A few years ago, when the statewide organization for town clerks was in Rochester for its annual meeting, Gary Domenico and his colleagues came up with a novel way of entertaining the visitors.
Domenico, president and CEO of General Code LLC, and his cronies decided to dress up as characters from a Sherlock Holmes mystery novel. Accurately attired, down to their muttonchops, the crew led a busload of town clerks through the General Code office in search of answers to code-related topics, such as rent control, zoning ordinances, solid waste disposal and so on.
"The town clerks loved it," Domenico says. "We’ll do whatever it takes to help government entities become more effective, efficient and transparent via the products that we provide."
Domenico joined General Code in 2000. It provides products and services to more than 2,000 municipal government entities, businesses and educational institutions nationwide, including town clerks.
General Code was founded in 1962 by A. Ross Kitt II. Today, the $10 million company with 96 local and regional employees offers codification and document management, including hardcover and electronic versions, as well as building, planning and zoning software.
The staff includes full-time editors with specialized training in codification and project management skills as well as individuals who perform research, indexing, data entry, proofreading and production.
The company has more than doubled its revenues in the past 10 years, although the last two years have been arduous because of the nation’s recession, Domenico notes. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic about the company’s growth potential.
"Our products, whether in book format, on CD or on the Internet, enable constituents to view the law for themselves," he says. "Our company is all about providing easy access to essential code information."
As with the rest of the publishing industry, digital processes are increasingly important.
"We’re definitely going digital; it’s the most exciting part of our business. Our technology platform is the best in the industry," Domenico says.
Domenico, 56, grew up working in the restaurant business. His grandfather owned Domenico’s Restaurant and Bar, which in 1969 was sold to owners who converted it into the Red Creek restaurant.
As a teen-ager, Domenico helped out in the restaurant, performing duties such as busing tables, washing dishes and mopping floors.
After graduating from Cardinal Mooney High School, he attended Le-Moyne College in Syracuse, earning a bachelor’s degree in history in 1975. He decided to round out his education by enrolling at Rochester Institute of Technology’s MBA program and earned his degree in 1977.
He worked in the construction business with his older brother for a few months, then headed to New Brunswick, N.J., to join Webcraft Technologies, where he rose through the ranks to become director of information technology.
Domenico left Webcraft in 1993 and returned to Rochester to join Impco Enterprises Inc. He started in production technologies and later was appointed vice president for operations, then president and ultimately CEO.
The company was overleveraged and was purchased by Webcraft, a division of Big Flower Press Holdings Inc., in 1997, he says. Domenico stayed with Impco until 1999, when he took a six-month break to backpack in the Grand Canyon and volunteer with different organizations, including a hospice, a homeless shelter and Habitat for Humanity.
"Then I wrote a personal mission statement and realized that I wasn’t good working for others," he says.
Inspired by the hospice director’s advice to live in the moment, Domenico carefully reviewed his options, including an opportunity to join General Code as partner of Ross Kitt, the founder’s son.
It is a move he has never regretted, Domenico says.
A self-described data hound who has been dubbed "an intense gem" by the head of a local non-profit organization, Domenico has found the right blend of creativity, attention to detail and passion for customer service within the General Code work environment.
He purchased the company from Kitt in June 2007. General Code now has seven vice presidents, including three who are former corporate CEOs. "I’m in this for the long haul, so I made a conscious decision to invest in high-quality people," he says. "We’ve added two to three editors to our staff each year for the past five years."
In early 2009, when the recession hit, company leaders froze salaries, among other moves. Domenico too took a "dramatic pay cut." In January, the company brought back its 401(k) match and eliminated the wage freeze-though his pay remains at the reduced level. But he is upbeat about the company and its future.
"Our work is all about collaboration," he says. "We have a fabulous team of employees who are totally customer-focused. This is a very caring culture.
"We’re very excited about the next few years."
