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Building on family firm’s legacy


(Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

 

John DiMarco II is not one for a lot of back-and-forth on email. He prefers, instead, to have in-person contact.

“When you’re reading something, it’s open to interpretation,” he says. “When you’re speaking to someone face-to-face, there’s less chance for confusion.”

The formula appears to be working for the DiMarco Group LLC, where DiMarco, 46, serves as president and chief operating officer.

Established in 1910 as a general contractor, DiMarco Group has evolved over the years into a full-service development company.

Its family of companies include DiMarco Constructors LLC, general contracting; Baldwin Real Estate Corp., property management; J. DiMarco Builders Inc., facilities maintenance; JD Aviation LLC, private jet charters; and Admar Supply Co. Inc.

DiMarco, 46, oversees the overall operations for DiMarco Group and DiMarco Constructors. His brother, Joel DiMarco, leads Admar, which rents, sells and services light construction equipment.

The two represent the fourth generation to lead the family business. Their sister, Anne Desmond, oversees the family’s charitable foundation.

John DiMarco—the father of John II and Joel DiMarco—whose main residence is in Florida, is still the CEO of the DiMarco Group and continues to be involved with the business.

Based in Brighton, the DiMarco Group employs a total of some 500 employees. It ranked sixth on the most recent Rochester Business Journal list of real estate developers.

As a real estate developer, the DiMarco Group has 1.29 million square feet of local, nonresidential space, with properties that include Fishers Ridge, BayTowne, Tops Brighton Plaza and Perinton Square Mall.

DiMarco Constructors also ranked third on the most recent Rochester Business Journal list of builders. Its projects include the Monroe Community College downtown campus at State Street and Morrie Silver Way, adjacent to Eastman Kodak Co.’s headquarters; and the $110 million redevelopment by Boston-based WinnDevelpment LLC of the Sibley building at East Main and Franklin streets.

Direct communication, along with not making things too complicated and involved, is helping the family-owned firm succeed, the John DiMarco II says.

 “My goal is to keep it simple,” he says.

Family firm
The family business always has been a part of DiMarco’s life. He grew up in Irondequoit and remembers as a youth going to local projects the company was working on and sneaking a peek at the progress.

Later, he would spend summers off from high school and college working for the business, cleaning properties and helping to load supplies.

After graduating from McQuaid Jesuit High School, he went to Union College in Schenectady County, earning a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering technology in 1992.

DiMarco then returned to the family business. There was no pressure to join the company; it was simply a natural progression, he says.

He has over 20 years of experience in the industry, coordinating architectural, engineering and construction work for a variety of renovation and new construction projects for mixed-use, multi-residential and commercial property.

DiMarco worked as a project manager and estimator after college before being named executive vice president of DiMarco Constructors. Two years later, he took his current position.

DiMarco holds weekly meetings with departments to stay on top of all parts of the business. His typical workday starts around 7:30 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. It is a time he tries to stick to so he can spend the evenings with his family.

He chooses his words carefully.

“We can spend a lot of time complicating things,” DiMarco says of today’s world. “In a complex world I look for the simple answers.”

At first glance, DiMarco’s office may appear the exact opposite of that thinking. He has piles of work papers stacked throughout the office, mixed in with family pictures and drawings done by his children. But DiMarco says he has a system, and the piles help keep projects organized.

The best part of the job are the people he works with, DiMarco says, noting his is not an automated industry, but a human one.

He describes his leadership style as hands-on, but not overly invasive.

“I like to see people accomplish their goals in concert with the big picture,” he says.

To support that, he likes to provide opportunities where people can use their talents and reach beyond their limits.

“Oftentimes, people think they can’t do something until they try it and find out they can,” he says.

A challenge is keeping all aspect of the business moving along, while allowing the process to play out.

The company often is involved in all aspects of a project, from beginning to end, which involves working with a number of parties and obtaining several types of state and local permits.

“We are managing a lot of moving pieces,” he says.

A lot are big developments, often involving one hundred-plus-acre sites, DiMarco adds.

“It can take time,” he says.

