By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Aug. 26 — As a crowd of more than 50 squeezed into the offices at Racey Engineering on Friday, the moment marked the culmination of nearly three decades of perseverance to build a local company that first started in the owner’s basement.
“Congratulations on 20 years on Main Street,” Mayor Jerry Dofflemyer said. “You can’t ride very far in Luray without seeing a Racey project…Thank you for being in Luray. Shenandoah County’s loss is our gain.”
The Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting to mark Racey’s time downtown, but the engineering firm began a few years earlier. In 1994, owner Pat Racey began his “side job” in his basement on Greenfield Road. In 2002, he decided he could no longer juggle two jobs and took the leap. Racey Engineering first found office space downtown upstairs above Vivian’s Flowers, renting from the late Reed Tate. Two years later, they would purchase their current building from current town councilman Jason Pettit.
“This is a little bit overwhelming,” Racey told the crowd of supporters on Friday. “There are many friends and advocates that have helped us here…some of the first office staff…there is no one here that hasn’t made this a success in some way. We have been blessed beyond comprehension. When you guys say we’re going with Racey Engineering, that is a great blessing and a great opportunity…You can’t last 20 years without this kind of support.”
A Shenandoah County native, Racey previously worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation and built relationships in that role that helped build his own business. In 1994, his side hustle earned about $18,000. By 2007 — five years after opening an office on Main Street and the year the Chamber of Commerce named them “Business of the Year” — Racey Engineering surpassed $1 million in gross billing.
“I was on the board [of supervisors] when this gentleman came in with VDOT,” District 2 county supervisor Allen Louderback said on Friday. “Pat has done a great job over the years. I’ve been watching him grow…congratulations on your success.”
Racey shared a story with the crowd about the late Lonnie Arrington. The former assistant town manager at first questioned Racey’s judgment in opening an engineering firm in Luray, and he told him so. Some years later, Arrington took Racey to lunch to apologize and acknowledge his success. There are few doubters now, as Racey has built his staff up from four to more than two dozen and runs a multi-million-dollar business.
“I’ve been working with Pat for many, many years. I’ve tried a lot of engineering firms, and Pat was the one to always come in and make things right,” Stanley Town Manager Terry Pettit said on Friday. “It’s like Pat was saying…it’s home-grown people…I’ve dealt with engineers for 40 years, and when these engineers come out, I know them.”
Smiles spread across the faces of those in blue and orange shirts after the compliment. Especially the face of Tyler Austin, who after starting out as an intern, worked his way into becoming a part owner as of March 1.
“There is a culture that we’ve tried to cultivate,” Austin said, noting that “culture” applies to relationships with clients, as well as relationships with employees. He also noted the pride they take in each project. “When we drive around the Valley, we get to see them every day just driving down the road.”
Austin noted that Racey’s “mission to community and mission to staff” has created the opportunity for higher-paying jobs in Page County and has generated a “reverse commute” as they draw talent out of Northern Virginia.
The new partner has seen most of the ups and downs of the journey. He shared a memory from the early days of the recession that hit in 2008 — just as Racey Engineering was celebrating its sixth anniversary. Tyler remembers Pat calling the staff together and noting that “72 percent of all small business goes under in the first five years.”
“I always remembered that,” Austin said. “I’ve spent almost half my life here…and we’re still here, and growing stronger.”
Much of the staff that attended that 2008 meeting are still with the engineering company today.
“A big core of the group has been on this ride for a while,” Austin said.
Pat Racey was quick to thank others prior to Friday’s ribbon cutting — his staff, his clients, local government, friends, family. The local engineer touted that the outside support for his company had been the key to his success.
“What a wonderful turnout today,” Chamber president Gina Hilliard said during the event. “It’s a great testament to your company to have this much support.”
However, at the end of the day, the success of Racey Engineering took a lot of moving parts — and none more important than the perseverance of its owner, who thoroughly understood a simple principle.
“There’s no elevator to success,” Racey said told those gathered on Friday. “You gotta take the steps.”
Racey Engineering is located at 312 W. Main St., Luray. For more information or a quote,
call (540) 743-9227 or visit their website at https://www.raceyengineering.com/
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