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Building a region: Lancaster and Lebanon county companies shape the landscape of Central PA

By Jennifer Vogelsong, August 29, 2017

Jeffrey Steckbeck was born and raised in Lebanon County.

He went to college at Penn State University. But then he left the area to work as an engineer at a big firm in Texas. He had great experiences and learned a lot, but when it came time to settle down and build a family and business several years later, he returned to his roots.

He founded Steckbeck Engineering & Surveying in 1990, and it quickly grew to become the dominant firm in Lebanon County. “There was a void in my hometown, and everybody wanted to use me,” he said. These days, his company is among the Lebanon and Lancaster county firms that work in the local construction industry to shape the landscape of Central Pennsylvania.

Steckbeck Engineering & Surveying does work for 5 of the 6 school districts in Lebanon County, 16 of the county's 26 municipalities and many of the largest businesses in the county. The firm has worked with Bell & Evans on projects at its existing chicken-processing facility and just finished a $30 million state-of-the art hatchery nearby.

“I am humbled, grateful and proud that people have relied upon me and my employees to help them,” Steckbeck said.

Having that kind of reputation and relationships with local clients is a big part of why other local companies enjoy doing business in their home area.

Matt Hartzler, president of Warfel Construction, said many of his company’s clients are repeat customers, some becoming clients for life. He said he enjoys projects such as the North Cornwall Medical Center, where the East Petersburg-based general contractor gets to work with other local companies.

“This area is known for quality craftsmen, and there are a lot of good trade subcontractors we can work with,” said Hartzler. “Being from the same area, we have similar approaches to business and make quality a part of what we want to do.”

Brent Kreider, president of B.R. Kreider & Son, Inc., which performs excavation, paving and site management, said employees of his Manheim-based company get to work with members of the local community at all levels, from individual homeowners who need their driveways paved to large retail projects such as The Shoppes at Belmont, a mixed-use development at the corner of Route 30 and Fruitville Pike in Lancaster.

“There are a lot of good people, good businesses and good nonprofits here, and it’s so rewarding to be able to work alongside them to achieve their different missions,” said Kreider. “I really appreciate all the connections that take place.”

B.R. Kreider & Son associates are typically the first ones to arrive on the site of a project — to excavate and prepare the land — and the last ones to leave after putting the finishing touches on asphalt and paving.

“It’s fun to see both ends,” Kreider said. “There’s a sense of pride when you look around the area and you see a project you have been part of. That’s really neat and that’s what gets us excited.”

For a specialty contractor like The Witmer Group of Mount Joy, which specializes in masonry, concrete and façade restoration, and historic preservation, this area of Pennsylvania is a fabulous place to work.

“There are a lot of beautiful buildings here with historic significance,” said CEO Todd Witmer. Many colleges and churches invest in their properties and want to care for their buildings. “We do pretty much everything that is on the exterior of a building, so the results of our work are very evident. You get this great sense of satisfaction from making things last another 50 years.”

When visitors come to the area, he said they are often most impressed by the well-kept buildings that they may not see in their home areas. “It’s a real draw,” he said.
Witmer said at least half of his company’s work is done in Lancaster, Lebanon, Dauphin and York counties. He notes that a vibrant and diversified local economy keeps the region more insulated from economic highs and lows that other parts of the country experience at times.

Steckbeck said the outstanding quality of life, beautiful landscapes and reputable schools make it a great place to work. Kreider said the Lancaster and Lebanon area is a central hub not far from nearby metropolitan areas and close to transportation corridors and warehousing facilities.

“It’s a great location,” Kreider said. “Tourism is high and a lot of traffic comes through our area. There seem to be a lot of projects happening now in Lancaster and that has allowed us to stay close to home.”

“This is a great place to work,” said Witmer. “We have a lot of customers who value and appreciate us here. We have experience in other parts of the country and in larger metropolitan areas, but our preference is to work here.”