Building Locally: Absolute Construction is Growing in Margaretville
Throughout the northeastern U.S., the world’s best hardwood species grow and drive many of theregion’s rural economies. Locally, we harvest hard and soft maple, black cherry, and a variety of oaks. But we ship most of the stumpage to other sections of the nation and the globe for processing. After watching truckload after truckload of Catskill timber hauled out of the area for value-added manufacturing, Glenn and Erica Ancona – owners of Absolute Construction and Catskill Woodwork in Margaretville – decided to do something about it.
The couple purchased a two-acre parcel on the corner of Rt. 30 and Denver-Vega Road in Kelly Corners with plans to expand their business. “At that time, we’d been operating Absolute Construction for about ten years and really wanted to explore millworking,” Erica said. “Over the years, we realized that hunting for the right wood to use for trimwork and other projects was too time consuming and difficult. We had very specific orders from customers. To meet their needs, we decided to buy local dimension lumber and work to mill it ourselves.”
When they bought the property in Kelly Corners, the Anconas had their work cut out for them. During a recent visit to the place, Glenn took me on a tour of the grounds. “Most of the land was overgrown with trees and weeds. You couldn’t even see the old house from the road. And the barn was crammed full of old relics. It needed a lot of work.” Today, the yard is open and gravel-covered, the house – soon to be converted into an office and showroom – is ready for restoration. But it is the barn that catches your eye. Bright beige with a large American flag draped across the front, it has been completely renovated – inside and out – and is stocked with new millworking equipment and electrical upgrades purchased with grant money from the Watershed Forestry Program’s Rural Development through Forestry Grant Initiative.
The grants program is a USDA Forest Service-funded economic development initiative targeting wood-based businesses in the New York City watersheds. Its goal is to ensure that forestry – one of the preferred land uses to protect water quality in the region – continues to be a viable industry in the Catskills.
“The grants from the Watershed Forestry Program came at just the right time for the company,” Erica said. “The area is growing and the grant money enabled us to install a large dust collection system and purchase machinery to custom build homes from start to finish. The new machines have helped to bolster our baby barn production line, too.” Driving down Denver-Vega Road, passers-by can see a chain of baby barns flanking the stream on the company’s new parcel. “Finally, the Watershed funds helped us to upgrade our electrical system in the barn to run the new equipment,” Erica said. “After our electrician finished his work on the barn, I was so excited! The barn was ready.”
As I finished my walk around Absolute’s new headquarters with Glenn, he said, “You know, this kind of expansion would have taken us six to eight years to complete through loans and other financial arrangements. The grants have helped us take giant steps forward in less than a year.” With the company’s reputation for quality and meticulous attention to customers’ needs, the new millworking operation is poised to be one of the best in the area and a great complement to the existing construction company. And their customers seem to agree. Recently, readers of The Catskill Mountain News named Absolute Construction the Best Contractor in the Region for 2001.