Pleasants Construction Has Strong Roots in the Underground Rehab Business

Contractor creates a sustainable, multigenerational business through training, engaging and empowering its staff

Pleasants Construction Has Strong Roots in the Underground Rehab Business

 A crew from Maryland-based Pleasants Construction installs a storm drain under a roadway in rural Maryland.

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Started by Bill Pleasants in 1964 with a truck and front-end loader, Pleasants Construction has expanded into one of the largest utility, land development, waste management and trenchless rehabilitation contracting firms in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

Today, the company is run by Don Pleasants, Bill Pleasants’ son. Core services include earthwork, site development, demolition, paving, soil stabilization, site utility installation, material processing and underground utility rehabilitation.

Due to long-standing relationships with many local municipalities and sewer authorities — such as WSSC Water — Pleasants Construction was encouraged to introduce new technologies and solutions to these high-profile clients. Consequently, the company has been awarded projects that give it an opportunity to stretch its construction, innovation and problem-solving skills.

The addition of an underground rehabilitation and trenchless technology-based division was a natural progression, as the firm has always been heavily involved in local utility contracting, installing sewer, water and storm drain systems. The underground rehabilitation division has a team of 35. Pleasants employs approximately 370 people in its construction departments, with a total of 680 staff members across all its divisions.

The rehab division is a certified installer of Reline America’s trenchless products. Pleasants’ ownership interest in Reline America’s UV glass-reinforced polyester lining equipment has resulted in a strategic alliance, providing a critical advantage to the division. In addition to high-quality lining installation, Pleasants provides its clients with asset assessment and consulting services to educate and deliver best-fit solutions to local municipalities’ underground rehabilitation issues. Other services include manhole rehabilitation, point repairs, pipeline cleaning and CCTV inspection. 


Pleasants enjoys taking on challenging projects that other firms may shy away from, especially in stormwater rehabilitation locations where access may be particularly challenging.

Strengthened by its construction roots and vast fleet of equipment, Pleasants is highly competitive on Department of Transportation and storm drainage projects. Many of these projects require unusual approaches to access points, perform pipe lining or execute other trenchless rehabilitation methods that are environmentally challenging. Obstacles often include extreme topography, existing subdivision landscaping or roadway traffic that would create significant community impact if blocked.

One such project required the installation of a 72-inch liner in a corrugated metal pipe drainage line, situated 35 feet deep in an area with 2:1 side slopes, on a roadway with nearly impossible standard equipment access. Deploying equipment and the liner to the site without building a roadway would have created tremendous environmental disturbance. Getting to the location required some ingenuity, and this is where a construction background came in handy.

“We figured out a way to move the liner from the top of the slope by actually sliding it into the host pipe from the road surface itself, using a series of slides and rollers,” Don Pleasants says. “Pulling in the liner this way, we were able to operate the equipment, deploy the light train and cure it from the road surface, which was quite a feat due to the sloping topography and the depth of the line itself.”

Many of the sanitary collections system projects Pleasants Construction has taken on have involved working in environmentally sensitive areas, where pipelines are in streambeds or low-lying flood plain areas. Many of the sewer lines running through these areas were constructed 60 years ago and are now experiencing joint failure, root intrusion and offset issues that are just a natural part of infrastructure aging.

“Our ability to access these areas more efficiently than a lot of the competition — who perform rehabilitation using methods other than UV GRP lining technology — allows us to get projects completed faster and save the asset owner money, mitigate environmental risk, as well as eliminate or extensively limit the level of disruption to private property and the community,” says Eric Newquist, executive vice president of Pleasants.

“The capacities we have — not just in the civil rehabilitation side of our business, but also in the heavy civil construction side — allow us to internalize multiple skill sets to solve many problems for our customers.”

Many contractors can perform just one or two parts of a project, such as rehabilitation, and must outsource or find other solutions to handle the civil work that may be required on some extensive, complex jobs, such as paving, grading and erosion control. Pleasants has the capability to be a single point of contact to perform all tasks needed to complete a project from inception to completion, including the civil work. “This enables us to save the customer money and time, and this unique selling proposition has been one of our keys to success,” Newquist says.


Pleasants is always looking for better ways to serve its customers, and the company brings on additional services, tools and technology when the market expresses the need and the additions will be profitable. Not looking to be regarded as a commodity service provider, they seek opportunities that enable them to leverage existing skill sets.

The firm is highly active in and supportive of its local municipalities and engineering firms. They perform lunch-and-learn educational presentations, participate in trade shows and offer job site visits. Although a great deal of its networking and relationship building has been done face-to-face, Pleasants is ready to embrace the new paradigm of virtual selling. It’s preparing to offer more online learning webinars and related communication platforms to remain safely engaged with its prospects and client base.

Although the market may be changing, one thing hasn’t: Pleasants’ brand identity and public perception. Great attention to detail is a hallmark of the organization, from the cleanliness and maintenance of its fleet to how organized its teams appear, its uniforms and especially the customer experience. Pleasants has attained a Best in Class rating for its safety — something that doesn’t happen by accident.

