Shop spans, fulfills needs
The year-old company is adding workers for a multimillion-dollar project.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
SHARON, Pa. -- Steel now being cut and shaped in a local shop soon will be sent to help create something unusual -- a drawbridge on an interstate highway.
Workers at Amrod Bridge & amp; Iron are forming the "fingers joints" on the bridge, which will create a solid surface when the bridge is down.
The new span has received much attention in Washington, D.C., because it is replacing the original Woodrow Wilson Bridge along Interstate 495, the beltway around the city. The bridge draws up to allow large ships to pass down the Potomac River, which frustrates drivers who are blocked on the highway.
The new 2.4 billion span will be taller than the current one, which will reduce the number of times the bridge has to be raised, and it will have 12 lanes, instead of six, which will improve traffic flow.
Being selected as a supplier for the 20,000-pound joints shows how far Amrod has come since being formed just one year ago.
The company has grown so fast that it was forced to move from its shop on Gibson Street in Youngstown after just nine months. It didn't even have room for all of its production equipment, said Jon Dorma, company president and founder.
In August, the company tripled its available space by moving into an industrial building on Wheeler Street, which has more than 53,000 square feet in office and shop space.
Now, Amrod has room for its latest investment -- a high-tech machine that cuts steel to exact specifications -- but it hasn't had time to install it. Pushing out jobs such as the drawbridge project are top priority, he said.
Also, the company just received a multimillion-dollar contract to produce underwater sections for a dam that's being built in Tennessee.
Amrod has 20 employees, most of whom are working 10 hours a day, six days a week. The company is busy enough that Dorma intends to hire four more workers over the next month.
After adding those workers, however, he intends to keep staffing stable for two or three years so that Amrod doesn't grow too fast. He said he wants to be sure the company has the experience it needs before branching out into new products.
Amrod makes various sections for bridges, locks, dams and water treatment plants throughout the eastern United States. It brings in steel and bends, cuts and punches holes in it in order to make various parts.
Dorma, a 32-year-old Cortland native, said the company is off to a furious start because of the connections he developed in previous jobs and the dedication of the employees.
Dorma, who was a kicker on the Youngstown State University football team in the 1990s, left school before graduating so he could begin working in the construction industry. He was an estimator for 12 years, having worked on bid proposals for other companies that supplied structural steel.
Then he created his own brokering business that arranged for steel to be shipped to contractors. When none of his clients wanted to bid on a particular job, he bid on it himself.
He arranged for suppliers to manufacture large supports for an aircraft engine test facility operated by General Electric.
When he received the profits from that job, he decided to start Amrod. The company name is his name spelled backward. He also is receiving financing from Sky Bank and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Besides knowing the people in the industry, Dorma said he has been successful because of the hard work of his employees.
"I'm ecstatic with the work ethic of the people here. Their abilities have far exceeded my projections," he said.
He also credited his shop superintendent, Danny McGirr, with creating an efficient work flow in the plant and keeping down the expenses in the shop, such as the use of air, gas and tools.
Dorma said he normally works to line up new business but he often comes out to work in the shop on Fridays and Saturdays.
"It's a morale builder to see the boss out here, getting dirty and helping them get the work out," he said.
He grinds steel, operates the overhead crane and sometimes welds, although that work can't be used on projects because he isn't certified.
"The guys make fun of me. They say I have to try every toy in the shop," he said.