Good fences, good business

Dorchester company finds success with commercial clients

Yawu Miller | 7/19/2017, 10:27 a.m.
Ralph McCoy founded McCoy Fence Co. in 1988, after working for another fence company. With seven employees, he tackles projects ...
McCoy Fence Co. founder Ralph McCoy with daughters Donyetta McCoy and Yolanda Anderson. Banner photo

Mutual help

While minority certification has given the firm a foot in the door with government contracts, much of the work has come through other minority contractors who meet as part of the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association.

“They share information about major construction projects,” Anderson said. “They talk about how we can get a piece of the action.”

Often, minority firms will band together to bid on a job to ensure that subcontractors get in on the work, Anderson said. That spirit of mutual help can be crucial in Boston, where black and Latino contractors and workers have long been excluded from the building trades.

“When you’re a minority, you have to fight to get a foot in the door,” Anderson said. “When you look at a job site in Dorchester or Mattapan, there should be as many people of color as there are whites. But there are a lot of job sites where you only see two or three black people.”

Anderson began working for the firm after graduating high school in 1997. She learned how to do payroll at her father’s firm though courses at Roxbury Community College. At RCC, she also learned how to read blueprints, a skill she uses now to bid on jobs.

“I do all the estimating,” she said. “I lay the job out for the guys.”

Anderson also received help automating the firm’s bookkeeping, billing and payroll from MassAlliance, a nonprofit providing small business assistance that was run by the late Bruce Bolling.

A family affair

While Anderson spends much of her time running the company’s affairs from her Mattapan office, she and her sister also do their share of digging post holes and installing the fencing, which is labor-intensive. Each section of wrought-iron fencing at the Roundhouse site required three people to lift and put it in place.

Sitting in the cockpit of the firm’s Bobcat, which has been fitted with an auger to excavate fence post holes, McCoy seems younger than his 67 years as he takes a break while rush hour traffic piles up along Melnea Cass Boulevard. Yolanda and Donyetta scoop loose earth from a freshly dug post hole while another worker mixes the concrete that will secure the next fence post.

Taking it all in, McCoy has the satisfied air of a man who has built a successful business.

“This has worked well for us,” he says.