Fiore marks 60th anniversary

Frustrated by periodic furloughs from his job as a pipe fitter for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Leonard S. Fiore Sr. started a small construction company in Altoona in 1954.

Based on the masonry and contracting skills he learned from his father and uncle, in 1957 the small company he built expanded into commercial construction, and in 1966 the company was incorporated, becoming Leonard S. Fiore Inc.

Since that humble beginning the company, which is marking its 60th year in business in 2014, continues to be a family business and has completed more than 2,000 commercial construction projects worth more than $1.5 billion.

Commercial projects range from as low as $10,000 to more than $50 million.

“We are a unique general contractor in today’s market, successfully blending our history of self-performance and quality workmanship with the future of the construction industry, integrating new technologies and construction management services,” said Richard F. Fiore Jr., vice president of IT and process management.

Second- and third-generation family members have grown up in the business, participated in field operations and are now an integral part of its management staff.

One of Fiore’s first major projects was construction of St. Rose of Lima Church and school in 1958.

“My grandfather was appreciative of the fact the pastor at the time took a chance on him. He wasn’t an established builder at the time. He was thankful he was given that opportunity,” said Patrick M. Irwin, vice president of project management.

St. Rose has been the home parish for the Fiore family over the years.

Leonard S. Fiore Inc. is best known for its diversity, Fiore said.

“We have a very diverse portfolio of work from hospitality to schools, office buildings, industrial buildings and warehouses. A misconception is we only do very large construction. We have always been interested in projects of all sizes,” Fiore said.

The list of projects completed by the company is endless, but among the favorites cited by family members are St. Rose of Lima, Horseshoe Curve Visitors Center, Altoona Area Junior High School, the Children’s Garden at the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens in the Penn State Arboretum, the Henderson Biobehavioral Health building project at Penn State and the Mount Assisi Monastery at Loretto.

“The challenge with Henderson or Mount Assisi is the chance to work with high-end materials, a high level of complexity and a high level of craftmanship,” Fiore said.

“With projects like the Horseshoe Curve and the junior high school, there is the connection to the community and a lot of people,” Irwin said.

The renovation project at Founders Hall at Juniata College in Huntingdon also is a favorite.

“Some clients don’t do a lot of projects. When they do, they are special to them. Founders Hall is their signature building. It means a lot to Juniata College. To be selected to do that kind of work is a big deal,” Irwin said.

Penn State University has been the company’s largest client over the years as Leonard S. Fiore has completed nearly 100 projects at University Park and other Penn State campuses.

The projects range from large projects like the Paterno Library addition and Henderson Biobehavioral Health Building to smaller projects like the Lion Gate Relocation and Bryce Jordan Center Film Rooms.

“We believe this long history working with the university provides us with a unique insight into the university’s buildings, expectations and culture,” Fiore said.

“The quality of their work is very good,” said Lisa Berkey, director of design and construction in the physical plant at Penn State. “They are a long standing contractor, local to our area. We appreciate their expertise and dedication in helping us to provide quality facilities to support the mission of the university.”

Leonard S. Fiore has done work for about 15 colleges and universities, said Joseph L. Irwin, vice president of project estimation.

The company’s largest retail customer has been Walmart, as Leonard S. Fiore has completed about 35 projects for the Arkansas-based retailer.

Leonard S. Fiore also has completed several projects for Altoona-based Wolf Furniture.

“You want someone you have a relationship with that you trust,” said CEO Doug Wolf. “If they hit your deadline and get you open, that is what you go with. It comes down to trust. The Fiore family and their company is community focused like we are. We respect that and trust them. It all comes down to a family trust relationship, and we value that.”

Business has grown steadily for the company over the years.

“There has never been a point where it jumped a lot. It has been a steady progression of ramping upward as far as volume,” Fiore said.

Working with local subcontractors also has been important.

“We have benefited from a network of loyal subcontractors from this area over the years. Bill Neff of Neff Electric was a long-time partner. Our overall growth has been contingent on their growth,” Patrick Irwin said.

“It takes a team to do commercial construction, a team of companies working together on every job to get it done,” Fiore said.

Competition has been one of the keys to the company’s success.

“It is a competitive environment. We have grown out of an area with strong competition; that has made us work harder to succeed,” Fiore said.

“This has been a strong area for contractors. Being a family company, we have a lot of family resources to sustain the growth. This is a strong area. The competition has kept us sharp,” Patrick Irwin said.

Leonard S. Fiore does about 75 percent of its work within a two-hour radius of Altoona and plans to open a branch office on North Atherton Street in State College this fall. The remainder of the work is done in the surrounding mid-Atlantic states.

“Fifty percent of our work is in the State College area. We consider ourselves local to the State College area,” Joseph Irwin said.

The company, which employs between 150 and 300 people depending on the season, is committed to its projects.

“We are really committed to our projects. One of us will be involved. It is not like hiring a big company and not seeing them during the project. We are involved in the project; we take a more hands on approach. People who we do a lot of work for appreciate that and expect it,” Patrick Irwin said.

“Our ability to self-perform a large percentage of the general trades work is an advantage on smaller projects giving us more control over schedule and coordination. Our experience as a general contractor provides us with the knowledge to team and coordinate with PSU, designers, user groups, vendors and other contractors,” Fiore said.

Being a family business is important.

“You have the blood connection. You have respect, you have an appreciation of how hard it was to get here. We communicate a lot. We do a nice job of keeping each other informed and lean on each other to make good decisions,” Patrick Irwin said.

The Fiore family also is committed to the community.

“We firmly believe in ‘live here and buy here.’ We strive to give back to our community; it makes sense,” Joseph Irwin said.

Family members are optimistic about the future.

“We will have to adapt and stay true to what got us here. It is a competitive atmosphere,” Patrick Irwin said.

“We are unique and will continue to find ways to stay unique,” Joseph Irwin said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.