Owner, N. Riley Construction; Age 39
Nick Riley knows construction changes lives — both those of his clients, when they step into a new home or undergo a dramatic renovation, and in his own life, in which a bet on himself paid off at a young age.
Age 24, to be exact. Riley had been working as a laborer for another construction business for a couple of years, and decided he loved the work, and how the results of his labor made people happy.
“I decided I was going to start my own business,” he recalled. “So I got into small remodeling, and gradually got into homebuilding pretty quickly.”
That was 2007, an interesting time to strike out on his own, with the global financial crisis and the Great Recession just around the corner. Riley credits his participation in an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition build in Springfield in 2011 with bringing attention to N. Riley Construction and taking the firm to the next level.
“That definitely helped me,” he said. “Since then, we’ve been at it non-stop, growing by leaps and bounds every year. We’re doing 10-plus houses a year, large commercial buildings … I’ve got a good group of guys working for me, and that helps.”
It’s tough for contractors to keep and grow their crews these days, but Riley has been addressing that issue at the source, by cultivating the next generation of workers through an initiative called Student Builders.
“I’m the president, and I work with a couple other local people on that board,” he said. “What we do is purchase property in Chicopee — usually either dilapidated homes that need to be ripped down or pieces of land that need to be developed — and we set it up so kids in vocational programs, like carpentry, electrical, or landscaping, can build an entry-level house. It’s good, hands-on experience, and they can see if that’s something they want to do. It’s a good way to reach out to kids and get them into the workforce.”
The hope is that many will find the career as gratifying as he does.
“I love transforming people’s houses, working with customers and creating something for them that they’re excited about, that they’ll cherish for years,” Riley said. “It’s a very satisfying job. When I drive down the street and look around and say, ‘yeah, we did that house,’ or ‘we did that project,’ it’s nice. We take a lot of pride in our work.”
— Joseph Bednar