In the past 34 years, Tustin, Calif.-based Largo Concrete has built a reputation as one of California’s most reliable specialty contractors. According to the firm’s owners, the foundation of its success is rooted in its family ties.
The firm was founded in 1989 by post-tensioning pioneer Hal Long and partner Mark Carnathan. Long’s son, Ken, took over as president of the company in 2007, and the elder Long’s brother Mike is the company’s vice president and general counsel. Carnathan is now Largos Northern California president and his son Phil is vice president of Northern California and also one of Largo’s principals.
Those direct familial ties are reflected across the entire company, according to Ken Long.
“The fact of the matter is that we have a lot of great leaders in the company; we treat the people that work here with respect, and we give them the support they need,” he says. “We also get to do a lot of cool projects. When you put all that together, there are a lot of people that want to work here.”
It’s a winning formula as Largo has become one of the state’s foremost specialty contractors with $631 million in regional revenue for 2022. Because of its success and record of reliability, the firm has been selected as ENR California’s 2023 Specialty Contractor of the Year.
A key northern California project for Largo is the 671,000-sq-ft UC Davis Aggie Square medical complex in Sacramento.
Photo courtesy Largo Concrete
The firm employs more than 2,400 and has grown to five offices across California with additional branches in Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
According to Mark Carnathan, Largo’s commitment to creating a workplace that fosters long-term committed employees is critical to the firm’s success.
“One of the things that I’ve tried to do over the years is to surround myself with the best people possible in every position,” he says. “Whether in the office or the field, surround yourself with good people.”
Largo offers its clients a complete structural concrete package. Its core services include formwork, pumping, place and finish, architectural concrete, shotcrete/gunite, structural design-build as well as virtual design and construction, layout and quality control and concrete masonry unit construction.
To date, Largo has completed 1,250 projects for its 357 clients.
In recent years, Largo has provided structural concrete services for some of California’s largest and most ambitious building efforts, including the $750-million Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the $1.2-billion Intuit Dome in Los Angeles, the Frank Gehry-designed Warner Bros’ Second Century Project in Burbank and UC Davis’ 671,000-sq-ft Aggie Square medical complex in Sacramento.
The firm—like much of the industry—was battered by the pandemic, and it relied on strong relationships in key sectors to stay on solid footing.
According to Long, critical contracts in the energy sector were vital during that period. Largo provided the caisson foundations and slab-on-grade walls for the 250-MW Mojave Solar project in Hinkley, Calif., as well as laying 23,008 caisson foundations for parabolic troughs and 4,400 HTF foundations for the 250-MW Genesis Solar project in Blythe, Calif.
“I’m just a very lucky guy standing at the door holding it open where all these great people rush in to join us,” Long says. “We’ve been able to grow dramatically as a result.”
The Largo team poured seven large mat foundations for the Century Plaza project, two of which were over 9,300 cu yd.
Photo courtesy Largo Concrete
It hasn’t all been luck. The company has also made shrewd business decisions that have strengthened its place in the industry. In January 2014, Largo’s growth accelerated as it assembled a dream team of concrete industry leaders. This included acquiring respected Southern California structural concrete company Arciero Brothers Inc. and bringing Arciero’s team in-house, including Phil Arciero, a current Largo vice president and project executive.
“We went from not having a shotcrete company to having probably the most experienced shotcrete company in the world,” Long says. “They really created the technology used by all modern shotcrete companies.”
The other key element of Largo’s success is its reputation for reliability. Over the years, Largo has positioned itself as California’s go-to concrete firm for large projects. It has earned its reputation by providing high-quality work, on-time delivery and competitive bids.
“We’ve been working with them for over 20 years,” says Scott Smith, president and CEO of James E. Roberts-Obayashi Corp. (JERO). Largo’s work on the firm’s 223,760-sq-ft multifamily Treasure Island Parcel C2.2 project, located in San Francisco, was recently completed.
“They get in. They get the job done, and they are competitive,” Smith says. “Largo has been able to stay in that top tier of competition amongst the other subs.”
Smith also lauds Largo’s technical expertise when dealing with complex projects.
“We have more complicated concrete on many of our projects, not just slab-on-grade type stuff,” Smith says. “[Largo’s] preconstruction planning, thinking through the logistics and scheduling is very important to us.”
This was recently demonstrated at JERO’s Treasure Island project, which included a below-grade parking facility where the natural water level was above the project’s depth, requiring dewatering wells and multilevel podium work.
“We had to get our street-level podium poured by a certain date to be able to turn off the dewatering to avoid pulling water out from a project adjacent to us,” Smith says. “Largo committed to an aggressive schedule and were able to actually pick up some time.”
Largo handled the concrete for the 28-story Miro Towers, one of the tallest buildings in San Jose, Calif.
Photo courtesy Largo Concrete
Largo’s commitment to meeting its clients’ goals often leads to more opportunities from the same firms.
“I think the resources that we bring to a project are not matched by our competition. When we talk to clients, they want us on every job they can get us on,” Long says.
“We put numbers together that put us in a position where if a client selects Largo to do the job, then they are going to have a successful project because we have the right resources, the right amount of material and the right management allocated to the project,” Long adds.
“If you give a competitive price, do a good job and do everything right, you will get the opportunity to do more work.”
—Mark Carnathan, Co-Founder and Northern California President, Largo
That approach is not lost on Largo’s clients. According to Carnathan, around 80% of Largo’s business comes from repeat clients. Gaining that trust requires Largo’s straightforward and open approach.
“You want your clients to trust you,” he says. “If you give a competitive price, do a good job, and do everything right, you will get the opportunity to do more work.”
With more work comes more risk, and Largo is committed to mitigating risk by prioritizing safety at every level.
“Safety actually increases productivity, so you put it right at the top,” Carnathan adds. “If a jobsite is clean and safe, it will be more productive.”
Largo has an Experience Modification Rate of 0.52 and has received Cal/OSHA’s Golden Gate Safety Award, the agency’s highest recognition for a subcontractor, on multiple projects.
“At the start of most interviews on projects, safety is probably one of the first things we talk about,” Carnathan says.
Community engagement is another integral part of Largo Concrete’s philosophy, and the contractor supports dozens of philanthropic efforts and community projects. Its third annual charity golf tournament, benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, raised over $110,000.
“We believe in doing what’s right. I’m proud of the fact,” Long says.