With a diversified portfolio and turnkey approach to specialty construction, the Select Group of companies is demolishing the competition
“We like to think of ourselves as a highway and each employee as a lane. Our goal is to make this highway as wide as possible so the traffic flows seamlessly and never gets jammed.” That’s how Ryan Denver describes the sixth-largest demolition firm in the country, which also happens to be the 18th-largest company of its kind in the world.
Denver helms the Select Group of Companies, a group of specialty contracting firms serving the Northeast from its headquarters in Salem, N.H., and offices in Boston and Hartford. The smooth, high-performance road that he oversees is blazingly successful; in 2020, when the rest of the construction industry was stalled, the Select Group had its best year ever with revenues of $170 million.
“The diversification in the services we offer our clients has allowed us to have unprecedented growth and stay at the top of the specialty contracting industry, especially during the pandemic,” he said. In addition to Select Demo Services, LLC (SDS), their largest division with 2020 revenues of $135 million, the firm is composed of several distinct LLCs, each created to serve the needs of its customer base.
The single-source, turnkey provider serves clients from Maine to Pennsylvania. Their divisions perform a host of in-demand services, including environmental remediation and abatement, emergency response, concrete work, exterior, interior and structural demolition, and final construction and COVID cleaning.
Established in 2004 as a small demolition firm specializing in selective, interior demolition and general labor, today’s Select now encompasses a commercial and industrial painting division, Select Paint and Finishes, LLC; a fireproofing and spray insulation operation, Select Spray Systems, LLC; and dumpsters and disposal services through K-Town Disposal, LLC. Their newest venture, Select Tile, Marble and Flooring, LLC performs commercial flooring, tile, and stonework.
“We started our affiliated companies because our clients were so pleased with our demolition, abatement, and cleaning services. They were looking to hire subcontractors that were just as good as we are for the other trades they needed covered,” explained Select’s Director of Business Development, Sarah Marcone. “We have expanded our services into many different markets and have been very successful due to the diversification of services we are offering. The total hours worked for all of our companies in 2020 was 1.3 million hours, which is pretty impressive considering how competitive the specialty contracting industry is right now.”
When the pandemic arrived, Select established its COVID and Infectious Disease Cleaning business. One high-profile defense contractor chose Select to clean and disinfect a 1.8 million-square-foot manufacturing facility while it was operational and fully occupied; 120 cleaners worked three shifts each day for six months to keep their essential operations up and running.
“This was probably the most difficult thing for us to do because the work shutdown was very disheartening, but we pulled it together,” Marcone said. “With our sister companies and the relationships that Ryan had, we even built a temporary 1,000-bed COVID hospital at the Boston Convention Center. It took just five days and was a huge accomplishment for us.”
They also built a 150-bed version in a vacant hospital, and distributed PPE from their storehouses to help alleviate the shortages plaguing the Boston hospital system and the construction industry, often hand-delivered at no cost by Denver himself.
Success through safety, sustainability, and sweat
Select has shown safety to be a strength in other fields too. Insurers use the experience modifier rate (EMR) to predict the likelihood of worker’s compensation claims on job sites, and Select’s is one of the lowest in the industry. “Safety is extremely important in any specialty contracting company because without it you’re not allowed to bid on certain high-profile projects. The industry standard for EMR is typically 1.0,” Denver explained. “Ours is 0.68, which is the lowest EMR I've ever seen in any demolition company. Bidding on jobs for large pharmaceutical, biotech, high education, and defense companies requires an impressive safety record and we have it. We're allowed to bid on these projects, and we win them, eliminating a lot of our competition.”
When the University of Massachusetts-Boston campus planned to redevelop their infrastructure with Gilbane Building Co., they chose Select as their demolition contractor. Part of Select’s scope was to raze an 800,000 sq. ft., 100-foot-tall science building with the entire project being worth roughly $17 million in demolition work. “It’s a huge project that went flawlessly and we take great pride in that,” Marcone said.
"Gilbane has been partnering with the Select Group for over 15 years. We have always found them to be an excellent partner. They provide consistent and outstanding performance on our projects and are keenly focused on safety, all qualities that Gilbane expects in our trade partners," said Michael O'Brien, Senior Vice President, Massachusetts Business Unit.
Executive Vice President Srdjan Milicevic added, “With the government’s Build Back Better initiative we hope to see a broad spending program that could benefit contractors on multiple fronts, especially with respect to upgrading our country’s current infrastructure. Select Demo has a Heavy-Civil Division that focuses on providing demolition and remediation services on federal and state-funded infrastructure projects such as road and bridge work, so this increase in work will definitely benefit us.”
Demolition is a complex, extremely risky endeavor that blends science, engineering, and art. Select Demo’s union shop crews are continually trained by the firm’s full-time safety department on dangerous, multi-faceted aspects of the work, such as performing in confined spaces, silica awareness, asbestos awareness, lead awareness, fall protection, and rigging, just for starters.
“We reverse-engineer our demolition projects,” Milicevic stressed. Architectural drawings and specs help Select Demo understand the intricacies of buildings, especially ones that are centuries old. “In some cases, we do a complete assessment to figure out the way these buildings were put together and the modifications that were made over the years. Based on that data and analysis we reverse-engineer it and figure out the safest and the best way to dismantle it.”
Sustainability and minimizing the carbon footprint also tops the Select priority list. Not only did they switch to solar power in their corporate headquarters, but they also installed charging stations for electric vehicles and converted to a geothermal energy system. Field crews and drivers use tablets with custom apps to track project details rather than paper and operate electric mini-excavators for interior demolition work.
That’s in addition to a number of initiatives including recycling and fuel conservation and collecting usable furniture and building supplies from job sites for reuse by municipal organizations such as the city of Salem, the New Hampshire Public School System, and the Massachusetts and New Hampshire State Police. “We’ve also partnered with the nonprofit Build Health International, who builds schools and hospitals in third world countries, on many projects,” Denver noted. “We donate medical equipment, building supplies, and leftover school furniture from the buildings we work in.”
While Select uses state-of-the-art equipment and techniques, there’s an old-fashioned family feel to their culture and a democratic approach to decision-making. “Our employees are the key to our business. It’s not the tools, equipment or the trucks, it’s the people — both in the office and in the field,” Denver said. “We treat them like family and offer an remarkable benefits package that's unmatched in the construction industry. In our management system, decisions are made democratically with open and honest communication. We hold biweekly, company-wide open forum meetings where everyone’s voices can be heard.”
New Englanders are notorious for taking a “my way or the highway,” approach to their existence. For the Select Group of Companies, their highway isn’t only the right way — it’s the path to continued growth and success.
Established in 2004, Select Demo Services, LLC is New England's premier specialty contracting firm performing demolition, environmental remediation, concrete and final cleaning for many of the country’s most prominent institutions, corporations and government agencies.
Select Demo has four affiliated companies that we work in conjunction with that provide fire proofing, spray insulation, painting, commercial flooring, tile, stonework and disposal services. The scope of our service offerings allows our clients to employ us as a single source provider on projects that would otherwise require multiple subcontractors — a true turnkey contracting company.
We operate across multiple construction segments — commercial, industrial and heavy-civil. Select Demo is currently the largest specialty contractor in the Northeast United States averaging $135 million per year in sales.
Through hard work, dedication and vision, Ryan Denver, Select Demo’s President, has carefully amassed a diverse, tenured team of individuals who can be rivaled by none in the industry. This team has built our firm by providing top quality workmanship and attention to detail, while still safely meeting the stringent schedule demands of our clients.