Starting up an energy-focused contracting firm in the early days of energy-sector deregulation in New Jersey seemed like a good idea at the time to Frank DiCola, Michael Jingoli and Joseph R. Jingoli Jr. It was 2000, just nine years after the two Jingoli brothers had taken over the family business, Joseph Jingoli & Son (JJS), a $3-million contracting firm primarily focused on local water, sewer and culvert work. DiCola, a veteran energy management expert heading up the non-regulated unit of a local utility, was already eyeing opportunities in the newly deregulated sector. When JJS won a job with DiCola's firm, the three had "some interesting conversations" about growth potential in the then-nascent market. Those early conversations set the course for their idea to take root and become what is today a $422-million partnership, Jingoli-DCO Energy.

With 880 employees worldwide—about 590 of whom are in the tristate region—Jingoli-DCO is among the largest contractors of cogeneration and renewable energy projects in the Northeast. The Mays Landing, N.J.-based partnership, of which Lawrenceville, N.J.-based JJS owns a 67% share, is focused on owning, developing, designing, building and operating combined heat, chilling and power (CHCP) plants; distributed generation facilities; central energy units; and renewable energy operations. With projects for big clients, including offsite CHCP plants at casinos such as Atlantic City's Borgata and Revel and landfill gas-to-energy work, including the second- and third-largest such complexes nationwide, the partnership is poised for further growth.

Jingoli-DCO's management structure is intertwined, with DiCola serving as DCO Energy president and CEO and three JJS executives also in leadership positions. Joseph R. Jingoli Jr., who is CEO of JJS, is also chief business development officer at DCO; Michael Jingoli, CFO and chief operations officer at JJS, is also CFO at DCO; and Robert E. Reager, president of JJS, is also chief construction officer at DCO.

"We really act as one entity," Michael Jingoli says. "Everything is integrated, including offices, personnel and IT."

This is also the case when it comes to sustainability, community outreach and safety. The partnership reaches out to communities by offering job opportunities and scholarships. "We believe the ability of the communities to take part in the projects is key to a successful project and support for more," says Joseph Jingoli.

The partnership holds a 0.514 experience modification rate (EMR), which it says is the lowest in the state, demonstrating how seriously the team takes safety, Reager says.

Given its dedication to safety and community and its fast growth in and out of the region, ENR New York recognizes Jingoli-DCO as its 2012 Contractor of the Year.

Jingoli-DCO was able to boost 2011 year-on-year revenue 23% to about $422 million, jumping to the No. 10 spot in the Top Contractor rankings from No. 13. This is largely due to three projects, including an offsite CHCP plant for Revel that started up this spring. DCO was the developer and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor on the district energy plant, located adjacent to the casino. The $185-million facility can produce 15,000 tons of chilled water, 160,000 MMBtu of heating and 7.5 MW of emergency power.

DCO is also EPC contractor for the other two projects—a 40-MW landfill biogas facility, the second-largest such plant nationwide, in Johnston, R.I., that is set for completion in the first quarter of 2013; and a 32.5-MW plant, the third-largest nationwide, at the Olinda Alpha landfill in Orange County, Calif., scheduled for completion by year's end.

Other recent DCO projects include an EPC contract to install a $100-million seawater district cooling system, the world's largest, at the Baha Mar Resort under construction in Nassau, Bahamas. The system will supply chilled seawater from a depth of more than 3,600 ft.

The Jingoli-DCO team's growth strategy includes acquiring facilities, "not companies," that it can redevelop, Michael Jingoli says. To that end, the team expects to announce an acquisition as early as the end of this summer of a coal-fired powerplant in California that it plans to convert into a gas-fired facility. He would not provide further details.

DCO and longtime business partner Marina Energy, a unit of holding company South Jersey Industries, created a 50/50 joint venture firm, Energenic LLC, in 2007 to focus on areas that include casino and landfill gas-to-energy work. Energenic frequently sets up special project entities (SPEs) that act as subsidiaries on projects. These include ACB Energy Partners, which is building the $27-million, 7.5-MW CHCP plant at the existing Marina Thermal facility in Atlantic City, N.J. The cogen plant will provide power to the Marina central utility facility, which itself provides energy to the nearby Borgata casino complex.

Other work by Energenic subsidiaries in the region include the design, construction and installation of a 3-MW solar system at several facilities, including schools and a water treatment plant, in New Brunswick, N.J. As part of the design for the project, which was completed at the end of 2010, DCO and Energenic provided local viewing stations for students and residents to see real-time generation of electric power from solar systems.

"We've really grown organically; that has always been our success," says Michael Jingoli, who adds that when he and his brother took over JJS, it had only 25 employees. They worked to add expertise and expand services into areas including construction management, project management, piping infrastructure and, eventually, hot and cold water distribution systems.

The push for expansion also applies to the partnership's philosophy about community outreach. JJS employs a full-time community outreach coordinator who works on behalf of DCO as well. The coordinator is empowered to step outside of national contracts and typical payment schedules and help small- and minority-owned businesses with the prequalification process and response to proposals. The company also will carve out contracts to fit small businesses.

"It takes a little more management, but we think it is worth it. Any time you have total buy-in of a community on your project, it's worth it," Joseph Jingoli says.

Education is a central theme of the community-outreach efforts. JJS has created a scholarship program in communities where the company works. In association with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the company guarantees employment for building-trade members completing apprenticeships. DCO is developing an energy education program—including coursework on financing, engineering and clean energy production—for students studying at colleges and universities in locations where it has projects.

In safety, achieving such a low EMR requires a commitment from the company as well as everyone else involved on a project, Reager says. JJS conducts daily safety analysis, identifying critical tasks that will take place and devising a safety plan. Twice a year, JJS also invites all employees, subcontractors and their employees to a safety luncheon with guest speakers and raffles.

"The luncheon goes a long way with the workers, and they feel part of the program," Reager says. "It works well for us as a company."

The partnership plans to continue its community outreach and education efforts as it moves into other markets. It has plans to expand internationally, but did not provide details. DiCola says the business will keep growing, especially as the energy sector itself continues to change with trends such as the current push for development and production of Marcellus Shale natural gas resources. As for the future, "we would look for projects to design-build and own," he says, as that is where the partnership has had consistent success.