DiMarco credits his father and grandfather for helping to create a thriving family business that supports its employees and customers. His elders “instilled a large level of respect and work ethic” in him, DiMarco says, noting a mantra has always been “do the right thing.”

Howie Jacobson, owner of the consulting group Red Rock 1886 Advisors LLC, has known DiMarco for more than 15 years. Jacobson knows DiMarco both through work and serving together on community boards.

Jacobson describes DiMarco as a good listener who is observant and committed to not only the company, but the community, as well.

DiMarco is a hard worker, he added.

“He likes to get in there and get things done,” Jacobson says.

Key projects
One project the DiMarco Group is moving forward with is Fishers Ridge, a lifestyle/town center project on Route 96 at Route 251 in Victor, Ontario County. The 78-acre parcel is being developed into a mix of retail restaurants, office and housing.

Its anchor tenant will be Bass Pro Shops, which plans to build a 145,000-square-foot store.

The outdoor retailer, which specializes in hunting, fishing, camping and related outdoor gear, will be building a large-format store there, making it the first in New York. Bass Pro has two smaller stores in New York, in Auburn and Utica.

The DiMarco Group is in the final stages of town approval for its site plan for Fishers Ridge and could begin construction this year or by spring 2017, DiMarco says.

Other notable projects include:

 Fishers Landing, a retail shopping center on Route 96 in Victor. Architectural and landscape improvements are slated for the site, as is additional square-footage;
 BayTowne Plaza, a shopping center on roughly 34 acres in Penfield. Plans are in the works to increase the square footage by some 60,000 square feet at that site to more than 500,000 square feet;
 Tops-Brighton Plaza, a mixed-use property in Brighton where renovations are underway; and
 Hampton Ridge, an 89-acre retail/mixed use parcel on West Ridge Road in Greece that will be increased from its current 144,000 square feet of space to roughly 580,000 square feet.

DiMarco Constructors is also involved in local projects with additional clients. They include a repurposing project at McQuaid, where some unused space will be developed into a location for the school’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics program.

DiMarco Constructors also is serving as general contractor for Top Capital of New York LLC’s Seniors’ Choice at Heritage Square, an independent and assisted living community project in Brockport. The $17.8 million project is expected to be completed this fall.

Joel DiMarco says his brother is a great partner in business who does not take no for an answer.

“We’re both relatively driven people,” Joel DiMarco says. “(John) has tremendous determination to accomplish the goals he sets.”

Off the job
DiMarco lives in Perinton with his wife, Susan, and their children, sons, John III, 16, and Jason, 14, and daughter, Nina, 8.

He incorporates activities the family enjoys when together so everyone can take part. That includes winter skiing and bicycling.

The family also enjoys taking their boat out on Canandaigua Lake, where they have a cottage. They take part in water sports, such as wake surfing, in which a rider trails behind a boat, riding the boat’s wake without being directly pulled by the boat.

DiMarco is also active on local community boards. He serves as president of the Italian Heritage Foundation, vice chairman of development at the Monroe Community College Foundation and as a board member for Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Samuel Merlo, a retired partner at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP, has known DiMarco for some 20 years. The two are both involved with the Italian Heritage Foundation and Merlo has provided some legal services for the DiMarco Group.

He describes DiMarco’s character as impeccable and is someone who will do what he says he will do.

DiMarco also is able to look at a complex business matter and reduce complexity to simplicity, he says.

“John is a doer,” Merlo says. “Every (project) he assumes is important to him and he will do what is necessary to make it successful.”

Moving forward on the job, DiMarco is focused on continuing to grow the family operation. While there are many facets to the business, DiMarco says he thrives on the activity.

“We have been accused of being overachievers,” he says.

John DiMarco II
Title: president and chief operating officer, the DiMarco Group LLC
Age: 46
Education: bachelor of science degree in civil engineering technology from Union College, Schenectady, in 1992
Residence: Perinton
Family: Wife, Susan; sons, John III, 16, and Jason, 14; daughter, Nina, 8
Hobbies: water sports, winter skiing, bicycling
Quote: “My goal is to keep it simple.”

5/27/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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