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Rochester Top 100: Luck plays key role in the company's growth

Rochester Business Journal
October 2, 2015

The Caledonia, Livingston County firm, run by the Vasciannie brothers, has recently become more aggressive with opportunities that have come its way. (Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

David Vasciannie has an interesting—and unconventional—take on his company’s growth over the last several years. Luck has played a big role in it, he says.

“The reason I say luck is, it’s a definition from my high school wrestling coach,” said the president of Steve General Contractor Inc. “His definition was ‘when preparation meets opportunity.’ That’s exactly what it is.”

Vasciannie said the 42-year-old firm has had a growth spurt in the last few years, one that has taken the company to a summer peak of 52 employees this year and the result of equal parts preparation and opportunity.

“We’ve been at it for 42 years, perfecting our craft and building a reputation with the various folks that we work for—the owners out there,” he said. “We’ve also built a very good allegiance with a lot of our suppliers and subcontractors. So that’s the preparation side of it.”

In addition, Vasciannie and his four brothers recently have been more aggressive with the opportunities that have come their way. The Caledonia, Livingston County-based firm started by their father, Steve Vasciannie Sr., saw a 51 percent growth in revenues from 2013 to 2014 as a result of those opportunities.

The majority of the company’s work is in school renovations, David Vasciannie said, and it is one of the contractors for the Rochester Schools Modernization Program, a $1.2 billion program. Much of the firm’s work goes through a bid process, and it has been awarded roughly one-third of the Rochester City School District’s annual summer construction projects for some time, he noted.

“Over the last three years we made an aggressive push to the suburban schools,” Vasciannie added, noting the company has won contracts in Greece, Gates, Brighton and Bloomfield, among others.

As Steve General Contractor continues to reach out to both suburban and rural school districts, Vasciannie expects the company will add staff.

“It’s probably our strongest backlog (of work) we’ve had in our history,” he said. “And we haven’t even begun to bid out our work for next year.”

More doors have been opened in recent years than in decades past, said William Vasciannie, who serves as field superintendent. He expects that to continue in the near future.

“In the past it was all who you knew,” he said. “Once it became open bids, that’s when we really got involved. We were able to bid and we were able to win jobs.”

Steve Vasciannie Sr. was a Jamaican immigrant who made his way north by working on the Panama Canal, followed by stints at various dairy farms. Eventually he became involved in a mason’s union and after some time struck out on his own to start Steve General Contractor in 1973.

Today the company is run by his five sons, David, William, Charles, Richard and Steve Jr.

David, the majority owner, joined the firm in 1983 and became president in 1986.

“This past summer was unusual, but there is a trend. It is the lack of skilled labor,” he said. “It’s a good thing for the local economy that there’s so much work that there’s a shortage of men, but also industrywide there’s a lack of younger folks getting into the construction industry. We’re not having the big influx.”

David also laments insurance costs in New York, primarily because of the high cost of the state’s scaffold law, which imposes absolute liability for elevation-related injuries on contractors and property owners engaged in construction. His insurance expense is roughly one-quarter of the company’s total expenses, David said.

“The only thing that exceeds that is payroll,” he said.

The company’s success is a result of several factors, William said, including his own faith and spirituality and a family that works well together.

“We have a very good working relationship. It’s listening to each other,” he said. “I believe a lot of it is happening with my brother’s leadership. He’s doing an excellent job.”

David is humble about Steve General Contractor’s success.

“I treat people the way I want them to treat me,” he said. “I don’t ask any more of anybody than I would do myself.”

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

Steve General Contractor Inc.
General contractor
Year founded: 1973
Top executives: David Vasciannie, president
Current employment: 52
2014 ranking: 31
Headquarters: Caledonia, Livingston County
Website: N/A

10/2/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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