The following content is featured in the Pittsburgh & Western PA Spring 2016 edition of The Who’s Who in Building & Construction.
To Serve and Be Served: Learning to Value What Matters Most
Changing lives has been a recurring theme throughout the life of Robert “Rocky” Bleier; and it began through life changes of his own. Bleier was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968, during his rookie year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His service in Vietnam earned him a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, but a sniper attack and grenade shrapnel left him with devastating wounds. A fighter by nature, Bleier persevered to not only recover, but to return to the Steelers and win four Super Bowl rings. He later wrote of his experiences in his book, Fighting Back, which was transformed into a movie.
So what does one do when so much is achieved so early in life? What is the road after devastation, redemption and victory? For Rocky, the answer was clear: combine the skills he gained through his B.S. in business from Notre Dame with the lessons he learned from his military experience and his professional football career. Creatively, he mixed those skills together to begin a new life chapter filled with motivational speaking engagements at conferences worldwide. Though the ability to impact so many lives was compelling, Bleier was missing one thing—the chance to see his two girls grow up. So, once again, he courageously reinvented his future by founding a business that would keep him closer to home. That firm today is RBVetCo, located in Carnegie, Pa., with plans to open satellite offices in Erie and Altoona, Pa.
“At RBVetCo, we believe in giving back whenever and however we can and we are proud to actively support veterans. We believe in the abilities of our veterans and know that our region is better for embracing our returning military men and women as valuable assets.” – Rocky Bleier
Bleier’s RBVetCo is a general contractor, construction management and design-build entity—but with a twist. The firm is founded on practical business principles, but also makes service—in its largest sense—its cornerstone. Service extends beyond clients, beyond employees, beyond communities. Its emphasis is on service that meets a specific need, at a specific time, for a specific circumstance. A case in point is the teaming relationship that formed a bond between Bleier and former Marine, Brian Marzka, a Service Disabled Veteran. Marzka had a vision to create an office furnishings company that could influence office design, comfort, budget, and environmental impact while boosting productivity, lowering operating costs, and increasing employee health and happiness.
“We helped support Brian’s company vision by providing administrative, financial and legal support,” Bleier says. “We introduced him to our existing clients in the Veterans Administration and other government agencies. We helped him get started in an industry parallel to our own. We gave him a stepping stone to do what he wanted to do—it was our way of giving back.” RBVetCo also regularly depends on other veteran-owned subcontractors, such as Yates Electric, owned by a former Marine, and Fallon Electric, owned by a Service Disabled Veteran.
While Bleier’s firm has a penchant for helping entrepreneurial veterans, he also instills a greater vision into his team to help them actively reach out and impact lives. “I think my biggest accomplishment is being in a position to give back, to influence people—to make a difference in lives, community, industry. We all have that potential, but we need to be aware of the impact and power we have to make differences in people’s lives by who we are and what we say and what we project. When I look back on my life, I say, ‘Okay, you were in the right place at the right time; how do you use that to give back, to change attitudes? How do you use that power for good?’” Bleier answers that question himself when he recalls how several seemingly small efforts resulted in big changes. “People say things to me like, ‘What a difference you made in my father’s life,’ or ‘Because of you I changed my attitude,’ or ‘what you said in that speech saved my life.’ Wow! That’s when you realize you have a responsibility; but we all have that capacity; we all can affect others’ lives—with a smile or a word or an action. All the things that happened to me have brought me to this place to serve others and impact lives.”
A CLASS-ACT FIRM
The people of RBVetCo live out the principles of service when they reach outside the box to find design-build solutions. A prime example would be the modernization of ICU beds at the VA Medical Center in Pittsburgh, PA. It required the complex construction of a new fifth-floor addition onto an existing three-story operating medical center. “We had to add an interstitial fourth floor to house HVAC, mechanical, plumbing and electrical, and then hang it from the superstructure, ” Bleier says. The two floors were added while medical procedures continued non-stop on the three floors below. RBVetCo, together with its design team partners, collaborated on the design and construction, including critical steel lifts arching over an existing building.
“They deliver more program and efficiency than requested due to their lean planning protocols [and] a relentless drive to not settle with the first solution.” – Chris Trotta
The RBVetCo team worked with the engineering design team and developed coordination drawings, laying out all systems in the interstitial space prior to construction. “They were ahead of the game,” says Tim Earhart, PE, a principal with the engineering firm of HF Lenz Co. “They were able to project out potential problems, identify where there may be conflicts, and have those items discussed and addressed before installations began. They did a great job of getting the entire construction and engineering team together to solve problems before they happened. It helped substantially to meet the schedule and budget while providing accessible and maintainable systems.”
In a similar vein, the RBVetCo team took special initiative during the renovation of a Veterans Administration facility in Erie, PA. While converting an old and active laundry building into a new human resource center, RBVetCo engaged with the architecture and engineering teams to physically mark and tag every item in the field, with the contractors, to affirm which elements were to be saved, demolished, or relocated. “This exercise reduced the risk for error and provided a road map to efficiently perform demolition work,” says Christopher Trotta, AIA, president of the architecture/integration firm, levelHEADS Inc.
Another significant project is underway in Newcastle, PA., where the RBVetCo team is assisting in the redevelopment of 30 one-bedroom apartments. The proposed $5.3 million, net-zero building is slated for completion in 2018 and is projected to reduce energy consumption by 50 percent. “More importantly,” says Bleier, “it opens the door to provide affordable homes for veterans who are in transition.” The space will also provide for offices in which agencies and counselors can provide services to residents.
A WORK IN PROGRESS
As RBVetCo continues to grow, its core values are evident to the teams with which it works. Trotta states it well when he explains, “RBVetCo delivers more program and efficiency than requested due to their lean planning protocols, a relentless drive to not settle with the first solution, and to both become a direct extension of the owner’s facility staff and a voice for their concerns and initiatives.” This stands as a tribute to a firm whose values are reflected in the personal and professional passions of its founder and its leadership team.
Are you interested in supporting veteran organizations? If so, Rocky recommends the following:
Checkpoint (a veterans service organization)