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All he needed was an opportunity

Michael Young, who launched A.E.Y. Enterprises Inc. at age 21, credits his success to hard work and perseverance. (Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)


Michael Young admits that A.E.Y. Enterprises Inc. happened almost as a fluke.

At 21 years old with a young family to support, Young was looking for a way to make some extra money. A local contractor suggested that he do some work for him. That work led to more jobs from other local businesses, and A.E.Y. Enterprises was created.

Located in Macedon, Wayne County, the firm employs 35 workers for its commercial and residential site clearing, development and construction services. A.E.Y. Enterprises also provides delivery services for residential and commercial landscaping, with regular deliveries scheduled for topsoil, sand, crushed stone and gravel, and mulch.

Recent jobs include the Eyer Building renovation on Main and West Commercial streets in East Rochester and the construction of Dollar General Corp. stores in Farmington and Bloomfield in Ontario County.

Young, 46, says he never second-guessed his decision to start the company. There is no secret formula for success, other than hard work and perseverance, he adds.

“Anyone can do it. It just depends on how badly you want it,” Young says. “If you really want it, you make it happen.”

A tinkerer
Young grew up in Wayne County and graduated from Gananda High School.

He was initially drawn to mechanical work and tinkered with projects on his own. He built a dump truck, which he planned on selling before being approached about using the truck to complete jobs himself.

When he began A.E.Y. Enterprises in 1989, Young thought he could grow the company enough to hire a second backhoe operator and a laborer.

To date, company crews have poured more than 1,400 cubic yards of concrete, paved the equivalent of 10 miles of asphalt and used in excess of 37,000 tons of stone, which is about 2,000 10-wheel dump-truck loads.

“It seemed to keep going,” Young says of the growth.

He initially set up shop at his home, which allowed him to be near his young children. But as the business grew, so did the need for more space.

A.E.Y. Enterprises moved into its current 10,000-square-foot building in Macedon a little more than 2 years ago. The building includes a shop area with three large overhead doors and office space. The facility enables the company to take advantage of the local demand for heavy truck repair.

Three years ago, A.E.Y. Enterprises created a sister company, A.E.Y. Engineering DPC, which offers professional civil engineering services.

A.E.Y. Enterprises predominantly does business in Monroe, Ontario and Wayne counties, but has completed jobs in Genesee and Orleans counties as well.

A portion of its work comes from private commercial customers such as banks and chains, including Tim Hortons Inc. and Dunkin’ Donuts.

The diversity of the firm’s projects helps it continue to grow.

One of these projects was concrete and masonry work on the restoration of the Edward E. Boynton House, a structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in the East Avenue Preservation District. The house was completed in 1908 and originally included more than 2 acres of gardens. The Cosentino-Parker Trust purchased the home in 2009 with the mission of fully restoring and preserving the structure.

Growth and challenges
While the business is growing, Young says there have been challenges.

“There were times in the ’90s when I probably could have closed up, but I just kept going,” he says.

Learning on the job has its rewards, he says.

“I’ve made mistakes along the way, but when you learn things the hard way, it tends to stick with you,” he says.

Young says there is no typical day on the job. He gets into the office around 5:30 a.m. and meets with his foreman to make sure all the jobs are covered for the day. He then works on bidding jobs, reviewing projects and helping wherever he can. It is not unusual for him to start working on a job in the field.

“When I get the chance I will get on a machine and operate it,” Young says. “I do enjoy it.”

Young’s office is decorated with family pictures, a mounted television—which Young has never turned on—and business awards, including the 2014 Family Business of the Year from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Personable and down to earth, Young describes himself as a laid-back leader.

“I’ve been lucky enough to hire the right people,” Young says. “They are here to do a job and I let them do it.”

Young holds his employees accountable, but is not one to raise his voice. If an issue arises, he prefers to handle it calmly and avoid high-pressure situations.

The best part of the job for Young is working with his employees, whom he says he learns from and grows with.

“I love my job,” he says. “I enjoy building it and watching it grow.”

The most challenging aspect is thriving in a price-driven market and being able to provide the lowest price for a job without sacrificing quality. It is a challenge Young seems to be meeting: The firm has had an increase in annual sales for seven years in a row.

Young did not disclose revenues, but said sales were up 60 percent in 2014 over 2013.

He is also growing his employee base. Near the end of 2014, Young added two office staff, one in marketing and the other in accounts payable and human resources.

The improved economy is driving the growth, Young says. The company has expanded in all areas, including site work, paving, masonry and materials delivery operations.

Referrals also have helped business, and Young sees continued growth in 2015.

“Normally this time of year we don’t get many jobs to bid on, but we are steadily bidding on jobs now,” he says. “I’m really optimistic for this year.”

To keep up with growth Young plans to add several positions, including a general construction manager, paving foreman, trucking foreman and mechanic shop foreman. Young says employment could likely increase to 40 workers this year.

While the business is growing, Young says the focus is on slow, steady growth.

“I like the family atmosphere,” he says.

Young’s own family lives in Macedon. He and his wife, Alicia, have three children: daughters Aubrey, 26, and Emillie, 22, and son, Brandon, 17.

When not working, he most enjoys spending time with his family and traveling. The family has a cottage on Port Bay, east of Sodus Bay, where they hang out and go motor boating.

Young likes traveling as well and has enjoyed trips to Key West, Las Vegas, Manhattan and Toronto.

Tammy Rifenberg, director of finance and human resources, describes Young as compassionate and hands-on.

“He doesn’t just sit at his desk and bark orders,” Rifenberg says.

Young’s work ethic and personal demeanor have made him someone the employees respect and look up to, she says.

“He is a giving person to the community and to his family at home and at the office,” Rifenberg says.

Todd LaBarr, president of Rochester-based Watchdog Building Partners LLC, has known Young for more than 20 years. The two are distant cousins, but LaBarr says they are good friends as well. Their companies have worked on jobs together over the past decade.

Young was supportive when LaBarr thought about starting his own business.

“He was a voice of reason and very encouraging,” LaBarr says. “He gave me good insight into running a business and offered to help out with what he could.”

He says Young is a smart business leader and someone who was able to use opportunities presented to him to grow A.E.Y. Enterprises.

LaBarr also spoke of Young’s community efforts. One winter, Young spoke with administrators at the Palmyra Macedon Central School District and learned some students did not have coats, hats and gloves to get through the cold months. Young provided the outerwear for those students.

“He’s done quite a bit for the local community,” LaBarr says.

Michael Young
Title: President, A.E.Y. Enterprises Inc.
Age: 46
Education: Gananda High School
Residence: Macedon, Wayne County
Family: Wife, Alicia; daughters Aubrey, 26, and Emillie, 22; and son, Brandon, 17
Hobbies: Family, travel
Quote: On starting a business, “Anyone can do it; it just depends on how badly you want it. If you really want it, you make it happen.”

1/30/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.



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