How operations & equipment improvements contribute daily to southwest Florida contractor’s success
by Paul Posel
April 21, 2016

An innovative approach to business alliances has helped Honc Destruction become the largest demolition contractor in southwest Florida. Go back to the year the company started, 2002. At that time, Honc Marine Contracting was a successful builder of seawalls for thousands of waterfront properties, especially in the Cape Coral and Fort Myers, Florida, areas.

“Seawalls are faster and easier to replace on vacant lots, and because many owners wanted new homes anyway, we decided to add demolition services in order to enhance our seawall business,” said David Mulicka, president of Honc Destruction. “With the ability to use the same operators and equipment already needed to build a seawall at the same time, we could offer demolition services at a price and schedule that nobody else could match.”

Fast forward to 2015, when Honc Recycling, a centrally located 6-acre construction debris transfer station site in Fort Myers, came to fruition. “Getting rid of the demolition debris is costly and time-consuming,” said Mulicka, “but I thought if we had our own recycling facility, our business model would take on an entirely different look. We now own a facility where we used to pay to dispose of our demolition debris.”

Working Together

In the early 2000s, the Florida economy was booming and buyers had money to purchase older residences along the water. Tearing down existing structures and building new, larger, homes was common.

“It was a good time to get in the demolition business,” Mulicka said. “Working with the seawall company gave us a huge pricing advantage. Some customers had hardly any net costs to their project or the demolition work.”

A few years later, the Great Recession hit southwest Florida especially hard. According to a Federal Reserve report published in 2012 titled “Survey of Consumer Finance,” a significant drop in Florida housing prices contributed to a 38.8 percent drop in median net worth between 2007 and 2010.

“We went through a very humbling downturn in the market,” Mulicka said. “Since we had the people and construction equipment to do both seawall renovation and demolition, though, we were able to endure.

“At the beginning of the recession, there were a lot of half-built houses,” he said. “Unsafe structures, incomplete projects and code violations caught the attention of various government agencies and, before long, we had contracts to tear down many of them. That became a good source of revenue.”

Once the Florida economy improved, though, Honc Destruction was right back to demolishing residential structures for people who found the wrong house on the right location. Much of the company’s current business is focused on the Naples area, where there is almost no vacant property west of Highway 41.

“We now average demolishing one house every day,” Mulicka said. “Some of the homes we are tearing down in the Naples area range from 12,000 to 14,000 square feet, and are being replaced by homes that are even bigger and nicer.”

Not Lacking for Bigger Projects, Too

The company is handling a variety of commercial and industrial demolition projects as well, contributing to their production of more than 1 million square feet of demolition projects each year. They include hospitals, schools, car dealerships, shopping malls, grocery stores, water treatment plants and all kinds of small businesses.

“Structural demolition is our bread and butter,” said Mulicka, “but at times we handle selective take-downs. We recently gutted the inside of a former Sears department store, including the interior slab, leaving only the exterior walls and the roof. The owner made it into a four-tenant building.”

On another job, the company took a 93,000-square-foot Charlotte County school and turned it into a vacant lot in less than 3 weeks. That’s typical of the fast service that Honc Destruction’s clients want to see.

“Since we are the front of the train on any redevelopment project, everyone wants us to get in and get out so they can get started rebuilding,” Mulicka said. “Working quickly is one of our selling points. We can typically save the customer days or weeks on their schedule because we have the resources and equipment to complete a job more efficiently and safely than others in our trade.”

A Place for Demolition Debris

One of the newest resources available to the company is the recycling facility for construction debris. “Previously we had to haul what we tore down to 10 or 15 different places within our market areas in order to try to mitigate the hauling and disposal fees,” Mulicka said. “Logistically it was difficult at times.”

At the new centrally located facility, he said the plan is to recycle more than 80 percent of the materials the demolition company previously paid to get rid of. Recycling construction debris has received more attention in recent years as companies are adopting sustainability efforts and sending less debris to sanitary landfills. Several major commodity buyers are customers of Honc Recycling, an increased source of income for the business that saves their clients’ money on their projects.

“Having our own recycling facility is a significant strategic advantage that allows us to be much faster and more productive because we no longer have to slow down and process and sort debris at the demolition site,” he said. “We can load out and haul it away immediately and get the property ready for whatever is going to take place next. All the sorting is now done at our recycling facility. This vertical integration and delivery of services has dramatically changed our demolition enterprise.”

Another benefit is having better control of the process. “With our own people working in both demolition and recycling, we set the schedule, use our own trucks to haul debris and sort material in a very organized manner,” Mulicka said.

Demolition is all about safely getting rid of what you are supposed to and protecting everything else, said Mulicka. “Having the right plan and the right people on the crews makes a big difference, and so does having the right equipment.”

In 2011, as the volume of work was increasing, Honc needed to rent additional excavators. The company purchased a pair of Doosan excavators in 2014, both equipped with severe-duty buckets, optional two-way auxiliary hydraulics and clamps.

For handling the tighter areas, Honc purchased a compact track loader with a bucket, an industrial grapple and root grapple collects debris, while a sweeper attachment helps clean up jobsites. A compact excavator and hydraulic breaker attachment are used for selective demolition inside buildings.

With the construction business rebounding around southwest Florida, Honc Destruction is well positioned to provide the answer buyers expect to hear when they ask: “How fast can you clear my property?”