Rudolph/Libbe named Wood County Corporate Citizen of the Year
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Thursday, 21 March 2013 09:01
PERRYSBURG - Rudolph/Libbe has constructed buildings in 28 states, but its heart has never strayed far from home here in Wood County.
|File photo. A view of the Wolfe Center for the Arts at BGSU, constructed by Rudolph/Libbe. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
When customers visit the Rudolph/Libbe Co. in rural Lake Township, they often ask, "Why are you here?" said Bill Rudolph, company president. After all, the company headquarters sits on Latcha Road, in the middle of farmland.
Rudolph said he replies by asking customers if they noticed the house at the end of the company driveway. The home belongs to his parents, Fritz and Marilyn. A little further down Latcha Road sits the house of his grandfather, and further down is the home once lived in by his great-grandparents.
"The reason we're here is we haven't gone far," Rudolph explains.
And that's just fine with the Wood County Economic Development Commission which named Rudolph/Libbe as the county's Corporate Citizen of the Year Wednesday evening during its annual meeting.
But while, the company headquarters has not moved far from home, the firm's work can be seen throughout the nation.
In accepting the award, Rudolph showed a series of old family photographs to explain the roots of the business.
The black and white photos showed a hard-working farm family at their 1862 homestead, harvesting crops in the 1920s, and posing with their dairy truck in the 1930s.
The three cleancut boys, Fritz, Phil and Allan grew up on the family farm - establishing their work ethics that remain with the company today, Rudolph said. Phil went on to be a fighter pilot who flew more than 100 missions in the Korean War. Allan worked in the intelligence service. And Fritz started working construction, building a bridge for the turnpike on nearby Tracy Road.
When Fritz saw the construction company was burning the extra lumber not needed for the bridge, he asked if he could haul it back to his barn.
"They used that lumber to help start their construction business," Rudolph said.
The firm started out modestly, building a home in 1955, then moving on to constructing the Bowling Green post office in 1956, the Perrysburg fire station in 1957 and an addition to the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Pemberville in 1962.
Rudolph said the company employees realized from the beginning that they were building far more than brick and mortar structures. They were constructing buildings that made a difference in their communities. And they never lost sight of the values that they started with - hard work and integrity.
As the photos flashed on the screen behind him, the structures Rudolph/Libbe built grew in size and complexity from that first house in 1955.
By 1963, the firm was building the planetarium at University of Toledo.
"It still amazes me they were able to pull it off," he said.
That was followed by many educational buildings, the Wolfe Center at Bowling Green State University, Performing Arts Center at Owens Community College, Penta Career Center, Lake High School, Perrysburg High School and Bowling Green Middle School.
There were the medical facilities, including the Wood County Medical Building in Bowling Green, and the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo. Rudolph recalled being at his grandparents' house in 1975 when the family was planning bids for the MCO project. He remembered his grandma's hesitation about the project, saying "I hope they don't get that job, because it's too big for them."
They got the job, and proved they could handle it.
Since then, the company has gone on to build sites such as the Islamic Center, Levis Commons, Bass Pro and the Hollywood Casino.
The GEM portion of Rudolph/Libbe has focused on industrial sites. Starting out in a Quonset hut, that part of the company has worked on projects such as Jones Hamilton in Lake Township, North Star Steel in Delta, Northwood Industries, and First Solar and the Walgreen distribution center in Perrysburg Township.
Rudolph/Libbe has grown to now employ more than 1,200 workers, building more than 500 projects in last 20 years just in Wood County.
But no matter how big it gets, Rudolph said the company will never forget its humble beginnings on Latcha Road, where the company put its roots down with "hard work, integrity and respect for people."