Engineering the community spirit
ADCIV is a multifaceted, progressive civil engineering contractor who has taken on projects throughout Australia. ADCIV started out as Adelaide Civil Pty Ltd, but Grant Armstrong, now the Managing Director of the company, took over its operations and he felt that a name change was required so that they did not brand themselves into a geographic corner. Grant Armstrong along with Tony Finnegan and Walter Pavlic are the group that took over the operations of the company and were all long term employees who banded together to buy out the existing directors in 2004. “It is like the Gillette ad says, we enjoyed the product so much we bought the company,” he laughs. “We do a little bit of work interstate, mostly in the Northern Territory, and we have been out to Queensland and New South Wales, but we do most of our work here in Adelaide,” says Grant, but he thought the name change was important so that they would not be limited in their scope and location.
Finding their place in the market
“Subdivisions are our bread and butter,” says Grant. “We spend a lot of time doing them, and we have become the major subdivision builder in Adelaide. I think they are great because when you are doing a subdivision you are looking at the full gamut of civil engineering services. You obviously have earthworks, sewers, and storm water works, roads, and electrical work,” he says. Grant seems to enjoy the challenge and find places where he can engage the full capacity of ADCIV. “With council we do other civil works such as roadway construction, stormwater upgrades, and bridges.” He says of the latter that bridges have not always been a major part of their business, but the projects they have been involved in have provided him with the satisfaction of a job well done. “Looking back in our history, we have done a few big marinas, such as WirrinaCove Resort – that was a massive project. We also built the Port Vincent Marina. We are pretty strong with our marine works capabilities, and have also done a lot of work with installing breakwaters.” Grant says the problem with being good at your job is twofold in the case of marine works, one if you do it right it will be standing the test of time, and two “a good marina project only comes around in Adelaide every 15 years or so. So it is not something you can build a business on. It was a great industry to be in but you can’t bank your whole life on that,” says Grant. “We do have other arms of our company, we have Kerb Channel Specialists, which we do all our Kerbing internally with and also external contracts. We also have Landscape Environs, were we do commercial landscaping, and a plant hire business as well called ADPLANT Hire,” says Grant. With all of these branches, he says that ADCIV has guaranteed continuous work from both new and sustained long term contracts.
“We can go to clients and represent ourselves as a one stop shop. We can do the subdivision itself, then also do the landscaping, and soft works afterwards. It is a pretty good place to be,” says Grant. ADCIV is in the business of making sure all of its parts overlap and complement each other, and looks at each contract as an opportunity to showcase their other abilities.
Always a surprise
Their work is always interesting, says Grant. With site remediation, he says, you never know what you are going to find. “With the Brompton site, which is probably the biggest pug hole in Australia, they used it originally to dig out clay bricks, and then they filled it with anything possible to get the hole back up to its original level.” When Grant says this he is understating the work involved in remediating the location. The Brompton site was an eight hectare industrial area, and when ADCIV took on the project it was considered one of the largest clean-up efforts in Australia. “We found all sorts of things, from tyres, and scrap steel and other general building waste. The last job we did we actually found an unexploded bomb that had to be taken away and disposed of by the army,” he says. He also laughs about a mini-economy that has developed among his employees involving antique bottles. “Our guys have become great experts on what a good bottle is and what was worth money and what was not. Seeing a grown man cry over a broken bottle because it was worth 100 dollars is a bit of a site to see,” he says with good humour.
The right place at the right time
Work is never slow for ADCIV, even though other companies may be suffering. Grant credits this to the location of their major operations in Adelaide, which are benefiting from a large interest by the local government in urban renewal. “Basically they are tidying up the old spots in the area and generating new subdivisions,” he says this is needed because as the city grew, living spaces have been pushed farther and farther from the city centre. This infill operation has generated new housing, beautified older spaces and secured the future of a healthy growth for the city. Grant is very happy to be involved with this aspect of rebuilding ADCIV’s home town. “It is transforming the medium density living spaces, and is getting people closer to their work spaces,” he says. Grant applauds the Government’s efforts in this area, because instead of single dwellings becoming upgraded, he is seeing whole new communities being created.
Laying the foundation for a strong future
Grant and ADCIV remain optimistic about the future, and he says that this optimism has served them well over the years. “Everyone panics about what is going to happen next in the world, and there is a bit of uncertainty about where your next job will be, but we have always had something else to go onto. Keeping your ear to the ground and diversifying your abilities into areas that you know are going to pay off,” he says. “We also plan very well for the weather, you want to be working on a nice big piece of road doing a water main relay, rather than standing in the middle of a paddock in clay. We have been at this a long time now, we know where we stand in the marketplace and we know how to achieve things. At the same time we are always ready to do something out of the ordinary.”
One way ADCIV makes sure that they are ready for any job is making sure that their employees get the best training that they can. “Training is the key to being successful in this industry, simply put if you don’t train youwill end up with no one able to do the job,” says Grant. He also points out that they are very aware of their position in the community and have worked to become something of an ethical employer. “We do a lot of work with the long term unemployed and the indigenous population in the area. I know that our indigenous employment rate is very high. Right now we have about 19 Aboriginal employees, we train them and the Government helps with that, but we are really giving them an opportunity to break into the workforce,” says Grant. He says that this focus on training is meant to combat some of the lack of qualified workers in the area. “Again, if you don’t train you won’t have the people. When you don’t have the people, you don’t have a company.”
Flexibility and a great understanding of the market have gotten ADCIV where it is today. “We will give anything a go, we are not afraid to tackle something new,” says Grant. “We count on our people, and if they have an area of expertise and they see an opportunity for the company we will look at it, and see if it is financially viable for the company. If it is, we will go for it.” This means that ADCIV’s people really do have a say in how the company is run, and the direction it is taking. Grant reports that they actually surveyed their employees in order to gage the direction they thought the company should take. He was surprised about how unified they all were by the end of that process. Another important aspect of how ADCIV works is that they prefer to “buy local and only use the best qualified suppliers”, when it comes to contractors and materials. “At the end of the day, since all of these contractors are local, I know it’s a great feeling for them to be able to point to a project they did with us on their way home and tell the person next to them: See that? I built that. Up north there is not a lot of industry that give the youth something to strive for, I think by giving them something it is a great help to the community,” says Grant. When ADCIV is on the job, they may be physically building theneighbourhood, but they are at the same time building the communities that those streets, kerbs, bridges and other infrastructure serve.