‘Personnel is the biggest challenge’

Laura M. Sherman is a member of the fourth generation to take a leadership role at family-owned Fayetteville Contractors Inc.

By Mike Lewis
mlewis@crossroadsbizjournal.com

Some years ago, Laura M. Sherman’s plans didn’t include the family business.

“It wasn’t my intention to go to school and come back here,” she said during an interview in the offices of Fayetteville Contractors Inc. “It was sort of an opportunity at the time.”

That opportunity has worked out pretty well. Sherman has been president of the company since late 2018.

FCI is a comprehensive contracting service for commercial and residential asphalt paving; asphalt manufacturing; commercial and residential excavation; hauling; utility repair and installation work; demolition; stream restoration and snow removal.

The company has its main offices and a shop facility in Fayetteville, Pa., and its own asphalt plant near Greencastle, Pa.

Sherman graduated from high school in Chamberburg, Pa., in 1998 and received a business degree from Shippensburg (Pa.) University in 2002. After college she went to work for Brown, Schultz, Sheridan and Fritz, a public accounting firm in Camp Hill, Pa. In 2005, she left for Rotz & Stonesifer, an accounting firm in Chambersburg.

“I absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed public accounting,” she said.

But by 2006, the family business was calling.

“At that point in time, they were needing some additional help in here,” she said.

So she joined FCI, working in accounting and some human resource functions.

She’s part of the fourth generation to hold leadership roles at the company. She said her brother, Eric M. Deardorff, works with the paving division and serves as secretary.

Her great-grandfather, Paul K. Deardorff, started the company in 1941 and retired as president in 1976.

Her grandfather, Glenn E. Deardorff Sr., was next in line. He served as president until he retired in 2018, when he was followed by Sherman. But he’s still interested in FCI affairs and is still a director of the company.

“He’ll come in two or three times a week,” Sherman said.

Sherman is part of a four-person ownership group that includes her father, Glenn “Chip” Deardorff Jr., vice president/treasurer; her uncle, Darren L. Deardorff, vice president of the paving division, and her brother, Eric, paving estimator and company secretary.

What does your average day look like at Fayetteville Contractors Inc.?

On an average day for Fayetteville Contractors Inc., you can find our employees paving driveways and parking lots, installing infrastructure on commercial sites, manufacturing blacktop, trucking material and maintaining equipment. We have approximately 45 employees, some of whom have been here for over 30 years.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities the company faces?

Personnel is the biggest challenge our company, and our industry, faces today. It’s hard to find qualified employees to operate equipment, mechanics to fix the equipment and plant techs to run our blacktop plant. Our society and economy today is heavily influenced by technology integration. Our company and our industry need to find a way to excite the younger generations to work in construction, which, in many cases, is still driven by manual labor.

What do you want more people to understand about your business?

FCI is a family-owned company that started in 1941 with Paul K. Deardorff. The continuation of the company into the fourth generation is largely due to the hard, dedicated work of our employees and to the trust the community has placed in us to complete their projects. We take pride in our workmanship and products.

What have been some of the most significant changes in recent years, and how has the business adapted to them?

Increasing costs of materials is always a concern. Over the last couple of years, our company has begun recycling more materials to be environmentally friendly and cost-effective. Blacktop that is removed from sites is recycled into our blacktop that we manufacture. By recycling the blacktop, we are reusing the stone and asphalt in a new product. Rock that is removed from sites is crushed down into different-sized rocks to be used on our projects, for parking lot sub-base and ditch lines.

Looking down the road, what do you think the next five to 10 years will bring for your business and the region?

Technology is being implemented more in the construction equipment. I have heard construction equipment will or can be operated by satellite.

Outside of work, what are your ambitions and aspirations?

Outside of work, I spend a lot of time with my family. My husband, Joshua, and I have three young children that are very involved with competitive sports. My oldest son, Zachary, 12, wrestles for several wrestling teams and does travel baseball for the 12U Renegades. My daughter, Abigail, 10, does competitive cheerleading with the PA Starz. My youngest son, Harrison 7, enjoys wrestling and baseball as well. I enjoy crocheting, working out and baking.