Caring is key
The word "caring" is top of mind for some of Domenico’s closest friends and colleagues.
James Dailey and Domenico have been best friends since they met during their freshman year at Cardinal Mooney.
"Gary sat behind me in homeroom, and we’ve been best friends ever since," says Dailey, credit manager for Alliance Bank N.A. in Syracuse. "He was a real joker. I’ll never forget the time he took magic markers and colored the back of my earlobes blue and orange."
The two-along with six other pals-have a standing tee time of 7:45 every Sunday morning at Shadow Pines Golf Club in Penfield. "It’s fun to play with Gary; he’s pretty easygoing, not at all competitive. We put the bad shots behind us and just focus on the good shots."
Domenico’s true allegiance as a best friend was never more evident than seven years ago when Dailey’s 13-year-old daughter died of an undiagnosed medical condition.
"I gave the eulogy but didn’t know if I could make it through, so Gary came up with me as my wingman," Dailey says. "I’m blessed to have him as my friend."
Mary Whittier, too, knows firsthand about Domenico’s compassion and talents. Whittier is executive director of Bivona Child Advocacy Center, which serves more than 1,200 children who have been victims of sexual or physical abuse each year.
Domenico joined the board when the organization formed in 2004 and recently completed a two-year term as chairman. Now, as an honorary board member, he serves on the organization’s executive, facilities and program committees.
He was a 2009 recipient of the Greater Rochester Awards’ Board Leadership Award, co-sponsored by the Rochester Business Journal and United Way of Greater Rochester Inc.
"Gary is one of the most wonderful and compassionate people I have ever met," says Whittier, who nominated Domenico for the Greater Rochester Award last year. "He is a phenomenal strategic planner who has given our organization unbelievable guidance and leadership. More than anything, he’s a huge champion for kids."
Domenico comes by that role easily. He is the father of three grown daughters-Courtney, 30, a psychologist in private practice in Chicago; Rachel, 27, mother of Domenico’s first grandchild, Jimmy, and part-time receptionist at Scott Miller Salon and Spa; and Mara, 23, a junior at RIT, pursuing a degree in graphic design with a minor in business.
Domenico’s office is full of family pictures, including one of himself and two of his daughters as they finished a half-marathon at Walt Disney World Resort last year.
Also prominent on his bookshelves are photos of his second wife, Barbara Buscaglia, a nursing director at Rochester General Hospital. The couple, who met on a blind date and married in 2007, live in the Park Avenue area and love walking to Cobbs Hill, the Little Theatre and the Memorial Art Gallery.
In his spare time, Domenico is an avid runner, having completed one marathon and four half-marathons; a cyclist; and an active member of Spiritus Christi Church, where he attends Mass every Saturday evening with his 87-year-old widowed father.
Every few years, Domenico recharges his batteries by spending three days at Mt. Savior Monastery near Corning in the Southern Tier.
"I write, read and sleep for three days straight," he says. "It’s incredible what you can hear in the forest when you close your eyes and listen."
He also is a "Jeopardy!" fan, and his favorite movies include "The Verdict" and "Harold and Maude."
Domenico’s zest for life spills into his work life.
"Profits provide freedom," he says. "At General Code, we’re attempting to offer a values-based culture that lets people have life-work balance within a company that is successful."
Title: President and CEO, General Code LLC
Education: B.A. in history, LeMoyne College, Syracuse, 1975; MBA , Rochester Institute of Technology, 1977
Residence: Park Avenue neighborhood, city of Rochester
Family: Wife, Barbara Buscaglia; daughters Courtney, 30, Rachel, 27, Mara, 23; grandson Jimmy, 14 months
Hobbies: Running, cycling, reading, shouting out answers while watching "Jeopardy!" on television
Quote: "Profits provide freedom. At General Code, we’re attempting to offer a values-based culture that lets people have life-work balance within a company that is successful."
Debbie Waltzer is a Rochester-based freelance writer.
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