ICON Celebrates 30 Years of Helping Construction Companies Succeed Underground

Brian W. Crandall believes that underground construction is the most dangerous work a contractor undertakes. So in 1982, he started a company to help make the process safer, faster and more cost-efficient.

Crandall’s vision for ICON in 1982 was to revolutionize trench shoring and guided auger boring by achieving new benchmarks of quality and safety that exceeded the industry standards of the time. Thirty years and tens of thousands of jobs later, it’s safe to say Crandall’s company is successfully meeting that vision.

In 1982, Crandall discovered a German “slide rail” shoring system that slashed job times and total costs by up to 40 percent over conventional sheeting for water and sewer lines. Crandall incorporated ICON Equipment Distributors to provide shoring services to the contracting industry.

“Over the years, ICON has built a solid team that works with customers to find the safest, most cost-effective underground solution for their projects,” Crandall said.

From the start, ICON was an innovator. The company was the first shoring distributor to receive engineering approval for the slide rail system for New York City, the NY/NJ Port Authority and dozens of transportation departments around the nation. ICON quickly made a name for itself as a firm that provided safe shoring solutions on large and small construction projects. Even some of the toughest excavations were completed with ease due to the modularity of slide rail systems.

“No other company in the industry has diversity of excavation shoring solutions that ICON can offer,” Crandall says. “We can offer a solution, engineer it, manufacture it, supply it and train our customers to use it safely. This helps them complete their projects on time and on budget.”

In the early days, Crandall and his wife Christine worked long hours building the company. With a fast-growing firm like ICON, whoever was available was thrown into the fray to make sure the job got done.
Crandall gives his wife full credit for her role in the company’s early success. Christine worked as the company’s first human resources person, helping with payroll, insurance and benefits, as well as overall office management.

Though a successful, established company now, ICON is still a family affair. Crandall’s son David is vice president and his son Jason serves as the director of human resources and corporate safety.
Here are some highlights of ICON’s remarkable growth from its humble beginnings:

  • 1984: ICON offers microtunneling equipment from Germany’s Krings Co. and completes 12 microtunnels in the Eastern United States. The company breaks the record by laying 500 ft of 48-in. pipe under the Saugus River in Massachusetts.
  • 1986: The City of New York hires ICON to use a “super” slide rail system to install 7,000 ft of culvert 26 ft below the surface. This was the first time New York City had approved pre-cast box culverts — and ICON gets the job done ahead of schedule with dramatic savings in labor and equipment costs.
  • 1988: ICON’s first international project. In Cairo, Egypt, the company designs and supplies a 90,000-ft long linear sewer line 32 ft deep. The line is completed on budget and well ahead of schedule.
  • 1990s: ICON opens branch offices in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Completes more projects in Egypt, as well as Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and many other cities.
  • 1996: In need of more space, ICON builds a new 15-acre complex in East Brunswick to design and manufacture a 100 percent American-made slide rail system. The company’s ground-breaking design improvements are an instant success, adding strength, durability and ease of use to the system.
  • 2002: ICON buys the Duralite line from Washington Aluminum Co., giving the company more shoring solutions, including lightweight aluminum boxes.
  • 2004: ICON becomes the national dealer/distributor for Bortec GmbH, the world’s top manufacturer of pilot-tube technology in guided auger boring systems. This technology helps crews install sewers directly on line and grade.

Jason Crandall says the company’s success all comes back to the great team of people who work at ICON. “We get a lot of business from referrals and I attribute this to the overall quality of our employees and the team we have in place,” he says.

He gives credit to long-time associates Muriel Taylor, Dana Smith and Atif Dukes — as well as operations manager Robert Langenbach, sales support manager Jayesh Patel, national shoring manager David H. Mellon and controller Stephen Antenucci.

Today, ICON serves more than 1,600 customers across the United States and has completed more than 8,500 slide rail projects to date. In addition to slide rail systems, ICON’s other projects have involved steel and aluminum trench boxes, wire slings and lifting devices, hydraulic shoring and road plates.

David Crandall says that the newest venture for the company is a major hub in Columbus, Ohio, for serving Midwest customers in slide rail shoring, trench shoring and trenchless products. This branch will be unique because it will conduct repairs and light manufacturing on-site, unlike other ICON locations.

David says the company is not resting on its laurels. “ICON is growing in this economy because we can read the market and have been able to change very quickly to keep ahead of the competition and gain more work as a result,” he says.

Matt Roskie is a technical writer for Advantage Marketing.
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