E.T.& L. Construction Corp. Building Big in New England

Produced by Suzanne Mason & Written by Holly Alexander
US Developers Journal

When you spot a woman on a bridge, landfill or road construction project contracted to E.T.& L. Corp. based in Stow, Massachusetts, there’s a good chance it will be Jennie Lee Colosi, president, treasurer and owner of the company, or one of their four other woman civil engineers.

She likes to stay in touch with each job, including frequent visits, and has been visiting E.T.& L. sites her entire life. Her father, Anthony, joined the company in the forties, when it was Eastern Tree and Landscaping, as a foreman, and became president in 1956. Hanging out with Dad often meant being out on a site.

Seeing new opportunities, he began to shift the company’s primary work from residential and commercial landscaping to land clearing. E.T.& L. quickly became one of the largest commercial land clearing contractors in New England.

Growth and diversification have been steady over the decades. E.T.& L. now focuses on roads, highways, bridges, site work, as well as both the expansion and closure of landfills. Its primary states are Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and it does some jobs in other neighboring states. Colosi has worked in the business “my whole life,” taking her current lead roles when her father retired in 1988.

Today, the firm continues to do major work in engineering, excavation, earth support and pile driving, utility installation and placing concrete. Beyond that, as the general contractor they subcontract paving, landscaping, guard rail, fences, traffic signals and landfill liners. Keeping both subcontractors and suppliers up to date on job progress and the expected dates to begin their parts of projects has resulted in one of E.T.& L.’s signature values: finishing jobs on schedule.

E.T.& L. Corp. bills between $35 and $40 million a year, with 70 to 180 employees depending on the season. Despite the recession in 2008, the company continued its regular equipment replacement program, a boon to the heavy equipment industry. About 10 years ago the original company, E.T.& L. Construction Corp., reorganized into two companies – the Corp. side handles projects, and County Line Leasing owns and maintains equipment.

Given its specialties, most of the company’s work is on federal and state projects. Rather than marketing, they need to concentrate on having the lowest-cost qualified bid. To do that, Colosi said, the firm concentrates on good prices, top quality and staying on schedule. They seek top professionals in construction and engineering – Colosi is a professional engineer, and the company employs two others. Their trade employees are union workers, with much of their training completed in apprenticeships. Advanced skills for all employees are primarily gained on the job.

Other than some college career fairs, the internet and company website, E.T.& L. does little recruiting, finding that its reputation precedes it, creating a ready pool of people interested in joining the firm. Colosi said the company concentrates on retaining employees by maintaining excellence at all levels; providing good salaries and benefits; treating all workers, whether their own or their subcontractors’, with respect at all times; and achieving top safety ratings in a “risky, dangerous business.” They have developed a solid group of frequent subcontractors based on the subs’ performance, work quality, pricing, communication and good working relationships. Impressively, some have worked continuously with E.T.& L. for 50 years.

An E.T.& L. strength, both within the company and in working with subcontractors and vendors, is getting any issues that may arise out in the open and talking them through as soon as possible, Colosi said, allowing them to resolve problems that might slow down projects.

Among the firm’s 11 current projects, the biggest is a $15.9 million contract with the Massachusetts Highway Department to construct an 800-foot long viaduct bridge and reconstruct a number of features that will improve access and traffic flow on Route 3/Route 93 in Braintree-Quincy, Massachusetts.

One of the company’s largest projects was the $37 million Sagamore Rotary Flyover Project in Bourne, Massachusetts, completed in 2007. A grade-separated interchange replaced a rotary best known as a bottleneck that clogged traffic and frustrated millions of visitors each year who were headed for the popular vacation getaway, Cape Cod. The project also involved three temporary bridges which allowed summer traffic to flow unimpeded during construction.

Asked whether E.T. &L. uses green features in construction, Colosi replied with a laugh, “With our landfill restoration work, we’ve been green since the ′80s.” The firm has also worked on closing three Superfund sites and built athletic and recreation facilities.

The company’s steady work and revenues, and Colosi herself, prove that women can be successful CEOs in the design and construction industries, including heavy construction and infrastructure work. E.T. &L. Corp. ranked number 25 in the top 100 woman-led businesses in Massachusetts in a 2006 study. The study, conducted by Babson College and The Commonwealth Institute, also found that women-run businesses in Massachusetts were growing at double the rate of state and national businesses overall.

Colosi isn’t sure what to predict about 2009 work and revenues, because stimulus plans appear likely to include stepped-up work on bridges and highways. Interestingly, she said that she hopes “there will be plenty of work for all us contractors.” Because of its long history through flourishing and struggling economies, and its loyal, dedicated and professional team, she knows E.T. &L. Corp. can ride out any storm.