JPW Companies of Syracuse, New York is an all-encompassing steel construction and fabrication producer. It is in a highly competitive industry, but due to the diversity of services it offers, JPW has thrived since 1953. It is comprised of three divisions: JPW Riggers, JPW Erectors and JPW Structural Contracting. All work together to perform such projects as the Chautauqua Amphitheatre in New York and the JWS Telescope project for NASA. We spoke with President John Wozniczka III.
John’s grandfather, John P. Wozniczka Sr., started JPW Fabricators in 1953. He began by fabricating and erecting stone quarries all over New England for twenty years. Eventually, he settled down and created a plate fabrication shop in Syracuse. John’s father graduated from what was then known as Dean Junior College in Boston and ran his father’s shop for three years before deciding that he preferred field work. JPW Riggers was born.
“My father bought some property right next to my grandfather’s shop and eventually opened his own crane business in Syracuse. At first, the work centred around foundries along with local commercial and industrial companies. That grew into a large rigging business and crane rental company in the 1970s,” says John.
The main concentration – ninety percent of the work done by the rigging company – involves erecting windmills with some of the biggest cranes in New England. Some of the cranes have a 600 tonne capacity, and the company travels all over the U.S. erecting and maintaining windmills and wind farm projects.
The wind farm projects came into the New England area back in 1998, and John’s father got in on the ground floor. He was intrigued by them and so sold some of his other equipment and continued to acquire bigger cranes to further support the wind industry.
John III and John Junior graduated from college at the same time in 1998. John III is a mechanical engineer. At first, the two were not sure which part of the business they wanted to enter. John III preferred the fabrication and engineering end of things and has run that aspect of the business for the last twenty years.
“My brother is like my father. He likes the crane and rigging side of it. My brother and I own a company called JPW Structural that does fabrication and installation of structural steel and miscellaneous steel for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) shop,” says John. JPW Fabricators was closed and absorbed by JPW Structural to avoid having too many names.
For JPW Structural, John Jr. runs all of the installation crews and uses cranes with a capacity of up to 300 tonnes. JPW self-performs all of its trucking, and it has its own man lifts, scissor lifts and tool trucks.
“Today we have JPW Structural that does the fabrication and the installation. Then we have JPW Riggers to do all the rigging work along with JPW Erectors, which is my brother’s company that does the installation. It’s not a separate company. JPW Structural takes care of everything,” says John.
The brothers work as partners doing the installation and fabrication. Their father’s company is still going strong with the windmill industry, and the group of companies are located in the same area of East Syracuse. Accounting services are shared and all companies work together on many projects.
JPW Companies also does structural steel for public and private buildings, but most of its structural steel is commercial work. Presently the company is working on a nine-storey building for Tompkins Financial Corp in Ithaca, New York. It is also working on buildings for local car dealerships, a new building for Colgate University and installing railings at the Syracuse University Carrier Dome.
“It will take us all summer to install hundreds of pieces of railing at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. All of it is stainless steel,” says John.
Recently JPW Companies completed the Chautauqua Amphitheatre from the drawings and fabrication to installation and erection. It was quite an undertaking that had to be completed in a short period.
“We had to pick up the pace because the earlier subcontractors doing the concrete and dirt work fell behind. But, they still had concerts to operate in the first week of June, so the building had to be opened. They asked us to work overtime, and it was accomplished. It is a 7,000-seat amphitheatre,” says John.
JPW Companies work with the Tompkins Financial Corporation is past the fabrication point. It will be a nine-storey building and is an all-encompassing endeavour which saw the company erect steel straight from the trucks. At the same time, all nine storeys worth of stairs and railings went in the building, right up to the roof. It will be completed at the end of August.
What separates JPW Companies from the rest is that it provides a total package with all the services that are required to design, fabricate and install a building. All drawings are done in-house.
“A lot of fabricators sublet their shaped drawings and engineering. We do both of those in-house. When it comes to fabrication, we are a fully automated shop, and we do a lot of other types of fabrication besides structural steel,” says John.
Amongst the long list of capabilities included are plate fabrication, bending, rolling and ASME pressure vessels. JPW Companies is an ASME-certified shop design-building pressure vessels and heating exchanges. It also has CNC machining centres under its roof as well. There is a separate stainless steel shop and it can fabricate stainless steel and aluminum in one building. This helps to keep contamination from the carbon steel away from the stainless steel.
“A lot of people sublet stainless altogether. It is typically a whole other stainless fabricator. We do that and have a separate building for it,” says John.
JPW creates stairs and railings along with structural steel in-house, while most companies sublet that work. The company also builds bridges and many of its fabricators specialize in bridges. Sandblasting and painting round out the lengthy list of services.
“We can go right from engineering to paint all under one roof. We prefer not to subcontract anything out, but the exception to that is when we have to roll something that is heavier than what our machines can do. Other than that we just purchase items like steel, hardware and concrete panel from vendors,” says John.
In fact, JPW works as a subcontractor for other fabricators that are much larger. This is because most other companies cannot do the variety of things that JPW does. It will cut and drill plates or build large trusses. Constructing pipe trusses are another unique skill of the company. Recently it built a pipe truss that looked like a DNA chain that was 60,000 pounds and 120 feet long and shipped it all the way to California.
JPW has grown through word of mouth about its quality service. There is no marketing department. All of the owners are hands-on people who work every day and run the business. None of them are trained salesmen or marketing people. Going forward, JPW is looking to gain this expertise.
“The last thing we want to do is grow too fast, but there are slow times during the year. This is typical in our business, especially in the winter, and we want to fill those voids. We feel that a salesman can help us in this area,” says John.
Currently, the annual revenue is $30 million, but within ten years, John wants that to reach $40 million to $50 million. If things continue in the right direction with everyone learning and growing, then it is probable. This is however dependent on the quality of people, and the company attempts to hire the right ones.
The company has had success with training younger recruits for an extended period. This slows growth, but becomes a kind of teambuilding towards greatness and is much more efficient than training someone who is stuck in their ways.
“We’ve gathered a lot of good kids from local universities: Clarkson, [Rochester Institute of Technology], Buffalo, Binghampton, Syracuse. A lot of good engineers come out of those schools. We try to get an intern from these schools every year. Most of our people are fairly young,” says John.
There are some veterans of the industry, but the younger set is leading the way. John expresses that it is sad, but if someone cannot draw on a computer or program machines, then their skills are not up to date. Nobody is doing it manually anymore.
For the last ten years, JPW has been involved in the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project for NASA. It has been designing, fabricating and installing support equipment at several NASA facilities that test various parts of the telescope.
“We have worked at the Goddard Space Centre in Baltimore, the Johnson Space Centre in Houston and others. It’s very difficult to get in with these people, but once we did, they were very happy to be working with an organization that could handle a host of needs, as opposed to hiring three or four different companies,” says John.