JHDS Structural Steel Fabricators
- Written by: Neil Cote
- Produced by: Nick Randall
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Named after one of New Jersey’s foremost engineers, Rowan University in the southwest community of Glassboro might have felt it was under extra pressure a few years ago when paperwork issues threatened to delay construction of its new department of engineering.
Seems another builder was challenging the winning bid from JHDS Structural Steel Fabricators, a family-owned company in Lincoln Park at the northern end of the Garden State. While the JHDS bid was vindicated, the company’s time-frame for project completion had significantly narrowed.
“The school had asked us to expedite the fabrication in order to erect the steel by a certain date so the kids could get back to school,” remembers Jorge Hermida Jr., the 28-year-old vice president and one of two sons in the employ of Jorge Sr., the company’s Cuban-born founder and CEO. “And this was a big project; a three-story, 88,000-square-foot building.”
A big project indeed, one that called for 1,400 tons of steel beams to be sized and cut to rigid specifications and then put in place, with the state funding over half the $70.6 million cost through the 2012 New Jersey Building Our Future Bond Act that supports construction of public higher-education facilities.
The work being done in multiple phases, JHDS had most of it complete in the spring of 2016, but was asked to delay the last part—installation of a connector bridge between an existing building and the new structure—until summer so as not to disrupt classes.
Finally in January 2017 a bigger and better Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering opened its doors with plans to increase its enrollment from 1,500 to more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students within the next few years. Virginia Rowan Smith, a university trustee and daughter of the late Henry Rowan, was there at the ribbon-cutting to remind of her father’s mission statement: “What this country needs is not more engineers, but more great engineers.”
Enabling the engineers
Great engineers, of course, must be enabled, and JHDS Structural Steel Fabricators—a company that celebrated its 10th anniversary just last year—has proved a more than capable partner on that front.
But there’s nothing surprising about that, the company after all applying a slew of engineering principles when fabricating the huge beams that are the building blocks for the public projects which make up most of JHDS’ contractual work in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, occasionally Connecticut and possibly other states in the future.
“The results of our labor are everywhere,” says Hermida, who enjoys his hands-on role while his brother, Andres, is in charge of cost-estimates and bids.
The company’s reputation brings in work as word spreads fast in the construction industry, maybe especially so in the Tri-state area that’s seen a renaissance of sorts since the end of the Great Recession. Many public projects that had been on hold have since been fast-tracked, with JHDS’ ongoing fabrication work including facilities for the New Jersey State Police and Turnpike Authority.
Finished projects include the Central Railroad Terminal Building in Jersey City, the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in New York City, the VA James J. Peter Medical Center in the Bronx, the Newark Airport Salt and Sand Storage and numerous municipal and public safety facilities in all three states.
Private contracting comprising a significant minority of JHDS’ work, the company also has acquitted itself well on various residential and commercial properties, including projects such as the Woodland Park Gun Range in Woodland Park, New Jersey.
“When I needed an addition to my workshop, I called JHDS,” says Peter Zielonka, president of Precision Electric Motor Works in Clifton, New Jersey. “It was great for me to work with only one company that could fabricate and install the building addition as well as do the stairs and railings. Their work was on-time and on-budget, but most importantly, they were there for me.”
JHDS is now working on another add-on for Precision. Also, the Newark power company Public Service Enterprise Group reached out directly to JHDS to expedite the steel for its new utility control center in Bound Brook. The project was completed in May.
JHDS was there for a lot of clients at a time when it might have been easier to fold the tent. This company seemed to defy the odds just getting off the ground, much less breaking the ground for some very notable structures.
A legacy continued
Jorge Sr. being a fourth-generation ironworker, he aspired to ply his trade upon arriving in the United States in 1987, but initially settled for drawing and detailing steel-fabrication plans for contractors. Hence the meaning of JHDS—Jorge Hermida’s Detailing Services.
Around the mid-2000s the elder Hermida committed to starting his own fabrication company—a high-risk challenge under any circumstance, made so even more by the impending recession. There were some lean years to endure, but he retained his faith and work ethic.
Meanwhile a lot of competing companies were proving unable to weather the economic storm. JHDS did more than survive, garnering annual revenues of $7 million to $8 million and relocating from a 6,000-square-foot building in Patterson into the Lincoln Park facility five times that size with amenities including beam lines, angle masters, plate processors, several overhead in-shop cranes, and lifting capability in the yard. Among the 25-member crew are welders certified to the industry’s top standard.
JHDS may expand its services to handle trucking, and anticipates additional hires.
“Let us surpass your expectations,” is the motto of the company that can rightfully claim to be an American success story.
Jorge Jr., however, feels he’s only answering his calling.
“I’ve grown up around steel,” says Jorge Jr., who learned from his father who had learned from his own father, Manuel, who also came from an ironworking background. “I’ve always been fascinated by the fabrication of structural steel, which is what most structures rely on for their strength.”
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