John Adamo, Sr.
Adamo Group is a second generation family business founded in 1964 by John Adamo, Sr.John Adamo, Sr. was a leader in the demolition industry in the Detroit, Michigan area and as a result of his insight and passion Adamo Group evolved from a small local demolition company to a national site decommissioning and redevelopment business partner for clients across the country.
As a young man, John started out in construction working for his father as a bricklayer in Detroit for the family-owned business, Jim Adamo & Sons. Following a two-year stint in the Marine Corps, John returned to the family business which he eventually took over in the early 1960s. Times were changing in the early 1960’s in the Detroit area, with entire neighborhoods being torn down in response to the loss of over 20,000 residents per year by 1966. It was a time of urban renewal and sprawl, and John recognized the opportunity to enter this fledgling market to fulfill the City’s needs.
Armed with only his business acumen, a current builders license, and newly acquired wrecking license, John partnered with a local resident who had a truck and small machine, and Adamo Wrecking performed its first demolition project. There were only a small number of companies in the 1960s and early 1970s performing demolition work and John quickly developed a reputation of being not only reliable and dependable, but also an honest businessman who could be trusted to perform his work on a handshake, consistently providing his clients with quality work. This earned him repeat business as he quickly made a name for himself and his company in the demolition industry, becoming one of the top 10 demolition contractors in the United States by the early 1970s
Demolition building code and ordinances in the City of Detroit were in their infancy in the mid-1960s. In the early 1970s John was called upon by the City of Detroit for his practical knowledge to provide insight to the Detroit Building Department, consulting with the City’s Chief Engineer, Louis Klei, and the Building Department Director, Clyde Palmer, to develop the Demolition Program for the City of Detroit, a program that is still in use today.
Throughout the 1970s, residential and small commercial demolition could be accomplished with small machinery; however, larger demolition projects were performed predominantly by a labor intensive effort, with the available machinery playing a relatively minor role. John teamed up with LaBounty Manufacturing, Inc. and performed a field study of a newly developed hydraulic shear, which is commonly used in demolition today. John’s willingness to participate in this field study, as well as his continued involvement with LaBounty, aided in the product’s development, which changed the face of large-scale demolition projects. This precipitated an increased need for skilled workers to operate the machinery, creating higher paying jobs in the industry. The industry now also provided a safer, more productive method for accomplishing large industrial and commercial demolition.
Another hurdle faced by the growing demolition industry in the mid-1970s was the development of new laws, rules, and regulations to govern the performance of the work. In a struggle to keep up with an industry that saw explosive growth in less than a decade, the US EPA was constantly issuing new, and changing existing, laws and regulations in connection with demolition work.
Of particular concern to demolition contractors was the inability to keep up with the frequent changes and the interpretation of methods for achieving compliance. John faced the unfortunate circumstance of being cited by the US EPA for non-compliance with a regulation that undergone a recent changed and that was ambiguous in its meaning. John faced not only the threat of a substantial monetary penalty, but also incarceration if the US EPA could prove he had willfully violated their regulation.
In 1977, instead of just accepting the EPA’s determination and paying the fine to avoid possible incarceration, John took it upon himself to stand up to a system that was making it largely impossible for contractors to comply with its standards. John, with the financial assistance of the NADC, took his fight all the way to the Supreme Court, to define work rules and regulations for demolition contactors that were patently unfair under the US EPA’s NESHAP guidelines, and was victorious in his fight for a contractor’s right to choose its means and methods to achieve compliance with laws and regulations. The case, Adamo Wrecking Company v. United States, is included in the Library of Congress. This case is widely referred to as the baseline for interpretation and application of NESHAP standards in legal education today.
John’s success, will, and determination led him to win what is commonly referred to as the single largest demolition project ever to be accomplished by one contractor. The Dodge Main Facility encompassed over 6.2 million square feet of heavy multi-story industrial buildings spanning over 165 acres. The project brought news media to Detroit from all over the country and included front page recognition by the Wall Street Journal.
John’s previous contributions to the industry still have impacts today, and through his sons, John, Jr. and Richard, his contributions to the demolition industry will continue for many years to come.