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April 1996

Up Close And Personal

by Deanne BARTHA

Although he’s supposed to be semi-retired, Frank L. Ciminelli’s life is so busy that he’d welcome a snowstorm any day.

“The last thing I want is a night out,” said the Chairman of the Board of Ciminelli Companies, Inc. “I want a night in. To get me out of the house, you’d have to drag me out with a crane.”

Indeed, the one near blizzard condition that hit Western New York this winter afforded Ciminelli some welcomed alone time.

Working 9 to 6 Monday through Friday would hardly seem to be a form of semi-retirement, but Ciminelli insists it is.

He keeps his hours flexible, taking numerous business and personal trips which, with technology today, makes it easy to work away from the office.

That, combined with the whirlwind of community groups and their functions and meetings keeps Ciminelli very active.

Among his long list of community service activities are his work as a member of the Sisters of Charity Hospital Foundation Board and his involvement with Catholic Charities and Children’s Hospital, to name a few.

He has received many awards and honors including Regional Entrepreneur of the Year in 1995; Villa Maria College’s President’s Medal and the Leukemia Society of America’s Service to Mankind Award.

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Frank Ciminelli (seated) with sons
(standing, from left) Louis and Paul.

In 1987, Ciminelli was named Man of the Year by the Boys’ Town of Italy, an organization that has been near and dear to his heart for the past 10 years.

“There is a rich history behind Boys’ Town,” he explained. “It came about because of a World War II Irish priest who wanted to help the orphans he saw
robbing people on the streets just to survive.”

“Since then, the priest and others involved with the organization care for orphaned children, taking them off the streets and giving them a place to call home. It’s a wonderful group.”

The intent of his community involve- ment is not to collect all the awards he can. Ciminelli even seems modest about the honors that hang on his office walls.

“Everybody should be involved in the community and give back some of the things they get out of it,” he said. “The good Lord has been good to us. As long as you remember that and do things morally and spiritually right, you can’t go wrong. Give 110 percent and it will always come back to you.”

You could say that Ciminelli, now 61, began his construction career at “rock bottom.”

Early on, he specialized in concrete work, building on the years spent with his father in the family’s construction business while he was still in high school.

The seeds of success were sown early, and Ciminelli spent the next four decades achieving his dream of being number one.

“I was the youngest of 12 children,” he said. “You had to stand out to be noticed.”

Ciminelli graduated from the former Erie County Technical Institute in 1954 and started his own residential concrete business, a forerunner to the Frank L. Ciminelli Construction Co., Inc.

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Frank Ciminelli in the Ciminelli Sponsor Car for the
1995 Arthritis Foundation Mini Grand Prix.

Frank Ciminelli

In 1960, he branched out into commercial and industrial projects, building the business from a subcontractor that assisted local construction giants to a general/construction management entity with a diversified construction and development empire.

“My goal was to be the best, not the biggest,” Ciminelli said. “I never really dreamed that we’d get this big.”  How big is big? Today, the business consists of the Frank L. Ciminelli Construction Company, Inc., Ciminelli Cowper Company, Inc., and Ciminelli Development Company, Inc., each proving to be very
successful endeavors.

In the early stages of his burgeoning business, Ciminelli was offered an opportunity to take over a business out of town, but turned it down.

“Family means more to me than business opportunities,” he said. “I do wonder what my life would have been if I had gone, but I’ve always been too much of a family person.”  And quite a family it is.   On special occasions the Ciminelli house in Clarence often entertains up to 45 family members and friends.

He and his wife, Rosalie, have 6 children and 10 grandchildren.

Ciminelli credits Rosalie for much of his perseverance. “She’s been my inspiration all these years. If you really want to know who the boss is, it’s Rosalie. She empowers me.”

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Frank and Rosalie Ciminelli

His sons, Louis and Paul, have taken over the day-to-day management of both companies. Son, John, assists in the development end of the business.

“Coming from a large family, you get pulled in all directions,” he said. “When I look back on my life, I never expected it to be like this. All I wanted was to be the best at what I did. I guess that’s what people call being successful.”

But Ciminelli makes it very clear that there is another large family that has been vital to the companies’ success - the employees.

“Ciminelli employees really are an extension of my family,” he pointed out. “They’re the heart and soul of the companies. And, believe me, I know we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. They’re a very talented group of individuals.”

For the 50PLUS crowd, Ciminelli advised, “never stop learning and improving. Be the best at whatever you do every day. Do everything with honor and integrity.”

This is advice Ciminelli takes to heart daily.

“I get up every day and I want to be better than I am.”

That also applies to his golf game.

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Frank Ciminelli enjoys a
round of golf.

“People say, ‘why don’t you just enjoy it?’ I say, how do you enjoy a bad shot? Whatever I do, I want to do it to the best of my ability. The day you stop learning and improving - you’re dead as far as I’m concerned.”

To Ciminelli, “sleeping is a waste of time.” He starts his days at 5:45 a.m., goes to mass at 6:45 a.m., comes home to read for a few hours, then goes into the office.

But there are other activities which hold his interest that aren’t work related.

He exercises in some form or another everyday and has a love of gardening.

“I like the simple things of life,” Ciminelli said, “I’ve never been one to stop. I don’t like sitting on my butt watching grass grow - it’s not me. I want to work until the day I die, doing something.”

“It’s a big world out there. Someone’s going to be doing something different and I want to be a part of it.”

Deanne Bartha is a free-lance
journalist who lives in Lancaster.
Photos courtesy of Ciminelli Development Company, Inc.

 

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