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Indian native builds his dream, one project at a time

PHOTO/BRIAN PEDERSEN Nik Naidu, president of Mohawk Contracting & Development, with some of his employees at a project site in Allentown. From left are Nolan Srock, Joseph Queve, Edwin Padilla, Bill Mazepa and Naidu.

Between new-construction projects, fit-outs and renovations, Mohawk Contracting & Development is racking up a considerable amount of work for a small company that started last year.

Nik Naidu, company president, got his start in construction working for Whiting-Turner just out of college. That experience provided the opportunity to work on $50-million construction jobs for a few years.

He then worked at a smaller, local company before branching off on his own to start Mohawk Contracting & Development.

The company, with an office in Upper Macungie Township, started in March 2016 and landed its first job, an office fit-out for Community Health Systems and PennCap Properties, two months later.

“It’s just something I dreamed of doing when I was young,” Naidu said. “Eventually, I would like to branch out and do development, too.”

Naidu, who was born in India, said his dad, Pat Naidu, came to the U.S. as a young man and got his master’s degree here in chemical engineering. His dad worked extremely hard, 60-80 hours a week, and was thankful for any opportunity, said Naidu, whose mom is American.

Naidu attended Philadelphia University and earned a degree in construction management. When he began working for Whiting-Turner, a national firm, he learned about large-scale projects, he said.

LOOKING TO HIRE

Since forming, Mohawk Contracting has completed $4.4 million in projects. The $500,000-to-$2 million projects are where his company excels, Naidu said.

His company does both general contracting and construction management services, has nine employees and is looking to hire a project manager.

At 555 Union Blvd. in Allentown, the site of a former data center that has multiple tenants, the company has completed two projects, including an office fit-out for the Pennsylvania Lottery Department of Revenue and an office-fit out for an early learning childhood development center, spanning 19,750 square feet.

Mohawk also is finishing an expansion of the Executive Education Academy Charter School in Allentown, a project with a Sept. 1 completion date.

SAVINGS

For the lottery project, Mohawk Contracting saved the building owner several hundred thousand dollars through value engineering and competitive pricing, Naidu said.

That project included building new concrete steps, an entry area and ramps with railings for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The company upgraded the 17,500-square-foot office space and 1,500-square-foot loading area and installed two kitchenettes and four restrooms.

HIGH QUALITY

The 14,000-square-foot expansion for the charter school will house 200 students for fourth- and fifth-graders. The charter school has students in kindergarten through 11th grade.

“We didn’t start this until June, and it needs to be finished Sept. 1,” Naidu said. Classrooms will have a lot of visibility and an open area for a community center, similar to a small auditorium.

On this project, the company did not use subcontractors for all dry-walling and framing, he added.

“To be able to connect with Nik and his team, they’ve always met the deadlines, he’s always a pleasure to work with,” said Robert Lysek, founder and CEO of Executive Education Schools. “The quality is top-notch. … Now and in the future, we have other projects in mind with Nik.”

CONFERENCE CENTER

Another project that Naidu cited is the entrance additions for Mack Trucks Museum and Conference Center in Allentown. Mohawk Contracting built two curtain wall entrances, performed main lobby and museum area renovations, built a Mack Shop area and demolished the existing curtain wall, all in three months.

The company also completed a 6,000-square-foot-executive office fit-out for Mack’s Lower Macungie Township production site in March.

The Faraco’s Restaurant project in Milford Township also was a significant project as it involved building a 2,000-square-foot bar and dining room addition, plus upgrades to the existing restaurant.

Mohawk did its own excavation, concrete, masonry, steel stud framing, drywall and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

LEAN, COMPETITIVE

To be successful in construction, relationships are most important, Naidu said.

“In my mind, a lot of people can build a structure, but client relationships are most critical,” Naidu said. “Where I see us headed from here is to stay lean, stay competitive.”

One major project on the docket is a 1,600-seat gym the company will build for the charter school. It will face Union Boulevard and be used for the school’s athletic events.

The design-build project is not expected to begin construction until March.

“I would like to do more of these projects,” Naidu said, including industrial, commercial office and retail.

MINIMIZE SURPRISES

Construction certainly has challenges.

“The hardest thing to control is the shortage of qualified personnel, skilled trades,” Naidu said. “The gap is getting bigger between the skilled trades and younger people.”

He enjoys the challenge of managing people and projects and following through on a commitment.

“You find a good team and you work with them and manage expectations and try to minimize all surprises,” Naidu said. “You can’t do it if you don’t enjoy the challenge.”

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