GREELEY — At the age of 13, Tom Roche started working after school and during the summers in the family construction business.
“I grew up in the business,” Roche recalled 30 years later. “I never really thought about any other career options.”
At 43, Roche has been president of Roche Constructors Inc. for 10 years and has put his own discernible stamp on the company that his father founded in 1971.
“He’s established his own track record,´ said Scott Ehrlich, co-owner of Ehrlich Motors and a long-time friend of the Roche family. “He’s done tremendous things with ? his opportunity.”
Under Tom Roche’s guidance, the Greeley-based contractor has grown to $130 million in annual revenues and 150 employees. Roche Constructors has become one of the most recognizable names in the industry on the Front Range, recently completing projects that include the $124 million Flatiron Crossings mall in Broomfield, the Wal-Mart Supercenters in Greeley and Loveland, and numerous schools and grocery stores across the region.
Roche has also been a driving force behind social causes in Greeley. He’s co-chairman of the University Laboratory School and helped to relocate the school from the University of Northern Colorado campus to a new site in west Greeley. He also spearheaded development of the P.B. Roche Memorial Baseball Training Facility — named for Tom’s late brother, Pat — which opened last year.
The company’s growth — and Roche’s social projects — are both results of a forceful personality, Ehrlich said.
“He has a tremendous amount of resolve,” Ehrlich said. “He’s good at figuring out how to put all the pieces together and getting things done. Maybe that’s leadership.”
Leadership qualities might explain the consistency of the Roche Constructors staff. The average tenure for management employees at the company is 15 years.
“He has gained a tremendous amount of respect,” Ehrlich said. ” The people who work for him are confident in him.”
While Roche has made a very business-like impression on Northern Colorado, he’s not all business all the time.
“Tom has a very good sense of humor, and given the right situation, he’s very good at pulling off the right prank,” Ehrlich said.
“The guy’s taken on so much, a lot of people unfortunately don’t get a chance to get familiar with that side of him. He can actually be an extremely fun guy to be around.”
Deep roots in Greeley
Roche can trace his roots in Greeley to 1969, when his family moved to the city from southern California. At the time, his father, Patrick T. Roche, relocated to Colorado when he joined Hensel Phelps Construction Co.
The elder Roche left Hensel Phelps two years later to start Roche Constructors.
After getting a taste of the business as a teenager, Tom entered Pittsburg (Kan.) State University to pursue a degree in construction management. In 1983, during his senior year in college, Tom’s father was killed in an airplane accident.
A year after completing college, Tom joined the company full-time as an estimator. He worked his way up to project engineer, project superintendent and vice president. He became president in 1993.
Tom was entrusted with his first major task with the company in 1986 when he launched Roche Constructors’ office in Las Vegas, a division that now generates about half of the company’s annual revenue.
At that time, grocery giant Kroger, parent company of King Soopers and one of Roche’s clients, asked Roche to build a project in Nevada. At the same time, the Las Vegas economy started to boom, and Roche Constructors continued to find new jobs in Nevada.
“We took advantage of that opportunity,” Roche said. “One project multiplied into several.”
In recent years, Roche Constructors has built several schools in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas office has also helped to generate work in other western states. In the past 15 years, Roche Constructors has completed projects in 11 states.
The Kroger connection that helped Roche Constructors establish itself in Las Vegas reflects the underlying key to growth for the contractor.
Repeat customers such as Kroger contribute 80 percent of annual business for the firm. Clients that want new locations or need to remodel existing sites are sticking with a known quantity.
Consequently, Roche has tailored the company to provide “construction-management services.”
“Thirty years ago, we were more of a hands-on business with a lot more self-perform work,” he said. “Today, we’re more of a professional service company — we really rely on building relationships where we continue to serve clients that have multiple needs.”
Roche Constructors has established market specialties in retail, light industrial and public-works projects, Roche said.
The company’s largest contract was Flatiron Crossings, which spanned 1.4 million square feet. Roche Constructors spent nearly three years on the Flatiron project.
Roche has also turned some of his business energy into commercial development. Roche is an investor in the Greeley West Tech-Center, a business park for light industrial users. He’s also a partner in the Ashcroft shopping center project in Evans and a similar retail site in Berthoud.
As for the next generation of Roche Constructors, Tom has three sons, ages 16, 14 and 12. To date, dad is encouraging the boys to focus on school and extracurricular activities.
“After college, if any of them have an interest, there will be an opportunity here,” Tom said.
Based on the success of Roche Constructors over the past 10 years, the opportunity will be with a flourishing company.