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NAPA – For many firms in the construction industry, the past two years have been among the worst that can be remembered – or should be forgotten.

Not so for Nova Group as this heavy civil engineering firm finds itself coping with a construction backlog.

“We’re doing quite well on our various projects and see strength in the robust nature of the niche construction markets we serve,” said Ronald Fedrick, president and chief executive officer of Nova Group, founded in 1981.  “I know this is contrary to conventional thinking about what typically happens in our industry when the economy slows down, but we’re glad to see it and hope this trend continues.”

The firm is hiring and including more formalized training – 32 hours per year – for its 60 employees at company expense.

The company recently introduced a new Community and Industry Investment Program that allows   managers to devote 10 hours of Nova-paid time per month for community involvement with nonprofit groups and industrial organizations.

This program also includes a provision wherein Nova will match employee donations to charitable and educational organizations up to a stated amount.

Nova offers a variety of incentives. It has a profit-sharing plan consisting of construction-project-specific bonuses, an overtime-exempt employee bonus program, an executive management bonus plan as well as a deferred compensation and stock ownership plan funded by bonuses for designated employees.

When dark clouds appeared on the economic horizon, the company stepped up its communication efforts with employees in meetings and through e-mails and newsletters.

One employee said: “We had a meeting at the beginning of the year. Everyone on the jobsite was asked to attend by teleconference. We were all included, from laborers to superintendents. This told me everyone is important to Nova.

“The meeting informed everyone of Nova’s vision and strategies for the next five years. Being included in this made me feel like I mattered to Nova.  I have never been included in any other company’s planning meetings. This made me feel wanted, needed and important to their purpose, and that I was needed to achieve this purpose.”

Nova’s culture is all-inclusive. When a company-sponsored holiday party is held for employees, spouses and guests here at home, similar parties are also held at all Nova jobsites throughout the world.  There are company picnics, a day at the ballpark, safety barbecues as well as social involvement committee luncheons.

Another employee said: “I can think of no place that I would prefer to work than Nova.”

The firm supports a range of nonprofits, including Aldea Children and Family Services, Napa Education Foundation, The National Center for Construction and Engineering Research and the California Construction Training Center.