December 2014

Dan Hawbaker on Philanthropy

Q&A with Dan Hawbaker

Excerpted from the Centre Daily Times – 24 November 2014

The Hawbaker name has been synonymous with construction in Centre County for more than 60 years, but Dan Hawbaker’s philanthropic efforts have earned him a new title — 2014 Renaissance Fund honoree.

Hawbaker was recognized in front of about 500 guests at the 38th annual Renaissance Fund dinner, which raised about $326,000 for Penn State scholarships, on Nov. 13. The fund has helped about 480 students this school year

Hawbaker’s gifts to Penn State have benefited Intercollegiate Athletics, the College of Engineering and Outreach and Cooperative Extension. He also contributed to the construction of the Bryce Jordan Center and has provided scholarships to support veterans attending Penn State’s World Campus. He has also spearheaded fundraising efforts for the construction of Schlow Centre Region Library and to support the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology.DanCDTinterview


What does being named the Renaissance Fund honoree mean to you?

It’s a humbling experience to be able to be recognized, but I think the more important thing is the mission of the Renaissance Fund. We were able to raise more than $300,000 to benefit students who perhaps would not be able to get an education otherwise. I was impressed by, and I don’t know the exact statistics, but I was impressed by how many students are first-time family members to get a college education.

So it’s more important to you that students benefited from the fund than you were named for this award?

I think that’s the mission. When you get down to the nitty gritty of it, that’s the mission of the Renaissance Fund. My recognition is secondary to the mission.

Have you become known more for your philanthropy now more than your business?

You know, what’s funny is if I wasn’t known in the community before, I am now. The picture on the Town and Gown (cover) got spread far and wide, and now every time I go someplace I’m running into a lot of thank yous. I never really set out to be a philanthropist, if you want to call me a philanthropist. There’s just a lot of opportunities to cover some needs that the community has had, and we’ve been really fortunate to be in a position to help.

How did you find out in August that you would be honored?

I have this friend, Mimi Coppersmith, and I don’t know if you know Mimi, but she has been leading up the Renaissance Fund dinner for many years, probably since its inception. My standing comment is that whenever Mimi calls me for breakfast, get your checkbook ready, because she’s doing something, whether it be for the Scouts or whether it be for this or that, and right now it’s the Pink Zone and various charitable things.

Mimi called me up and said we were going to have breakfast at the Waffle Shop, so I go to the Waffle Shop with Mimi, but it ended up at the table there were other people there. I asked everyone, “What’s this all about?” and they told me. I was really kind of taken back by the whole thing.

What inspired your philanthropy in the community?

I think we have a growing community here, and if there’s a way to help and enhance the community and if you have the wherewithal to make a contribution to the community, you have a responsibility to step forward and do something. That’s the way I approach it.

Did you have a role model growing up that instilled in you the virtue of giving back?

There have been a lot of people in this community that have been role models to me, because I grew up in the construction industry. One of the things about being in this business is that there are many things that need to be done, and people look at you as having resources that no one else has to be able to do things in the community, you know, like Little League baseball fields, building a parking lot for a facility. My son, four or five years ago, they had Little League fields in Halfmoon Township, and he spearheaded an effort there to get lights at that field so that they could have night games. We made contributions to that, and he got well recognized for that.

What fundraising efforts have been particularly important or close to you?

Probably the one that stands out is the Schlow Library. Before the library was operating it was the old post office that got turned over to the community to be used. My getting into that was sort of a corporate circumstance when I volunteered at Patton Township to be a part of what they call their ABC group and whatever committees I could serve on.

Tom Kurtz, who was the township manager at the time, appointed me to the library board. And, well, what the hell do I know about libraries? I started attending meetings, and pretty soon it became apparent to me that they were trying to figure out how to build a new library. Looking around to see what they had there was just so totally inadequate.

