Imagine this — 360 football fields of concrete.
Within just a few-block radius in Allentown’s downtown, Berks Products of Leesport has produced and poured just that for construction projects that are becoming a part of the most historic revitalization the city has ever seen.
And the company is not done yet.
Berks Products, a fifth generation family owned building materials company established more than a century ago, has become a significant fixture in the transformation and economic development of Allentown’s downtown, producing to date nearly 36,000 cubic yards of concrete for three high-rise buildings in the ongoing City Center Lehigh Valley projects and the PPL Center arena for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms professional ice hockey team.
“It’s very exciting to see a downtown being transformed in this way; it’s wonderful,” said Andrew Davis, general manager of Berks Products’ construction materials division and a fifth generation member of the company’s founding family.
On any given day, there are numerous workers throughout Downtown Allentown from various companies and industries, getting the City Center buildings up and running, with Berks Products playing a significant role.
“The downtown development has created hundreds of construction jobs, but it is not just about jobs on-site; it is also about creating and maintaining jobs in the industries that fuel that on-site work,” Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said. “Berks Products is a prime example of a Pennsylvania business that has benefited from this development.”
It was 1896 when Berks Products began in Reading as a sidewalk contracting business. Growing and evolving with technology through the years, the company has expanded its services and locations to better accommodate the southeastern regions of the state, including the Lehigh Valley.
“Although we are headquartered in Berks County, Berks Products is committed to the Lehigh Valley and proud to participate in these landmark projects that will help shape the future of Allentown,” Davis said.
Today, in addition to its concrete and building products, Berks Products provides heating and cooling solutions and hauling services and has a companywide staff of nearly 260.
To keep up with the ongoing projects in Allentown, Berks Products has used nearly a quarter of its 120-employee construction materials division and daily use of its Allentown and Nazareth ready mix concrete plants.
The construction materials division operates with additional ready mix plants in Leesport and Gilbertsville and crushed stone quarries in Leesport and Kutztown, providing concrete accessories, masonry supply, fabricated reinforcing bar and precast.
“Having multiple locations is a big plus, as it allows us to service the job in many ways,” Davis said. “We have a large fleet and are able to take on very large multiple projects at one time.”
Aside from the PPL Center which is being built by Alvin H. Butz Inc. of Allentown, the lead contractor for the six City Center buildings is North Star Construction of Upper Macungie Township, which has worked with Berks Products for more than 30 years.
“We try to use mostly local companies; people that are part of the community and understand the excitement of being a part of the revitalization of the city,” North Star president James Gentile said. “They [Berks Products] have a little more pride in making their own neighborhood better.”
Construction of the buildings has been moving along quickly, Gentile said, which was a key factor in choosing Berks Products to supply the massive amounts of concrete.
“To supply us with that much concrete and keep it coming, on a tight schedule, is key,” he said. “The key to building as fast as we do is not having down time.”
B. Pietrini & Sons of King of Prussia has been tasked with transforming Berks Products’ concrete into the foundations and structures for the City Center buildings.
“They [Berks Products] have good service, quality and product and are good people to work with,” said Paul Quirk, superintendent of Pietrini. “It means a lot to the community to have local people putting the money right back into the community that generates the jobs.”
In addition to the large-scale projects Berks Products undertakes, much of its other work ranges anywhere from warehouses to residential patios, as the company has seen rising trends in both markets.
Davis said the company has been awarded a couple of warehouse projects that will begin in the next couple of months.
Berks Products is eager to soon place a bid for the contract for the highly anticipated 28-acre mixed use redevelopment project known as The Waterfront, which will run along the Lehigh River in Allentown, Davis said.
“Construction jobs are a huge part of the economy, and it is great when you see big jobs like this,” he said. “It’s very exciting, and we are proud to have this opportunity.”