Alberici Corporation

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Alberici Corporation

2150 Kienlen Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63121-5592
Telephone: (314) 261-2611
Toll Free: (800) 261-2611
Fax: (314) 261-4225

Private Company
1918 as J.S. Alberici Construction Company
Employees: 2,500
Sales: $608.1 million (2003)
NAIC: 236220 Commercial and Institutional Building Construction

Alberici Corporation is an employee-owned corporate parent of nearly 20 construction subsidiaries, the largest of which is Alberici Construction Company. The St. Louis-based company is diversified geographically as well as in capabilities, allowing it the potential to prosper no matter what the economic conditions. With regional offices in Ontario, Canada, Michigan, West Virginia, and Georgia. Alberici offers a full range of construction services for general contracting, construction management, and design-build projects. It also offers special construction services, including steel fabrication and erection, heavy demolition, rigging and heavy lifting, and equipment installing and relocation. Among the markets Alberici serves are automotive manufacturing, energy, food and beverage, healthcare, pharmaceutical, marine, industrial, and water/wastewater. The company also owns a massive fleet of equipment, valued at more than $100 million. Alberici is ranked in the top 50 of U.S. contractors with annual sales in excess of $600 million.

1918 Origins

Alberici Corporation was founded in St. Louis in 1918 as J.S. Alberici Construction Company by John Stanislaus Alberici, an immigrant from the wine country of northern Italy. Alberici launched the business in his mid-40s after managing the construction of a bank building in St. Louis for a New York firm. The clients were so pleased with his work they urged him to start his own contracting business. As a further inducement he was allowed to set up shop in an extra office of The Boatmen's National Bank. J.S. Alberici Construction Company specialized in concrete contracting, and it wasn't until 1923 that Alberici traded in his horse and wagon for a truck.

In 1928 Alberici was joined in business by his 18-year-old son Gabriel, who initially attended Washington University's engineering school at night before the long hours demanded by his father proved to onerous for studies as well. The younger Alberici would eventually graduate from the American School of Welding in 1932. In the early days, however, he generally started his 16-hour days by reporting to a construction site at 3 a.m. to set it up for the day's work. On Sunday, his only day off, he and his father helped friends in the Italian district of St. Louis, known as The Hill, as they constructed their homes bit by bit, whenever they had saved enough money to buy more materials. "My father was a stern guy," Alberici told the St Louis Business Journal, in a 1996 profile. "I loved him but you didn't stray far from the course. He showed me how to work hard and make it into a routine."

Gabriel Alberici assumed an increasing amount of responsibility in the 1930s, especially in the area of equipment investments. The roots of the firm's $100 million fleet were planted during this period. Like his father and their immigrant friends, he loathed to borrow money. In fact, throughout its history the company took out just one loan, for $20,000, and it was repaid within the year. During the 1930s Alberici Corporation landed one of its first high-profile jobs, the $100,000 contract in 1939 to provide stonework and walkways for the Muny Opera building in St. Louis. With the profits the company was able to purchase its first crane for $2,000.

A New Generation of Leadership in 1940

The elder Alberici died in 1940, leaving the business to 31-year-old Gabriel and his younger sister Mary. A graduate of the Washington University School of Business in 1933, she forged a partnership with her brother to run the business their father had founded. Essentially he ran the outside of the company and she ran the inside, and by all accounts she maintained a tight ship. Gabriel was president of the firm, while Mary served as secretary and treasurer. A few years later, in 1946, key employees gained a stake in the business when Alberici Corporation became an employee-owned entity, with the Alberici family still retaining majority ownership. When employee-stockholders left the company or retired, they were required to sell back their stock. For the employees who did not own stock, a profit sharing plan was instituted. Not many of the stockholders left before retiring, however, as many opted to stay with the company for their entire work careers. For her part, Mary Alberici retired in 1960.

The 1950s was a period of diversification for J.S. Alberici. From the beginning the company prided itself on completing projects on time and on budget, but after a pair of projects were delayed because a local fabricator failed to deliver steel, the company in 1952 built its own fabrication plant. This would expand over time into a 200,000 square-foot facility, becoming not only one of the largest steel fabrication plants in the Midwest but one of the most sophisticated in the entire country. A year later, that capability would begin to be put to use as Alberici Corporation entered the automotive plant construction market when General Motors decided to build a plant in the St. Louis area. Later Alberici would win contracts to build facilities in St. Louis from the two other members of Detroit's Big Three automakers, Chrysler and Ford. Another new area of business begun in the 1950s was highway construction, which in the postwar era was deemed a national security issue. Both the federal and state governments invested heavily in the construction of highways. Alberici got its start in 1955 by working on the Third Street Highway that cut through the heart of St. Louis.

Diversification continued in the 1960s. A vice-president named Raymond F. Pieper recognized that air pollution control held great potential for the construction industry, at a time when the need for clean air and clean water was becoming a major concern in the United States. He began going after some projects outside of St. Louis. His first successful bid was for a retrofit for a central Illinois public service company. Next Alberici did some power plant maintenance work, which set the stage for the construction of power plants. Gaining experience incrementally, Alberici was able to develop its current expertise in the energy and water/wastewater fields.

Other developments in the 1960s included the introduction of the industry's first 16-cubic-yard capacity roll-on/roll-off dumpster container, which was used to more efficiently clean up job sites. The company also launched its first formal construction safety program. The reduction in accidents resulted in lower insurance costs. At the end of the 1960s the company moved to a new 65-acre site, large enough to accommodate future growth.

