By THOMAS ADAMS
Rochester Business Journal
March 7, 2014
After a lull during the Great Recession, construction of wireless towers is expected to increase steadily in the next five years, and Patriot Towers Inc. is taking advantage.
Company revenues grew 44 percent in 2012 and are expected to have jumped 75 percent for 2013 when final numbers are tabulated, President and CEO Richard Schickler III said.
“The entire industry is growing,” Schickler said.
This follows a five-year period of contraction beginning in 2008.
Despite increasing demand for mobile data and high-speed connections, the wireless communications sector showed a preference for existing technology to lower expenses, research compiled by IBISWorld Inc. shows.
Demand for telecommunications infrastructure construction is expected to grow annually through 2018, the market research firm said in a December report.
“We plan to add anywhere from eight to 12 people by the end of the year,” Schickler said.
Patriot Towers’ employment nearly doubled in 2013, from 30 to 57.
The seeds for the company were planted in 1965 when Schickler’s father founded R.J. Schickler Inc. as a landscaping business, Schickler said. By the early 1970s, it had evolved to include underground telecommunications work.
The company began to develop its tower site business in the late 1980s, he said. By the mid-1990s, as the cellular market exploded, that area became the company’s major source of revenue.
The former Schickler Inc. continues to focus on communications site development, preparation and maintenance.
Schickler and Douglas Harradine launched Patriot Towers in December 2001 for tower construction and the installation and upgrade of wireless systems and lighting systems.
The original business was merged into Patriot Towers on Dec. 31, 2012, with Harradine becoming vice president.
Deborah Congden, chief financial officer, oversees all financial aspects of the two businesses. She joined the business in 2000, was promoted to controller in 2007 and became CFO in 2013.
The combined operations allow tower owners, wireless carriers and municipalities to install communication systems with a single call, Schickler said.
Among the company’s projects was the placement this month of a 180-foot tower in Shelby, Orleans County. It is the first of three towers for the county’s new radio system, part of a $7 million upgrade to its emergency communications system.
Schickler joined the company full-time in 1999 when he replaced his dad as the top executive.
He was first employed there in 1986, working as a tradesman on commercial construction and telecommunications sites. After graduating from RIT with a degree in finance, he was a financial analyst with the RIT Research Corp. for seven years until replacing his father.
Patriot Towers does work in 12 states in the Northeast, Schickler said.
“The biggest challenge is trying to find quality workers,” Harradine said. “There’s a lot of traveling and a lot of climbing involved.”
New York’s business climate provides another obstacle, Schickler said. His company, perhaps even more than conventional construction firms, is burdened by the state’s Scaffold Law.
Sections 240 and 241 of the state Labor Law impose absolute liability on contractors and property owners for elevation-related injuries involving construction, repair or demolition. The law does not allow potential negligence or carelessness by an injured worker to be considered.
“The Scaffold Law is a big challenge,” Schickler said. “It drives up our insurance costs enormously.”
The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year’s Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 5. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.
Patriot Towers Inc.
Cell tower construction and maintenance.
Top executive: Robert Schickler III, president and CEO
2013 ranking: 40