Stefan Lopata

We have recently gone through a rebranding effort that included new and updated logos, websites, email signatures, and marketing materials. I decided to pick up where I left off in my last article titled “It Takes A Village An Industry,” to update you as to how we are moving through this new COVID world.

The article was about how we weathered adversity and struggles to reach our 110-year anniversary. A segment reported, “…technology is killing off corporations,” and stated that the trend is accelerating. I feel that we are an exception to this finding because of our ability to embrace technology and evolve with the changes of time. We have taken advantage of opportunities to learn from others and persevere through the tough times.

Fast forward to 2020, we are now in our 112th year of business and the world looks very different than it did a short eight month ago. While we have had a few jobs cancelled and others shut down for a few days to a month, we have been fortunate enough to be deemed an “essential business” by the government. We can continue to do what we do and provide vital services to our customers.

Presently, we have seven physical locations (140,000 sqft. of office and warehouse) and seven operating companies with eleven branch entities. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached state shut-down mode, we moved quickly to expand on the technology that we already had in place to allow our office employees to work from home productively, so they could support our field personnel. This required shifting everyone to a laptop computer, and purchasing monitors, printers, scanners and anything else necessary to set-up home offices for all 130+ office employees. Each physical location was kept open with a skeleton crew of “home” employees coming in for short periods of time to perform essential work that could not be completed at home. Warehouses had to remain open, and the pre-fabrication team and delivery trucks continued to sustain the needs of the field.

Fortunately, years ago we invested in virtual conferencing (VC) equipment and software for each location. We were able to utilize this software and have it installed on computers, iPads, and iPhones. Each branch set-up weekly VC meetings to keep information flowing. We had numerous company-wide town hall and ESOP VC meetings. Our shareholder’s meeting was even held virtually. We added more Smart Boxes (see “How Fast Can You Run” 2016) to improve field capabilities with BIM, pre-construction, pre-fabrication, and Trimble.

We used every arrow in our quiver to keep office and field employees working. We applied and were approved for a PPP loan. We used these additional funds to make numerous upgrades to the infrastructure of five of our buildings. From a security system upgrade to a 5,000 sqft. warehouse to office conversion, we took advantage of the reduced occupancy of the buildings to complete future upgrades. We had division managers review their projects to see if there were portions of the scope that could be completed earlier rather than later. These actions allowed us to keep 100% of office employee and owners working. We did take a dip in field head count initially but have since made a significant rebound in our numbers.

In summary, we of the Newport Industries family are a product of strong leaders who came before us. The ability to adapt to the COVID-19 virus world we now live in is in our culture. As always, we put our shoulders to the task and do whatever it takes to move forward. Please be safe.