Bill O’Brien is cutting pieces of 2-by-4 and screwing them together to make the forms for pier columns, which will be poured in concrete and hold the supports for a 16,000-square foot, pre-engineered metal building.
Not far away, Kyle Wentling, Troy Walsh and Rich Giardano are putting together Symon panels, steel panels that, when hooked together, provide the forms for a poured concrete wall for the same project.
“This is gonna be a great project,” said O’Brien, president of Declan Construction, the Brookfield-based general contractor that was hired by Greenville Reynolds Development Corp. to build this building and another of the same size in Pymatuning Township, south of Greenville, Pa.
While this project is going on, Declan also is renovating the former Country Fair in Sharpsville into a Dairy Queen, a “nice job,” O’Brien said.
Declan’s dossier is filled with great projects and nice jobs, O’Brien said, from Dr. Joseph Fonagy’s dental office and the athletic training building at Brookfield schools, both in Brookfield, to the Lakes at Jefferson, the senior independent living and assisted living center in Jefferson Township, east of Hermitage, and Whole Life Services’ addition in Hermitage.
O’Brien has not always undertaken projects of this magnitude
“I started out doing little jobs and it just grew,” he said.
O’Brien’s dad, Tom, was a carpenter, and Bill O’Brien started as a teenager working jobs for Rick Dickson at VendRick Construction, Brookfield, in the summers and during school breaks. After high school, he completed an apprenticeship program and worked with his dad at Rien Construction, Brookfield, and other companies until about 2005, when he founded Declan.
“Everybody always wants to be his own boss,” he said, adding that he finds satisfaction in “building something, creating something.”
It’s a bonus that no two jobs are the same, and no two sites are alike, he said.
Declan does industrial, commercial and institutional jobs, with some residential thrown in.
Brookfield has six or seven general construction companies doing work of the same magnitude as Declan, and O’Brien said he finds himself competing for jobs with those firms, some of which he has family ties to.
“That’s just the nature of the beast,” he said.
The competition is not all that fierce at a personal level, he said.
“I just like to see other guys from Brookfield get it,” O’Brien said of failing to get a job he has bid on.
Even though he has spent time and money trying to get that job, “I just shrug it off and move on,” he said.
One thing he has trouble moving on from is the lack of skilled labor to help him with these jobs. O’Brien said he saw a statistic somewhere that there are 7 million jobs in the U.S. available right now for people who don’t have college degrees, and he knows he would like to have more workers on staff, but can’t find them.
These aren’t jobs for people who are right out of high school; they require training or apprenticeship programs, he said.
Apprenticeships pay you while you are training, he added, and a journeyman – a skilled worker who has completed an apprenticeship program – can make $30 an hour plus benefits, O’Brien said.
“They’re gonna come out with a skill and no (tuition) bills,” he said. “You get out, you’re making money.”
O’Brien is loyal to his workers, noting a couple have been with him for more than 10 years each.
“If you’re good, somebody’s gonna keep you on,” he said.
Declan can be reached at 330-448-8467 and firstname.lastname@example.org Declan has a web site at declanconstruction.com and a Facebook page.