, as we do the projects that have made us successful so far, while seeking new opportunities to expand our horizons. We feel there is no limit as to where we’re going to be in the next few years.”
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT CAT EQUIPMENT
MANA has tried three skid steer brands, and its operators prefer Cat machines because of the joystick controls, the responsiveness, dependability and the ride, vice president Natale Cardino says.
“Sometimes we can’t get on a city block with our equipment, so we have to drive it in,” he says. “For our operators it’s just the way the Cat® machines are controlled—and all of the quick attachments that come with those machines fit what we do perfectly.
“We use the Cat H65 hammer, and the action on it is unbelievable,” he says. “We have had many hammers prior to purchasing the Cat hammer, but the trigger and the action is unbelievable. As far as I’m concerned, they have the best hammer in the field.”
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT THEIR CAT DEALER
“The service provided by H.O. Penn is impeccable. Whatever we need in parts and support services is always readily available. Everyone is very responsive, and we never have to wait for anything. As our company and jobs progress, we plan on purchasing more Cat equipment.”