At age 31, Ernie Rossi can already boast of being involved in projects that would be far off the beaten track for most contractors.
First there was the plant that he and his colleagues at Rossi Construction helped build for the medical-equipment maker Ad-Tech Medical Instrument Corp. in Oak Creek. That project had his team installing a special “clean room” where devices used to monitor brain activity could eventually be made free of contamination.
Then there’s the multi-million dollar addition he is helping build for the manufacturing-equipment maker Fischer USA in Racine. The project required the installation of a special type of HVAC system because the work that takes place at the factory is so precise, it can be thrown off by even a slight change in temperature.
Although his career might have already taken him to some unexpected places, it’s a path he has always known he would be treading. Rossi is of the third generation of his family to be involved in Racine-based Rossi Construction.
His grandfather, also named Ernie Rossi, first got into construction in the 1940s, starting off in the residential-masonry business. The name Rossi Construction came along around 1950. By then, the company was already well on its way to becoming the commercial and industrial contractor that it is today.
Now overseen by the younger Ernie Rossi’s father — Anthony Rossi — Rossi Construction has six employees in its main office and between 10 and 15 in the field at any given time. It acts as a general contractor but also performs work in the masonry, concrete, rough and finished carpentry and general-labor trades.
Ernie Rossi and his brother, Nick, are both vice presidents.
“All of us essentially make up the management team,” Ernie Rossi said. “I don’t think a budget goes out without all of us looking at it. We are constantly looking at each other’s work, and it’s a collaborative effort on every project.”
Rossi said he went through very little, if any, of the soul-searching many young people do when they decide if they want to join the family business. He started working part time at Rossi Construction when he was 16.
“I became comfortable with it in my adolescence and teenage years by helping out in the field and in the office, helping with project managers,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always enjoyed.”
Rossi continued part time at the family business while studying for a degree in finance from Marquette University. When he graduated in 2012, he quickly decided to move into the business full time.
Rossi said he likes nearly every aspect of his job: working with design teams, finding ways to overcome and avoid project obstacles and the joy that comes from delivering a completed project.
Most of all, he said, he likes seeing a satisfied owner.
“It means you’ll get repeat business,” Rossi said.
That’s not to say his job is easy.
“The fun comes at the end — after we’ve done all the coordination and brought in all these teams,” Rossi said. “It’s when you get to the end of the project, that’s the enjoyment, seeing all the puzzle pieces fall into place.”