Due to the circumstances and my construction experience and perhaps because I had some leadership experience, I got involved in pushing that forward. Betsy Allen, who was the (library director) at the time, was just a star in making the needs known to us, and we went through the whole process with the architect, but we also had to get the consensus of six municipalities, which was a cat-herding experience. They had their various interests of how they wanted to see things happen, so we had to really diplomatically satisfy the various townships. Sometimes it was not a very pleasant experience, because they all had their various conflicting interests that we had to sort our way through.

We got past that and got down to how to build a library large enough to do what we wanted it to do. Part of that came when the borough stepped forth in terms of buying some land, in addition to what was already owned, to build a community-sized library. When we did all the fundraising, one piece of satisfaction came because we left that with a surplus condition. You know, there was no debt associated with the library. It was totally paid off.

What are your future plans within the community?

I’m continuing to work with the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology in Pleasant Gap. It’s what I’d call a junior trade school type thing that high school students can start in, in the 10th grade to acquire a skill that can make them walk out of there to go find a job, whether it be in the culinary side or a dental assistant or automotive skills or carpentry. The CPI is an opportunity for young people to get started in a direction that they don’t have to worry about where they’ll get their money for college. They can come out of there with skills marketable to employers.

The cost of education can leave you with a lot of debt, and I don’t think that’s a focus we’ve given enough consideration to, which is how do we avoid that trap of when a young person comes out of school with $50,000 in debt. That’s, oh my God, how do young people deal with that?

Why should other folks in local communities do their part in giving back?

There are a lot of people doing a lot of good things in this community to volunteer their time. I wouldn’t say I’m an exception to what’s happening within the community, because there’s a tremendous amount of people going forth to be volunteers for things, and you could sit here all day going down the list of things where people are giving of their time to make a better community.

To say that I’m singled out in volunteer work, no, there’s a plethora of people that commit their efforts in this community, and a lot of them don’t get the respect for the fact that they do it. I would say I guess I got singled out, because maybe our company is a little more recognizable, but there are a lot of people here that do a lot of good stuff for others.


Highway and bridge construction revived by Act 89

Excerpted from Pa Business Central

On Oct. 24, the state Public-Private Partnership Board (P3) and Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced that the Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners won the competition for the $889 million P3 Rapid Bridge Replacement program. The partnership will replace 558 structurally deficient bridges in the commonwealth in the next 48 months.

According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, more than 5,200 of the commonwealth’s 22,600 bridges – about 23 percent – are rated structurally deficient under federal guidelines, more than any other state.Act-89-opening-pic

Although some dramatic bridge collapses in the U.S. have made the news in recent years, the state’s structurally deficient bridges are not about to fall down. The weight restrictions placed on them, however, can force commercial drivers whose trucks are over the weight limit to go miles out of their way to pick up and deliver goods, adding transportation costs and forcing drivers to detour through narrow streets designed for local traffic.

The P3 board consists of many members of the construction industry, including Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners – a consortium comprised of the Plenary Group, The Walsh Group, Granite Construction Company and HDR Engineering.

The P3 team also includes 11 Pennsylvania-based subcontractors, including five from the region:

• Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. of State College, Centre County

• J.F. Shea Construction Inc. of Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County

• Larson Design Group of Williamsport, Lycoming County

• Swank Construction Company of New Kensington, Westmoreland County

• TRC Engineers, Inc. of Export, Westmoreland County.

The P3 program is one of the first public-private partnerships in the nation to construct hundreds of bridges under a single contract.

The Plenary Walsh team will privately fund the design, build, and maintenance of the bridges in exchange for periodic payments from the state raised through a bond program. Under the 28-year contract, the project will cost an average of $65 million annually.

According to PennDOT, the P3 program could save the state more than $220 million, because the average cost per bridge under the P3 contract is $1.6 million versus the state’s average of over $2 million per bridge.

