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Paving the Future

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Occhino Corp is a Buffalo-based asphalt paving and road construction company with deep roots in Western New York. To their community in Buffalo and beyond they are a go-to contractor for road construction, parking lot construction, concrete construction, new site development, sewer installation, and various types of utility work. “An extremely versatile company,” as current CEO Lee Occhino puts it. Occhino Corp also serve Buffalo as an emergency road and utility contractor in times of need, reinforcing their reputation as a reliable asset to the community.

First established in 1955 with a fleet of just four trucks that hauled gravel products, Occhino Corp in its original form was a far cry from the multi-faceted utility and construction company that it is today. What it still is, though, is a truly authentic family business that remains under Occhino ownership. When Lee joined Occhino Corp he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and original founder Anthony A. Occhino and his own father Anthony John, becoming the third generation of Occhino to lead the company. But Lee’s involvement in Occhino Corp started unofficially back when he was just a kid, as is often the case with family businesses. He and his brother Tony were raised on Occhino Corp soil where they would help their father and grandfather with odd jobs, two future Occhino leaders in the making. All things considered, the sense of continuity that permeates through Occhino Corp is tangible. This stability is currently evidenced by the involvement of Lee’s and Tony’s children who, unsurprisingly, also demonstrate considerable skill and dedication. The family atmosphere; underpinned by a combination of diligence, trust and skill, is evident throughout my conversation with Lee and Tony and is clearly weaved into the very fabric of the company.

Before Lee came on board Occhino Corp was focused primarily on trucking, snow removal and small demolition jobs. In the early 1980s Lee got to work on expanding into residential and commercial paving, site development work and general contracting. This opened Occhino’s doors to a wider customer base and scope of service. “Back then I worked for the company doing driveway paving and smaller construction, “Lee says. “Then in the 1990s when my grandfather passed away and my father retired, my brother Tony joined me as a partner.” It was in 1999 when Tony came on board full time and together the pair grew Occhino into the versatile construction company it is today.

“In 2000 we did our first project for the NY State Department of Transportation and from there it really blossomed,” says Tony. ”Today we do everything from heavy highway road reconstruction to milling and paving of roadways. We also do a lot of school capital projects which consists of sports and athletic fields, specialty fields, rebuilding of infrastructure, and site work like sewers and water lines.”

“Anything from grass to road, you name it,” Lee adds. “We take a field and a bunch of trees and turn it into a site where somebody can put up a building, and we do all the site work for them.” Occhino Corp serves the Buffalo and Western New York region not as a client, but more like an extension of family. “We service both roadways and commercial businesses. To us, that’s our larger family and we want to make sure that our work always shines through.”

“Occhino Corp takes huge pride in every project it works on.”

As part of this commitment to quality, Occhino Corp ensures that the highest standards of safety are at the helm of all they do. Many of their employees are enrolled in programs such as civil engineering, surveying, and additional safety courses. All field employees have completed OSHA Safety requirements. “Because we started out as a trucking company,” Lee says, “we try to take care of our truckers and other employees and to get everyone home safe, while also updating our equipment regularly and keeping a nice clean site.” Occhino Corp has between forty and sixty employees depending on the time of year, and in the wintertime when business is slower they provide those employees with the opportunity to upskill. “If an employee wants to better themselves or do something that’ll move them up in the world we help them find classes and pay for a lot of it,” says Lee. “Because better employees make a better company.”

Because Occhino Corp is people-orientated they are by default safety-orientated too, and this extends to their clients as well as their employees. “We do work in places like chemical industrial manufacturing plants who are big on safety,” says Lee. He goes on to talk about some standout projects from Occhino Corp’s extensive portfolio, all of which are delivered to the highest safety and quality standards. In the spotlight is a project for Conway Beam, a family-owned truck dealership based in New York. “Two years ago we helped Conway Beam through a little bit of a rough patch getting a project off the ground,” says Lee. “We took twenty-six acres of wooded lowland, filled the property, and turned this site from wooded lowland into one of the biggest Mack Mobile dealerships in North America.”

Occhino Corp went on to win an AGC Award for this particular project along with Gernatt Asphalt Products who supplied product. The Association of General Contractors (AGC) Awards recognize the most pioneering of projects in the American construction industry. Coming out on top of their category among some of the most innovative paving projects in the region was a true reflection of Occhino Corp’s dedication to their craft.

Having experienced so much growth in earlier years, Occhino Corp is fortunate to be in a place now where they don’t want to get much bigger. Instead, they want to maintain what they’ve built over the years while bringing in fresh new talent to help the company evolve along with market trends. “We buy lots of new trucks and equipment and we try to keep up to date and running smoothly. And not only equipment – it’s the same with personnel too. We try to keep our personnel up to date through education and introducing fresh new minds to lead us through the changes the world is going through.” Occhino Corp has been around the block enough times to know first-hand that the construction industry is ever-changing. It’s clear that they are committed to keeping up with the changing demands of the industry and whatever challenges it may present, with a flexible, innovative and open-minded approach that is paramount in construction today.

“The truth is that the construction industry is getting a lot tougher these days, with a lot more white-collar and younger people coming out of college who just don’t have the experience,” says Lee. It’s no secret that the construction industry today is often plagued by inexperience and staff shortages, which ultimately has a negative impact on a company’s bottom line. “We recently brought in a new partner named Tony Milone who is a licensed Professional Engineer, and we’d like to keep the company growing with new younger partners,” says Lee. It is this investment in the future of the company and the people within it that allows for the expansion of knowledge and expertise, which is exactly what is needed to stay competitive in the ever-evolving game.

The ‘personal touch’ that underpins all that Occhino Corp does is evident in the relationships they share with both employees and clients alike. When it comes to the company’s clients Lee and Tony take inspiration from the handshake business on which they were raised. Like their father and grandfather before them, they know the importance of client relationships and they do all that they can to maintain them. “Occhino Corp takes huge pride in every project it works on. This is a company that does not merely complete projects to the required specifications. Our attitude is always to do the best job we possibly can for our customers by going the extra mile. In doing this, we have created and maintained many relationships over the years. This has all been based on a trust that is built on the handshake deal mentality.” It is this unyielding commitment to employee and client satisfaction that sets Occhino Corp apart from the crowd and keeps them on the path of success that’s been paved for generations.

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