“We work hard at that,” Newquist says, “and that means not everyone can work for us. We want people who take our brand seriously — the vehicles we drive and how we are looked at, conduct ourselves, treat our customers, respond to our customers and work together as a team. It’s a holistic approach to branding, and every member of the team is part of our marketing and brand perception. We are trying to tell a story of who we are in everything we do.”


The effort is working. Mike Hoffmaster, business development manager for Pleasants, says that with the company’s talented team, work ethic and customer experience, “municipalities always look to come back and do business with Pleasants. We are invited to bid constantly, even on projects that sometimes may not be in our wheelhouse. … They seek us out because they know how we approach projects and that we will see things through and find a way to solve their issues.”

Creating a workplace culture that attracts the brightest and best talent is no small task with a large organization such as Pleasants. To accomplish and sustain this, the firm draws heavily upon one of its core values: investing in its employees. Recognizing that engaging and empowering a team to learn, grow and prosper creates a workplace that naturally retains star employees, the company established the Pleasants Learning Academy.

Pleasants Learning Academy is an extensive, dynamic training program that provides skills training and courses from onboarding all the way through executive leadership. Topics include decision-making, negotiating skills, managing a company, developing a handbook, performing reviews, interviewing, recruitment and an increasing number of best practices courses that cover the broad range of needs for all of the company’s various business units and divisions.

At present, there are almost 200 training modules available. Some are offered in person, but many are online or video-based, as staff is spread across the region. During downtime or rain days, the staff takes full advantage of the training available and appreciates the value and investment that Pleasants continues to make in its employees’ career.

“We realized that if we want a quality workforce, we have to invest in them by training them,” Newquist says. “We as business owners can’t complain that we can’t find or attract quality people or that they are not able to do something for lack of know-how. This investment has reaped great rewards and has been an incredibly positive addition to our organization, and I believe it will continue to bear a strong return on investment generationally.”

The Pleasants Learning Academy is headed by Rick Centra, a seasoned training veteran. His experience includes being a military training officer and a private sector trainer and program developer for a large grocery store chain and homebuilding development firm. He has developed course material for Pleasants from this experience, which also incorporates related publications along with input from senior members of the company leadership.

The company encourages staff members interested in developing new skills to ask their direct supervisor to approve participation in certain course levels. The diversity of courses allows team members to explore a potential new career path, which will help them decide if a certain position or direction is what they want to pursue. Managers also encourage individual members who they feel can be future stars in the organization and might need to be channeled in a certain direction to give them the best growth opportunity.


These opportunities for all company staff make training a powerful retention tool and create a happy, productive workplace culture that leads to better customer service. The Pleasants Learning Academy has contributed to a safer and better-organized team that is more efficient and productive. Field training for more technical skills is also available, for which Pleasants calls upon valued trade partners.

Managing such a large organization can be challenging, but both Pleasants and Newquist agree that keeping departments that work closely together accountable to each other with open communication builds community. The firm has its eye squarely on the future with the intention to be generationally successful.

“We try to promote from within,” Newquist says. “Our company is one of opportunity. People can be hired as the front desk receptionist and five years later could be working in the project management office. If employees are good-quality folks, we’re going to find a spot for them in the organization as opportunities arise.”

Pleasants has distinguished itself as a firm driven by its core values of integrity, excellence and safety, and it offers a highly prized workplace culture and environment. Its commitment to teamwork, training and focus consistently creates tremendous career opportunities for its members. And its consistent positive customer experience means clients can rely on the firm for excellence across its business units. It’s all part of an encompassing vision and strategy, Newquist says.

“I believe one of the things that separates our company from many others is that we think about the future, plan financially and consider the big picture long-term. Immediate satisfaction for today may be important, but it’s not primary.” 

Refer a friend

As the “silver tsunami” extends its effect upon trade industries and many firms are finding it challenging to recruit and retain new staff, Pleasants Construction has come up with a solution that is delivering surprisingly positive results. In addition to its extensive training program, the Pleasants Learning Academy, another method for recruiting and retaining local talent is through an internal referral program.

“We found that a lot of our best employees are coming as referrals from our current staff. We started this because we believe that the people who work here want other quality people to work here as well and will invite people they feel would fit our culture and who they feel good about referring,” says Eric Newquist, executive vice president of Pleasants.

The program offers a financial incentive for all new hires referred who stay with the company for at least 90 days. Because it is referral-based, it creates ownership and connection, as well as an instant feeling of community because the new hire already knows someone within the company.

The business also likes to promote from within to cultivate a culture of opportunity. This has created a legacy of retention, with numerous families in the area having multiple generations of members that have come to work for Pleasants — fathers, mothers, sons, grandsons and other extended family. In fact, one of its heavy-equipment mechanics, now approaching retirement in his early 70s, is training his grandson to be a mechanic and gets to work with him each day.

“It’s a great thing to see not just one or two of these families here in our company, but many, which is a testament to the fact that we truly are a family business on so many levels.”


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