In 1976 Pieper became the first non-member of the Alberici family to be named company president. Gabriel Aberici retained the chairmanship and remained actively involved in the business, still coming to work in the early morning hours and opening the office at 5:30 each day. Pieper had never worked anywhere else in his life. After graduating from Washington University with a civil engineering degree in 1949, he went to work for Alberici as a field engineer and began to work his way up the ranks of the company's hierarchy. The 1970s was also marked by the company's entry into yet another field: Marine. In 1979 J.S. Alberici landed a $212 million, 15-year project to build the Alton Lock & Dam No. 26 at the confluence of the Illinois River and Mississippi River in Alton, Illinois.

1980s Expansion

Expansion continued in the 1980s for Alberici. In 1983 it acquired General Installation Company, a mechanical contracting business that installed commercial piping and heating and air-conditioning systems. The company also began to expand geographically, opening an office in Denver and at the end of the decade a Detroit office. While the Denver office would be closed in 1990, and Alberici shied away from the Sun Belt states, where it would have to contend with competition from non-union contractors, it would enjoy strong success out of Detroit, where it landed a number of significant contracts with automakers for plants in the Great Lakes area and Canada. The company also worked on projects in Mexico through a joint partnership and looked increasingly overseas for new opportunities. In 1991, for instance, it won a $50 million contract to build more than 1,000 apartments in Israel. It was also during this period that Pieper launched a management training program, primarily to groom the company's ranks of middle managers. Alberici had enjoyed long-term stability in its management ranks, but as key members grew older it became increasingly important to make sure there would be a new generation of leaders capable of taking charge. This need was made evident in 1991 when Pieper elected to retire when he turned 65. His replacement as president was 60-year-old Edward L. Calcaterra, but 80-year-old Gabriel Alberici continued to come into the office each day. Calcaterra served as president until 1996 when at the age of 66 he too retired, albeit a year later than he had planned in order to complete some major projects. One of those younger managers groomed in the management training program was 45-year-old Robert F. McCoole, who had joined the company in the early 1980s. Several months prior to Calcaterra's announced retirement, McCoole was one of five younger executives promoted to senior vice-president who formed an executive committee intended to lead the company into the future.

Company Perspectives:

Our goal on every project we undertake is to bring owners new and unexpected value to construction services.

Diversification helped Alberici to weather a recession in the early 1990s that in particular limited the number of major projects in the St. Louis area. Retrenchment was in order, however, and some subsidiaries were shut down or sold. General Installation, for example, was dissolved in 1994. As a result, Alberici was able to focus on its core construction business. Business began to pick up as the economy rebounded in the 1990s. Revenues totaled $333 million in 1993, then surged to $659 million in 1994, due in large measure to renovations made by General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler to Detroit plants. As the Big Three also became more global in their reach, opening plants around the world, Alberici followed them, building a Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee assembly plant in Argen-tina. Later in the 1990s it built an engine plant in Brazil as part of a joint venture project between DaimlerChrysler Corporation and BMW. In 1998 the firm began construction on an engine plant in Mexico for Ford, and in that same year began construction on a plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, for American Axle & Manufacturing. Alberici also looked to the domestic market in 1998, opening an office in Atlanta, bringing the number of regional offices to three.

Gabriel Alberici remained active in the company his father founded until 1999 when he reached the age of 90. He lived until December 2002, passing away from natural causes at his home at the age of 93, outliving his wife of 61 years by seven years. Five months earlier his 91-year-old sister Mary died from complications of pneumonia in a nursing center. Although Gabriel Alberici's son, John S. Alberici, succeeded his father as chairman of the company, the direct ties to the founding of the family business were severed. Nevertheless, Alberici continued to follow the hard-working tradition established by an Italian immigrant nearly a century earlier.

With the economy lapsing into recession in the early 2000s, Alberici was once again well served by its long-term commitment to diversification. That trend continued in the new century. Alberici Global Group GmbH was formed in 2002 as a holding company for international business, mostly performed for U.S. clients and involving a partnership with a company already working in that country. In the United States, another regional office was opened in West Virginia in 2003. Alberici Corp. launched a new business called Vertegy in 2005 to provide design, procurement, and construction consulting services for green and sustainable facilities, the outgrowth of work the company did on its new corporate headquarters that it billed as one of the "greenest" headquarters in the country.

Principal Subsidiaries

Alberici Group, Inc.; Alberici Constructors, Inc.; Alberici Industrial LLC; Gunther-Nash, Inc.; Alberici Global Group GmbH. Alberici Healthcare Constructors.

Principal Competitors

Fluor Corporation; McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.; Washington Group International, Inc.

Key Dates:

Company founded by John Stanislaus Alberici.
Gabriel Alberici joins company.
Founder dies and leadership passes to Alberici family.
Company becomes employee-owned.
First non-family member named president.
Gabriel Alberici retires.

Further Reading

Franklin, Donald E., "Pioneer In Construction Industry Here Was Generous Philanthropist; Gabriel J. Alberici, 19092002," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 10, 2002, p. B1.

Lerner, Howard, "Alberici Shutting Down Mechanical Contract Subsidiary," St. Louis Business Journal, May 30, 1994, p. 11A.

"Mary Alberici: Co-Partner In Construction Firm," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 19, 2002, p. B4.

McLaughlin, Tim, "Early To Rise Regimen Aided Alberici's Climb in Building," St. Louis Business Journal, January 22, 1996, p. 6A.

Miller, Patricia, "Pieper's Vision Helped Alberici See Through Polluted Air," St. Louis Business Journal, February 4, 1991, p. 9C.

"Still Running the Family Business," St. Louis Commerce, June 1, 1991, p. 6.

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