Tony DiMario, Heath Steel president at left, and Austin Lind, special projects director for Water Valley Land Co., look over building plans for the new 20,000 square foot Raindance District Maintenance Building built by Heath Steel. Courtesy Heath Steel.

Heath companies’ legacy in Northern Colorado runs deep

FORT COLLINS — When Robert Heath founded the nascent Heath Engineering in Fort Collins in the 1940s, he could have little inkling that – three companies and nearly a century later – the Heath family business would persist. What’s more, that it would persist with one of his descendants leading the way.  But so it is; Robert’s great-grandson Tony DeMario assumed the presidency of Heath Steel LLC on Jan. 1 of this year.

Heath Steel, in partnership with the second and current iteration of Heath Engineering LLC, is a leading full-service provider of metal building supply and erection services in Northern Colorado. As with its precursors — the original Heath Engineering and Heath Construction LLC – Heath Steel is headquartered in Fort Collins, but manages projects across the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions. From Idaho to Oklahoma, Heath buildings in the form of everything from fire stations to tennis facilities dot the map. And in no place are they more concentrated than along Colorado’s Front Range.

“There is probably a Heath project on every major road in Fort Collins,” said Randy DeMario, Tony’s father and founder and former president of Heath Steel, in a March interview with the dad-son duo. Given the Heath companies’ historical ties to the city and as its base of operations, he added, “The work we do in Fort Collins is some of the most important work we do.”

Indeed, evidence of Heath’s enduring presence and impact on the city and Northern Colorado at large is abundant. Some of Fort Collins’ more recognizable commercial centers, such as the Opera Galleria in Old Town or the erstwhile Square Mall in Midtown, were Heath Construction creations. With Heath Steel, the family business has expanded its reach state-wide with high-profile structures such as the Great Divide Brewery in Denver, or its most sizable project ever, a new 120,000-square foot airport hangar complex in Colorado Springs. In what is probably its most publicly known job to date, Heath Steel supplied and erected the roof and wall cladding for the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse at the UCHealth Training Center in Englewood. At 85,000-square-feet and with three stories, that building serves as the indoor practice facility for the Denver Broncos and doubles as an event center when the Donkeys are away.

Aside from construction, Heath Steel also provides renovation and modification services for older buildings. It has been called upon to update some that were built decades ago by Heath Construction under the tenure of Bob Heath. Coming full circle to do renovation on projects originally constructed by his grandfather is the stuff of business poetics, and a phenomenon Heath’s new president described as “extremely special.”

And it is. There is a saying in American business, “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” More often than not, family-owned businesses aren’t or have failed by the time the third generation rolls around. According to the Harvard Business Review, only about one in three make it into the second generation and a measly 13% survive to the third. The Heath family of companies has defied the odds with the fourth generation of family members taking the reins.

The first iteration of Heath Engineering established in the 1940s was, naturally, led by its founder Robert Heath, Tony’s great grandfather. After returning to Fort Collins following service in the U.S. Navy, Robert’s son Bob opened the second of the Heath companies – Heath Construction – in 1977, which grew under his leadership for more than two decades. Then, in 1998, the baton was passed within the family yet again, this time to Bob’s son-in-law Randy DeMario. Randy would continue as president of Heath Construction until its sale to Saunders Construction Inc. in 2014, as well as found the current firm, Heath Steel, in 2009. And now it is Tony’s turn to captain the ship, nearly 80 years after the first Heath company’s founding.

“I grew up listening to my dad and grandfather talk about the construction industry and Heath companies. What an honor to carry my family’s legacy forward and take Heath Steel into the next generation while building upon the strong reputations of all past Heath companies.”

Tony is not the only active steward of the Heath family business legacy, however. His brother-in-law, Damian Trost, serves as operations manager for the outfit, and Randy will still be involved in his capacity as principal of Heath Engineering. A nod to the first Heath company, the firm functions in an auxiliary capacity with Heath Steel to make the company truly full-service. The partnership allows Heath to provide for its clients through every step of the building process, from pre-construction engineering and design to the build itself and on through to post-construction support. 

Randy’s faith in his son’s ability to fill his shoes is firm. Tony holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Colorado State University, which he earned while continuing to work in numerous capacities at the family shop as he has done since his early teens.  

“Tony has proven himself at Heath Steel,” Randy said. “I couldn’t be more confident that under his leadership Heath Steel will become the leading metal building supplier and erector in the region.”

It’s a sentiment that others in the industry share. Jason Miranowski, construction manager at PCL Construction Inc. — an international firm that has worked closely with Heath in the past — corroborated the notion, saying that, “Tony is the right choice to be Heath Steel’s new president. He’s level-headed and considers all options before making decisions. His honesty and business approach brings out the best in all employees.”

And according to Randy, it is qualities like these that have allowed all the Heath companies, past and present, to flourish in the way they have. Heath Steel has earned several national awards for its metal building construction and was the top-volume distributor for their main supplier Chief Buildings in 2014 and 2017 while remaining in the top five every year since.

The ties between Heath Steel and Chief Buildings, itself a family-owned company, are long-lived. And that, according to Randy, is part of what has made the Heath companies thrive. “Business is about building relationships, doing good-quality work, and enjoyment,” he said. “Long-term relationships are at the heart of our success.”

FORT COLLINS — When Robert Heath founded the nascent Heath Engineering in Fort Collins in the 1940s, he could have little inkling that – three companies and nearly a century later – the Heath family business would persist. What’s more, that it would persist with one of his descendants leading the way.  But so it is; Robert’s great-grandson Tony DeMario assumed the presidency of Heath Steel LLC on Jan. 1 of this year.

Heath Steel, in partnership with the second and current iteration of Heath Engineering LLC, is a leading full-service provider of metal building supply and erection services in Northern Colorado. As with its precursors — the original Heath Engineering and Heath Construction LLC – Heath Steel is headquartered in Fort Collins, but manages projects across the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions. From Idaho to Oklahoma, Heath buildings in the form of everything from fire stations to tennis facilities dot the map. And in no place are they more concentrated than along Colorado’s Front Range.

“There is probably a Heath project on every major road in Fort Collins,” said Randy DeMario, Tony’s father and founder and former president of Heath Steel, in a March interview with the dad-son duo. Given the Heath companies’ historical ties to the city and as its base of operations, he added, “The work we do in Fort Collins is some of the most important work we do.”

Indeed, evidence of Heath’s enduring presence and impact on the city and Northern Colorado at large is abundant. Some of…