The Transportation Funding Act of 2013 (Act 89)

Glenn O. Hawbaker of State College, one of the P3 team’s subcontractors, had been receiving about half of its annual revenue from highway projects before the Great Recession. When federal and state highway funds dried up, the company was forced to lay off 300 employees.

Hawbaker won the first stimulus highway project in Pennsylvania and hired some of the workers back, but those “shovel ready” projects were short-lived. Of the $700 billion in stimulus funds, only $27 billion were allocated to infrastructure across 50 states.

To compensate for the lack of road work, Hawbaker diversified into new areas including building a railroad terminal for offloading asphalt and salt for Penn DOT, making mulch for State College’s parks, recycling building materials, and constructing roads and well pads for the Shale gas industry. In the past five years, the company rebuilt its workforce to more than 1,400 employees.

Act 89 was signed into law last year by Gov. Tom Corbett to fund road projects, bridge repairs and public transit. The new law has provided $2.4 billion in transportation projects this year so far, and by 2018, transportation projects will get an additional $2.3 billion per year, which makes it the largest increase in state transportation infrastructure funding in decades.

“Now we have some backlog, which gives us the ability to plan our business in advance and know where we’re going,” said Charlie Campbell, director of special projects at Hawbaker. “Act 89 finally put us in position to repair our roads and update our infrastructure for the 21 century.

“What’s unique is that it’s not just a year or two funding like the federal highway bill, but it’s ongoing and doesn’t require periodic renewal,” Campbell said.

Hawbaker picked up 25 highway and bridge projects in the past six months, representing about $150 million worth of business. The company expects to receive between 50 to 60 percent of its revenue from highway and bridge work next year and to hire new workers.

Finding those workers might be challenging, according to Jason Wagner, director of policy and government relations for the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (ABC), Harrisburg.

“During the recession, a lot of highway construction workers were laid off and are working in other industries such as the Shale gas industry or building trades where there was more stable employment,” said Wagner. “Now that we have the funding in place and know that it’s going to increase, we have to engage in some comprehensive workforce development efforts in order attract workers back to the highway construction industry again so we can staff these new projects.

Wagner said most job positions require workers with technical skills, including basic computer knowledge. The company is working with Penn DOT to develop workforce development programs, as well as unions, which have new training centers.

Another contractor in the region benefitting from Act 89 is Jay Fulkroad & Sons, a family-owned business in McAlisterville, Juniata County.

On Oct. 23, Fulkroad won a $2 million contract to construct a small bridge as part of three-phase Potters Mills Gap Project near the Centre/Mifflin County line to west of S.R. 0322 / PA 144 intersection. The goal is to improve safety, reduce congestion, enhance mobility and alleviate access concerns by building a bridge across the mountain gap and a 4-lane roadway that will pass near State College and then run south to Seven Mountains.

“The design engineering for the bridge will be starting in a couple weeks and will take about 45 days to complete,” said Don Peck, Fulkroad’s project manager. “We anticipate starting construction sometime in December or January, depending on the weather.”

The bridge needs to be built before the roadway construction begins on Sept. 1, 2015.

The new bridge will connect the two sides of the mountain to provide a crossing for the Seven Mountains Campgrounds, which is 15 miles east of State College.

Fulkroad’s Act 89 projects range from $900 million to $2.5 million. The company also won the bid on a $4 million dam rehabilitation project. Fulkroad was forced lay off 50 workers during the recession and now has 75 employees.

While Peck is happy about the Act 89 funding, he remains somewhat critical of the plan.

“The state might save millions of dollars with the public-private partnership, but the bulk of the millions being spent on the 558 bridges is going to companies based outside of Pennsylvania,” Peck said. “The rest is going to only 11 large firms based in the state, because it’s hard for smaller companies like ours to compete with larger firms since they have economies of scale.

“If Penn DOT was in charge of the bridge program, they probably would have broken the jobs into more pieces and employed more small firms,” Peck continued. “But at least those structurally deficient bridges are finally getting replaced, and that’s a good thing for Pennsylvanians.”