A new $111.4 million, 224,071 s/f state-of-the-art structure towers over Salisbury University’s campus. The Guerrieri Academic Commons has rapidly become the hub of academic life at the college, serving faculty and students alike. A tall order to fill, the construction of the four story building equipped with 12 classrooms, 18 group study rooms and a 418 seat Assembly Hall, was awarded to Gilbane Building Co.
This particular job provided Gilbane the opportunity to add to the company’s higher education portfolio, establish a presence on the Eastern Shore and align its mission with Salisbury by stimulating the local economy and hiring local contractors.
One of those local contractors was the newest general contractor in town, Delmarva Veteran Builders. At the time, DVB was a little over a year old and had one full time employee - the owner, Chris Eccleston and one other part time employee on the books.
A foot in the door at Salisbury University was an obvious win for Delmarva Veteran Builders from the early stages of the company’s growth. Through proven experience by work on the University’s Career Center office renovation and a project for Delmarva Public Radio, owned and operated from Salisbury University’s campus, DVB was getting attention. The game changer was when DVB’s president Chris Eccleston heard about another “big” job coming to town with an opportunity for a general trades package up for grabs.
“After previous jobs we completed for SU, the architect and project manager told me he was impressed with our story and mission of hiring Veterans and said he would put in a good word for us on the incoming Gilbane project.”
Although Delmarva had never worked with Gilbane, the two companies quickly established a strong working relationship.
“Delmarva Veteran Builders was a young company and not sized for large contracts,” said David Childress, senior project manager, Gilbane Building Company. “But when we met with Chris and the Gillis Gilkerson team, Chris was prepared. He knew the job, he knew the scope of work and had a plan. Gillis Gilkerson reaffirmed his success which gave us a level of comfort in putting a big contract in his hands.”
“The Gilbane job launched the future of other key players on the DVB team,” said Chris Eccleston, president, Delmarva Veteran Builders. “The work gave us an opportunity to put our story and mission into action. I knew I had jobs for Veterans, now I just needed to find them. If they were down to their last dollar, I could hire them on the spot. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Delmarva Veteran Builders was one of the first company’s on the ground for the project, working on winter protection, to make sure other trades could get to work. Chris knew he needed to grow his workforce quickly to handle the workload on the University job.
Chris credits Gilbane Building Company for helping Delmarva Veteran Builders find its purpose by providing them the opportunity to put the DVB story in action. Not a goal at first, but DVB became an important transitional employer for many of the men working on the SU Academic Commons job. n
Fast forward two years and the project is complete. Delmarva Veteran Builders stands proudly next to Gilbane representatives at the official ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony. And now there’s talk about additional partnerships in the future on Eastern Shore projects.
“This was a big deal for Gilbane as we have many superintendents with military backgrounds,” said Childress. “DVB was genuinely a mission for Chris - it wasn’t just a gimmick to get business. He runs an honest operation and hires the right people for the job. We can’t take credit for DVB’s growth but we were thrilled to be a part of it. It’s what Chris did with the opportunity that made it all happen. He had an opportunity to staff a crew, two years to build a business and help it grow. It’s a dream come true for any business owner.”