LORDSTOWN, Ohio — The way Dan Wilson sees it, if the Mahoning Valley is growing, his business is growing.
That’s why he’s a one-man economic development cheerleader for the valley, and specifically the Lordstown area he calls home.
“I grew up here,” said Wilson. “We’re trying to grow Lordstown; we’re trying to grow the area.”
Wilson owns Danco General Contracting with partner Dan Cuckovich, and also operates Elite General Contracting.
The Danco arm does just about every type of general contracting job, stretching from Lake Erie to below Steubenville, and the same distance west and east into Pennsylvania. But Wilson also drew on his farm background to branch into farm contracting, from excavation, to concrete and other construction jobs.
The company is a Butler Builder, selling and installing Butler’s pre-engineered steel building systems in the northern portion of Mahoning County, and in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties. Danco also handles commercial and farm grain storage bins and silos, grain drying and grain handling systems from GSI. The company also carries Farm Fans and DMC stirators.
“We’re a complete general contractor,” Wilson said. “Think of the biggest rural building you know — we’re geared up to handle buildings five to 10 times that size.”
Building things comes naturally to the 34-year-old Wilson, who comes from several generations of contractors and builders.
He started college with an eye toward civil engineering, but realized “I can’t sit four more years inside of a building,” and accepted a carpentry apprenticeship instead.
“I just jumped in feet first from there,” he said.
At the same time, Wilson is no stranger to the world of agriculture. By 11, he was working for local farmers baling hay and doing other odd jobs. When his parents, whose families farmed in southwestern Pa., bought a farm across from their Lordstown home, “they basically turned me loose.”
Wilson has worked to build his own farm to its current 180 acres, buying and selling feeder pigs, raising cash corn and whitetail deer.
He likes being able to work on farm jobs through Danco. “Farmers you can trust with a handshake,” he said.
Although he started Elite General Contracting when he was just 20, Wilson and Cuckovich formed Danco General Contracting in the fall of 2004. Wilson credits his wife, Tatina, with the push to go out on his own.
“I owe a lot to her,” he said. “It’d be a little overwhelming to do it by yourself.”
Danco employs 15 people, and currently runs three crews, although Wilson admits finding good labor is difficult. “For every 10 we hire, one’s a keeper,” he said.
But he said their current employees are vital to the company’s growth.
“The employees really make you a success. I can only do so much.”
And despite mounting economic concerns and a “super, super competitive” market, business has stayed strong, Wilson said. He expects the company will grow even more over the next five years. Danco is averaging $5 million in gross sales a year and Wilson sees that doubling.
He works hard to make sure customers are satisfied, even returning to job sites six, 12 or 18 months later to do walk-throughs.
“I want to get your next job and the next job,” Wilson said. “We stand behind our warranty and our word.”
Wilson said each year is a challenge, and the current economic cycle and weaker dollar are impacting the building industry, but he’s seen no slowdown in industrial building in the valley.
He’s currently developing a residential subdivision in the southwest corner of Lordstown. And that’s part of his personal and professional goal: to see Lordstown and the outlying areas grow.
“Either you willingly adapt and overcome the challenges, or you get swallowed up,” he added. “You really have got to be able to think outside the box.”
“Our goal is to serve anybody and build anything for them.”