Catering to Toronto’s high-end auto motor market
By: Mudeeha Yousaf
Established 13 years ago, Northway Construction has built a reputation of providing professional services to the Greater Toronto Area as a general contracting and construction management firm. The Concord, Ontario based business specializes in the competitive high-end auto dealership market and has constructed an array of buildings across the city.
The Scarmato brothers – John, Frank and Danny – work with a company philosophy that is to provide their clients with the hands on approach that meets deadlines and working within budgets to satisfy their many clients. We had a chance to chat with Frank Scarmato about the company’s growing endeavours. Frank, who graduated from Humber College for Architectural Technology, worked for his father, Domenic, in a similar business, which instigated his passion for the trade. “Even as a summer job and as I was going through high-school I was always interested in architecture and the construction industry.” After his father retired, Frank started the business in 2001. “For the most part I’ve been doing car dealerships. I started off in residential, but we developed a relationship with certain clients that owned dealerships and our business grew through word of mouth.” Frank’s key role is to overview project coordinators and communicates with the clients, while John coordinates projects and is involved in the business development and Danny manages the site supervisors.
Their niche market has always been within the high-end auto dealership market and they acquire business through repeat customers who secure work with the company based on their past professional experiences and extensive project portfolios. Rather than trailing direct advertisements, clients attest to Northway’s ability to perform and then pass their name along through word of mouth. “Through our experience and willingness to learn we understand what most dealerships are looking for and their requirements in their building facilities. The owners and consultants appreciate our involvement which provides for a good working relationship,” boasts Frank. “Our main thing is our attention to detail. A lot of times when we do a job we try to accommodate the owners and clients wishes by being attentive, and anticipate things that we feel they would want or need in the facilities. We are committed to building strong and lasting relationships with our focused approach, collaborating with a team that includes the owner, consultants and trades.”
Currently, the firm is constructing Honda’s New Flagship Dealership at 47 Eastern Avenue in the heart of Downtown, Toronto. “The project is 50, 000 square feet. The plan was to build this building for some time now and it finally got going last year in May.” Northway is providing its general contracting services for the two-storey building which will come equipped with a ramp to enable easy access for vehicles, as well as roof level parking. The project requires a persistent eye for attention, and the company has all hands on deck with this project as they will also support the future Acura building that will be located adjacent and over the Honda facility. “The site is located adjacent to the newly-constructed Pan Am Athletes’ Village located on an 80-acre site next to the Don River in Toronto’s waterfront district. We have a good working relationship with the consultants, architects, electrical, mechanical and structural engineers… They’re companies that are involved in many dealerships as well. It is our customer focused approach and our principle to treat our clients and team with fairness and honestly that keeps us in demand.” The project is on schedule and the completion date is estimated for July of this year.
Not taking on more than they can chew, the firm handles quality projects of a decent size in order to build their repertoire, but give each and every project the same level of time and commitment. The Porsche Project Downtown is one such dealership that was a high-profile project for the company, and was completed a couple of years prior. Another project that stands out for the company is the Kia Danforth because of the scope of its size as well as its geographic set-up. “The project was a little different because they have a service shop on the main floor and a show room on the second floor, and so the service shop is facing the Danforth so it is exposed to a view for pedestrians to look inside the shop. It has two elevators and roof-top parking so that was a little difficult to do but it came out quite well.” The enterprise is in the midst of renovating four core dealerships within this year.
When asked about the growing trends within Ontario’s vast construction industry, Frank proclaims that “the biggest challenge is the trades in the industry. The shrinking workforce is complicated by two trends; the growth of the industry and the retirement of the baby boomers. There is difficulty in recruiting the youth and part of the reason is the lack of awareness of job opportunities and poor industry image. But I think this is changing.”
As well, “the construction industry is slower to change and doesn’t like change as quick as some other industries. This may be because there’s a bigger capital expenditure when you’re deciding on a product or system – they like to go with something that’s been tested before. I think you’ll see material slowly coming in and technologies slowly coming into it. It takes some time.” He continues, “Most clients are wary of new systems… It’s a difficult industry to break into. Standards promote advances in construction technologies and are a critical step along the way from research and development to adoption in the marketplace and then tested by time.”
With a core team of eight corporate employees, the construction company contracts out their work via sub-trades who have “been excellent. We’ve built long-term relationships and if we see eye-to-eye we try to keep them. We don’t do a lot of trade work ourselves. We provide an environment that will allow our sub-trades to be as efficient and productive as possible. We want them to be successful.”
Northway Construction prides itself in providing the customer with quality work and with this they are building strong client relationships. “Repeat business to us is the main thing and our relationship with clients, consultants and trade contractors. It’s about building that relationship.” When asked what the company’s long-term initiatives were, Frank closes “our goal is to continue to grow at a comfortable rate. We’ve seen companies growing way too quickly and having difficulty by doing that, so we take a ‘steady as she goes’ approach and not to take on more than we can handle. There are many challenges facing today’s construction operation [but] it is important to be aware of the risks and implication of these challenges.”
For more information on Northway Construction, visit http://www.northway.cc/