Commercial Projects Abound in Valley

YOUNGSTOWN – It’s a good time to be in the commercial construction industry in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.

“I’m very bullish on the Valley in general and on the construction industry,” says Joseph K. DeSalvo, president of DeSalvo Construction Co. Inc. in Hubbard.

He points to large projects that are expected to begin such as the Kimberly Clark warehouse project in Warren, as well as projects DeSalvo Construction has underway.

Although larger projects like Kimberly Clark or the Ultium Cells plant in Lordstown may challenge smaller contractors like DeSalvo, they benefit the Valley, he says. “What’s good for the Valley is good for us,” he says.

The executive vice president of The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, Kevin Reilly, says the state of the industry is good even though man-hours are down compared to a year ago.

The last two years saw several large projects like Ultium Cells.

“There’s still work out there. But the number of people out there is nowhere near what they were previously,” Reilly says.


Several large projects are forthcoming though, he says, pointing to Kimberly Clark as well as a new warehouse and distribution center on more than 60 acres along Perkins-Jones Road in Bazetta Township, east of the former Kmart distribution center.

Although what company will build the warehouse hasn’t been announced, officials have estimated that the project will run about $30 million and that the warehouse could employ about 120 full-time workers.

“That’s being talked about. But there are no shovels in the ground yet,” Reilly says. “No contractor has been selected for that project.”

It’s expected to start late this year, according to a township official.

Reilly also pointed to Graphite One Inc. as another planned project. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company’s U.S. subsidiary has entered into an agreement to lease 85 acres at the former Warren Depot site in Weathersfield Township.

A second power plant is under construction in Lordstown by the Trumbull Energy Center. The $1.2 billion natural gas-powered electric generation plant is just off of state Route 45.

“There’s work going on. But it’s not ramped up that heavy yet,” Reilly says. “That will probably be next year, my guess.”

Although the projects have been announced, several steps are involved before they begin.

Plenty of work

Aaron Tervo, owner of Tervo Masonry in New Wilmington, Pa., says business is good. “Right now it’s real busy and most of the masonry companies I know are all booked for the summer as well,” he says.

Lencyk Masonry in Boardman is working on 30 projects.

“There’s plenty of work,” its president, Larry Lencyk Sr., says. “Manpower is always, especially in the last year or two, the most challenging part of what we do.”

Tervo reports similar experience. “There’s such an overwhelming amount of work right now, it’s hard to staff all the projects,” he says, adding that companies are competing for workers.

Still, he’s seeing a surge in projects in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys. “It’s a big spike in demand right now,” Tervo says. “There’s a lot of commercial projects and public work projects.  Colleges seem to be renovating their buildings and businesses are putting on additions.”

Higher interest rates have slowed some residential construction. “But our specialty is commercial, industrial and institutional masonry and that’s up,” Tervo says, adding he believes the projects relate to the Covid relief funds those entities received.

As far as fewer people going into the skilled trades, Tervo notes that The Builders and skilled trades unions have launched marketing campaigns to recruit workers. It’s physically demanding work, he adds.

A lack of skilled workers can affect the capacity to pursue jobs, Tervo says. “You really have to take into consideration the amount of workload you have,” he says. “We’ve had to pass on some projects we would have bid on. You have to look at your labor staff, your availability and your workload.”

Lencyk agrees. 

“We are turning down work that we’ve never turned down before because we value our reputation first of all, and if we can’t perform, that hurts your reputation …,” he says.

But Lencyk says his company is dealing with it, working to find people.

Area schools and career-technical centers have been informing students more about the trades and he’s optimistic, he says. He refers to a career event where 400 students were expected and 4,000 showed up.

On the other hand, Tervo Masonry has stepped up when other companies found themselves unable to meet project schedules. “There were not enough people to do the work [for the other company] so we got a call and it fit into our schedule and we were able to do it,” Tervo says.

