Stephen A. Cardi, II

Name: Stephen A. Cardi, II

Position: Executive Vice President of Cardi Construction Corporation;
president of the Associated General Contractors of Rhode Island.
Background: Stephen A. Cardi, II represents the fourth generation of the
Cardi family to work in the industry. Cardi says he got started when he
was “old enough to pick up a shovel.” The company’s origins go back to
1900 when his great-grandfather, Antonio B. Cardi started A. Cardi
Construction. Stephen’s grandfather, Americo S. Cardi, was associated
with the Campanella & Cardi Construction Co.
Backround: Stephen A. Cardi, II represents the fourth generation of the
Cardi family to work in the industry. Cardi says he got started when he
was “old enough to pick up a shovel.” The company’s origins go back to
1900 when his great-grandfather, Antonio B. Cardi started A. Cardi
Construction. Stephen’s grandfather, Americo S. Cardi, was associated
with the Campanella & Cardi Construction Co.
Education: Roger Williams University, Bachelor of Science in civil
engineering (1985).
Age: 38
Family: Married
Residence: West Greenwich
PBN: Cardi Construction is a major supplier of construction materials,
such as concrete, asphalt, sand and stone. The recent run of major
projects in and around the Ocean State must be good for that side of
your business. What has the impact been?

CARDI: We’ve seen an upturn in the materials business, especially in
concrete, but all the materials have been busy. Asphalt has been busy.
In fact, we just came back from Putman, Connecticut and there is all
kinds of building going on there. Generally, all over southern New
England, people in the materials business are very busy.

Has there ever been a time when you have seen building in Rhode Island
to this degree?
We saw it in the 1980s – the ‘go go 80s.’ But there is a difference now.
I think we will see more sustained, long-term growth. It’s not the boom
of the 1980s. The projects are well thought out. Back in the 1980s you
had people developing who should not have been developing.

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Do you see this kind of building continuing in and around Rhode Island?
We forecast ahead to see what our workload will be. With the economy
being so good, we have an optimistic look right now. In highway building
– because of the passage of the federal ISTEA money – we see at least
six good years. There is confidence in the stock market. The real estate
market is strong. Rates are down. The fed has been appropriately
adjusting the rates to stimulate investment.

Was that federal ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency
Act) money critical for Rhode Island?
Two things were critical. That ISTEA money and the state bond that was
just passed. One of the things we have to do in Rhode Island is work on
how we fund our highway program here.

We’ve heard so much about the woeful condition of our highways and
roads. Has the state failed to plan ahead to get these highway projects
We haven’t invested the money. It has nothing to do with the plans. The
plans you can pull off the shelf and go to work. There was a lot of
planning done. The state Department of Transportation had a lot of
foresight in its planning. When you don’t have the money, you can’t do
the job. Hopefully, now the DOT will have the money – at least $100
million a year. There are some demonstration projects. You’d have to
dive into the bill and see exactly what we are getting. But there will
be a lot of work going on. We’ve done a little bit of work already on
the downtown ramps – widening the first ramp for the mall.

The federal government must consider highway work a sound investment.
For every one dollar spent on construction, there are seven dollars
generated in the economy. It’s a wonderful investment.

Cardi Construction has been involved in some high profile projects. You
helped move a river in Providence, and been a part of the construction
of a new terminal at T.F. Green Airport. As a family business, it must
mean a little something extra to work on projects that have literally
changed the face of the Rhode Island landscape. How about the Capital
Center River Relocation Project?
It’s been special. We won a Build Rhode Island Award for Capital Center
VI, and we won a National Pre-cast Concrete Association Award for
Capital Center IV, which was a major project. We’ve been doing this
since Capital Center I, which was back in the early 1980s. That involved
the relocation of a combined sewer overflow pipe. We’ve been there ever
since. It’s been a thrill. It’s really been a wonderful project to be
involved with. The architects and engineers on the project were superb.
The over-sight by the state was well thought-out.

What about your work at the airport?
I have to give Governor Sundlun credit for having the vision to do that.
We did everything land side – which was everything outside of the
terminal runways section. All the bridges and elevated structures. We
were the contractor to do that work under construction management of the
Gilbane Building Company. We have since, through Gilbane and the Rhode
Island Airport Corporation, built a number of parking lots. In fact, if
we keep going, it seems like we’ll be on the other side of the airport.
We just built a lot for Hertz Rental Car. It’s been a great project for
us and for the state. I think the proposed intermodal transportation
center (Warwick Station) is going to be great. Nowhere else in the
country has that kind of set up.

As a native Rhode Islander, is it especially rewarding to see your
business grow and prosper, while primarily working in the Ocean State?
Absolutely. Rhode Island is the best kept secret in the country. My
father just came back from New Orleans and he said; ‘You know,
Providence still has the best food in the country.’ It’s a thrill. And
for us, logistically, we’d rather use our own asphalt – our own
concrete. We would rather drive 20 miles than 80 miles to get to a job.
It’s just easier. The more we can stay home the better we like it.

What percentage of your work is in Rhode Island?
About 60 percent.

Is Rhode Island a good place to do business?
The environmental regulations are very difficult. I thought that State
Rep. (Brian Patrick) Kennedy’s analysis of the Department of
Environmental Management had some good points to it. I think that kind
of analysis has to happen.
Are you saying that the state Department of Environmental Management
needs an overhaul?
I would agree that there has to be some type of tweaking. I am a
responsible environmentalist. Construction can be done responsibly. We
do that. We build roads to work with the environment. It just takes too
long for some of these decisions to be made out of that department.

Is Rhode Island getting more respect on a national level – are we being
taken more seriously?
Aesthetically, people have now heard about downtown Providence. If they
haven’t been here they are talking about coming here to see it. There
was a time when I would tell people I was from Rhode Island. And they
would say; ‘Do you get in the city much?’ And I’d have to say; ‘No, not
Long Island, Rhode Island!’ But now when I talk to presidents of other
contractors’ groups around the country, they have heard of Rhode Island.

You serve as president of the Associated General Contractors of Rhode
Island. What is the goal of the organization?
Our goal is to promote the Rhode Island construction industry. There is
some great expertise in this state on all levels of construction. You
look at the level of a Gilbane, which is over a billion dollar company,
to some of the smaller contractors we have, like a Maron Construction.
Dave Maron and his family have a great company. There is a great depth
that we enjoy. I think some of the Rhode Island builders are the best in
the country.

Is there a sense of camaraderie in the building community in Rhode
There is a camaraderie in the industry, and there is a fierce
competitiveness. An absolutely healthy competitiveness. And it’s good
for the owners.

Has competition forced you to look at high technology and ways to
utilize computer driven technology in construction?
Technology has become huge in our industry. You wouldn’t always think
that. People think of mortar and bricks. But somebody had to think of
how many bricks. Or how many tons of asphalt. Computers do all that now.
Computers do much of the estimating. The industry may appear like Fred
Flintstone – but we’re adept at technology.

Have these changes been exciting for you, personally?
The changes in this business have been terrific. I know on my end of the
business, and I can’t speak for everyone, I just feel like I’m in the
best business in the world. I get to play with grown up Tonka Toys.

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