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Rochester Top 100: Patriot Towers is climbing to new heights

Patriot Towers Inc. is growing from the ground up.

That is how Richard Schickler III, president and CEO, describes it following the company’s merger Dec. 31, 2012, with RJ Schickler Inc.

“This merger combined the experience and abilities of the Patriot Towers’ climbers with the years of underground and civil experience of RJ Schickler,” he said.

The merger was the primary driver for growth over the last two years, Schickler added.

Patriot Towers has grown in revenues from $6.6 million in 2012 to $11.8 million in 2014 and from 53 to 60 employees.

His father, Richard Schickler Jr. of RJ Schickler, partnered with Richard Schickler III and Doug Harradine to create Patriot Towers in 2001. Harradine is vice president. In 2010, RJ Schickler divested all non-tower-related businesses, Schickler III said, and two years later, with the merger, created “one larger hyper-focused communication tower construction company.”

“Smaller companies have grown to specialize in specific parts of the industry, for the most part line and antenna installations,” Schickler said. “Patriot, however, has been able to maintain a broad spectrum of skills within the tower industry, including maintenance, lighting, traditional tower construction, civil and underground construction, as well as structural modifications.”

He describes the coexistence of the company’s four departments—tower construction, civil construction, structural modification and tower maintenance—as one of its strengths.

“If one of them drops off, the other three pick up. We find a strong balance between cellular construction and municipal tower construction and 911 systems,” he said.

A large percentage of the projects are across Western New York and northern Pennsylvania.

In addition to a heavy concentration of jobs with municipalities in improving emergency communications, Patriot Towers works with cellular clients such as Verizon Wireless Inc. and Crown Castle International Corp.

“It’s the biggest growth area for us as wireless companies continue to compete and offer more services to smartphones,” Schickler said. “We can build and fortify their networks.”

Harradine sees the potential for continuing business.

“With the changing technology, we go back to the same site year after year to change the antennae,” Harradine said. “We’re bringing fiber to the very top of the tower now for quicker connections.”

Patriot Towers has eight open positions, and Schickler said the company could hire as many as 10 employees in the next year or two.

“We estimate that we have the ability to increase top-line performance by more than 20 percent if we were to fill all open positions by the end of this quarter. Unfortunately, that is not likely as quality field staffing is our largest limiting factor to growth,” Schickler said.

Recruiting is Patriot’s largest challenge for two reasons: People fear heights and dislike being on the road for several days at a time.

“The ability to find people who don’t have a fear to climb tall towers, and also to travel for five days at a time, is a challenge,” Schickler said. “We tend to need people who are a little older, family-oriented, to be a good fit, but the job generally draws a younger, physically fit, excitement-oriented person.”

He tries to recruit within a 300- to 400-mile radius of the company’s Chili location, hiring talent from Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany and northern Pennsylvania.

Recruitment is one part of the challenge standing in the way of maximum growth potential, Schickler said. The second piece is the development of field staff skills and abilities. 

“Climbers are taking fiber to the tops of towers now, testing on wireless systems is getting much more stringent, and civil crews are being required to be much more precise in every aspect of their jobs,” he pointed out.

“The ability to maintain the perfect balance of zero lost work-time accidents, high-quality jobs and high productivity will be the measure of our success.”

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. The 2015 Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 4. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.

Patriot Towers Inc.
Cell tower construction and maintenance
Year founded: 2001
Top executive: Richard Schickler III, president and CEO
Current employment: 60
2014 ranking: 7
Headquarters: Chili
Website: patriottowers.com

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