Busy, growing NYC contractor thrives on customer service, communication.
“The NYC code changes and economy have had a positive impact on the company. The market is very good right now.” This is how 32-year-plus industry veteran Donald Gelestino began to explain the explosive growth of Champion Elevator, which he founded as president in 2015. Champion is a repair, maintenance and modernization company that serves New York City (NYC), concentrating on Long Island and Westchester. Its clients are property managers, developers and construction companies for both retail and commercial projects.
The company employs 116 office and field staff based out of four locations around the city, with its main offices in Manhattan. It is always adding more, too, as part of the rapid expansion it is undergoing. “We generally seek employees with five years’ minimum experience, with the exception of helpers and apprentices,” Gelestino explained. “We also hire military personnel and have our own helmets-to-hardhats internal program.” It hopes to expand into Philadelphia and Connecticut, where it sees good opportunities for further growth.
“Joe Corrado, Donna Scibetta, Larry Nyquist, Rob Zalud and Robert Masterson are key team members, and I really appreciate all their efforts!”
Gelestino said Champion makes it a point to attend National Association of Elevator Contractors’ (NAEC) Fall Conventions and Spring Educational Conferences, both of which help keep the company up to date on technology, codes, safety products and materials. He is also a member of its board of directors and will be its president in 2020. One of his presidential goals will be to raise awareness of maintaining sufficient insurance and the highest level of workplace safety — the two major issues on which companies should focus.
In June, Champion won the contract for maintenance and modernization of the elevators at Co-Op City, the largest cooperative housing development in the world (“Co-Op Taps Champion for Maintenance, Modernization,” p. 20). Even before the 180 elevators in the Bronx were added to its maintenance/modernization portfolio, Champion had 1,000 under contract, mostly in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan. With approximately 40,000 elevators that require retrofitting and modernization to comply with new codes, such as mandatory door-lock monitoring in 2020 and unintended-motion-preventing devices in 2026, contractors are busy all over the city.
Gelestino identified the lack of field talent as the biggest challenge facing Champion, adding, “Everyone is at max capacity, and there are not enough technicians in the industry to field the demand.” However, he believes that through implementing educational programs like NAEC’s Certified Elevator Technician (CET®), the problems can be mitigated. Champion also provides ongoing training on new equipment and safety via seminars led by manufacturers, in-house classes and on-the-job experience.
Gelestino would like to see the program certified to be in technical schools and colleges. He elaborated:
“We’d also like more presence in high-school programs, if possible. We want people to be more aware that there’s a really good industry here. We see programs for plumbers, electricians and carpenters, but elevator services aren’t on people’s minds. People take it for granted. I want that program into the mainstream. And I’ve never seen a slow time in this business: even when construction is slow, maintenance takes place, and older buildings compete with new ones to gain similar rent levels — elevator modernization, maintenance and repair are always happening.”