Some of the major projects in the Mahoning Valley underway for Lencyk include the first phase of Lifepoint Rehabilitation Hospital in Liberty, an addition at the Southwoods Surgical Center in Boardman, a new kindergarten through 12th grade United Local school, Farmers National Bank in Canfield, a fieldhouse for Beaver Local schools, a fieldhouse and bleachers at Austintown Local Schools, the Inn at Old Saybrook in Columbiana and the Warren G. Harding Recreation & Wellness Center in Warren.

“The biggest part of what we do is schools and we’ve done approximately 60 schools in the state of Ohio right now,” Lencyk says.

That includes the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools’ sixth through 12th grade school project that’s ongoing. “We are hired as prime contractors, meaning we have to bond the project,” he says.

Lencyk now has $26 million in bonded jobs. Most of Lencyk Masonry’s work lies within a 100-mile radius.

“The people that bid some of these larger projects, they’re not asking 10 bidders necessarily,” Lencyk says. “They need them to be bonded first of all, which we’re bondable. You need to be able to man the projects and you have to do it right and you have to do it safely. Safety is a big issue with us.”


Baird Brothers Fine Hardwoods in Canfield, which was founded 64 years ago, works mainly in residential but crosses over into commercial.

“Paint is still one of our No. 1 product lines,” says Steve Stack, director of business development.

The family business offers a paint grade poplar material that’s been a go-to for customers. “We still get the occasional natural hardwood packages in the cherry or the walnut – or the hickory is very popular right now – and in all aspects of it, the interior doors, mouldings, flooring products, stair components,” Stack says.

At an international builders show earlier this year, Stack says he heard about a new design product category, Scandinavian, which brings in gray tones in flooring, mouldings and wall coloring.

The company remains busy, both Stack and Lori Baird, its human resources director, say.

Commercial projects often follow trends similar to residential trends, Stack says.

“We’ve done a couple projects here and the closest is Westford at the golf course,” he says. “They want to create a comfortable environment a lot of times and that can be accomplished through the subtlety of paint or through some of the dramatic natural wood species that we offer.”

The company serves all 50 states and Canada and some products even go abroad but it’s committed to the Valley.

“The Mahoning Valley is where Baird Brothers was born and we still rely heavily on the Mahoning Valley and appreciate very much the business and the customer support that we receive both in new construction and remodeling and DIY,” Stack says


Reilly of The Builders points to several projects in the works in the region including the Mercy Health Behavioral Hospital on Belmont Avenue in Liberty. “It’s a Pittsburgh-area general contractor,“ he says. “But there are local subcontractors.”

The hospital will provide mental health care, especially for those needing in-patient care.

The hospital system is partnering with Lifepoint Behavioral Health and Lifepoint Rehabilitation in the project that broke ground in April.

DeSalvo Construction is working on a project for Farmers National Bank in Canfield. That involves a new corporate office building, executive offices, a board room and other administrative offices.

“We’re setting steel there now,” DeSalvo says. “We’ll be working there all summer and fall to get it enclosed and get the roof on.” The expansion is expected to open next spring.

The company is also part of the Bitonte College of Dentistry under construction at Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown. It’s a renovation project and demolition begins this month.

The new building is expected to welcome its first class in 2025. It will be the first public dental school in northeastern Ohio. Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University both offer dental schools but Case is a private institution.

DeSalvo Construction is also working on medical satellite offices for Akron Children’s Hospital in Salem and Columbiana. The company last year completed the expansion of the hospital’s emergency department in Boardman.

ACH is also going to have 6,500 square feet of the 136,000-square-foot Warren Wellness and Recreation Center at Warren G. Harding High School. That center, which DeSalvo is building, is expected to open this fall.


While both Tervo and Lencyk report a shortage of available skilled trades workers, DeSalvo sees that situation improving.

“We’re seeing a nice uptick trend in younger people and, overall, parents of young people, who look favorably on our industry,” he says, adding that he hopes that trend continues.

Pictured: Construction is well underway at the $1.2 billion Lordstown Energy Center off state Route 45. The project is on schedule to be completed in 2026.