Delhi residents Amy and Eric Robert are bringing a different school of thought to the construction industry.
The Roberts launched Schoolhouse Construction Services, specializing in construction and project management services for upstate New York schools, in 2012.
“It started off as somewhat of a side business,” Eric Robert, 44, said. “I have a background in construction management as well as education. I served as a faculty member in SUNY Delhi’s construction management program and actually attended SUNY Delhi after graduating from high school, then returned to the area to teach in the program and even served as a dean for a couple years.
“We noticed that there was a need for a higher level of services and construction management to support school districts in upstate New York,” he continued. “We felt that a lot of the larger companies that do this do not provide that high level of service, especially to rural schools, so I did it part time while working at the college and it evolved to be a full-time endeavor with a small crew of employees.”
Through summer, Robert said, Schoolhouse Construction employs between 20 and 25 people and, in the offseason, 15 to 20. Many of the employees, he said, are graduates of SUNY Delhi’s construction program.
Though Robert said he found his groove in school-based projects, Schoolhouse Construction caters to a varied clientele.
“We provide construction management services, and one of our focuses is on working with public schools,” he said. “Previously, our clients were serviced by larger corporations, but our niche is the level of service we provide and the fact that we are competitive and can be much more competitive than our corporate competition. Our typical clientele is schools and public owners in New York state, but we’re in the process of trying to do other things. We’ve done projects for different counties and municipalities and we’re starting to get into general contracting, residential and commercial. The long-term (plan) is to expand our operations, continue growing and, once we get past this pandemic, diversify into different markets.”
Robert said customers span the state, though he estimated 50% of Schoolhouse Construction’s business is in the Adirondacks.
“We work with approximately 40 different school districts in … the Catskills, the Southern Tier, the capital region, up in the Glens Falls region leading to the Vermont border and then the rest of our clients are up near the Adirondacks and the Canadian border,” he said.
Local school districts in which Schoolhouse Construction has worked, Robert said, include Andes, Charlotte Valley, Cooperstown, Downsville, Gilboa, Livingston Manor, Margaretville, Middleburgh, Morris, Owen D. Young, Schoharie and Unatego.
Project sizes, Robert said, are also diverse.
“For our school clients, we do some smaller projects in the $100,000 to half-million-dollar range, but we also do projects that get up into the $30-to-$40-million range. The total volume of capital construction that we are in oversight of is approximately $350 million.”
Robert said he is excited about a recently contracted project he called “a very unique opportunity.”
“We were selected to build a brand-new school for a merged district,” he said. “It’s a $60 million project and we’re helping select the property to build it on and we’re building the brand-new K-through-12 facility, with transportation facility and athletic fields. It’s not very often that a brand-new school being built like this happens.”
The build will merge the districts of Elizabethtown and Westport, creating the Boquet Valley Central School District. According to a July 2020 Watertown Daily Times article, the merger is New York’s first in 11 years.