Continuing a family legacy of building excellence
In 1954, Romeo De Gasperis’s father, Angelo, and uncle, Alfredo, founded a small concrete and drain business they called Con-Drain. At the time, these recent immigrants had nothing but a truck and a resolute will to succeed. In 1960, their brother, Antonio, joined Alfredo and Angelo in running the family business.
Thanks to these brothers’ perseverance and expertise, ConDrain Group is now one of Canada’s largest land development, sewer and drainage companies, and Romeo serves as its Vice President and CEO.
As ConDrain continues to diversify under Romeo and his cousin Jim’s leadership, the biggest priority for them is to maintain the business traditions that began with their parents. Critical decisions weren’t made in a boardroom, but over family lunches.
“We had a lot of faith in our fathers, and they included us at a young age,” says Romeo. “Our kids will carry on that legacy. There’s nothing more important than that.”
Indeed, Romeo’s apprenticeship in the family business started early. By age 12, he was in the field, mixing cement, driving packers and shadowing engineers. His experience came in handy when Romeo entered Seneca’s Civil Engineering program.
“I wanted a more practical education, and Seneca had one of the better engineering programs,” says Romeo. “I took college seriously, and it was a lot of work. I remember Professor Bill Habkirk was a tough teacher. Today, I look back and thank him.”
Along with his expertise in engineering and strong work ethic, Romeo has exhibited extraordinary resilience in confronting some serious health issues. At 28, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For a man used to working 14 to18-hour days, the news was life changing.
“I took a step back and had to do things differently,” says Romeo. “I put better people around me and gave them more responsibility.”
One of the side effects of Romeo’s lymphoma treatment was that he developed leukemia. He met this challenge too, and turned it into an opportunity to help others.
In 2012, Romeo organized a gala fundraising dinner for Lymphoma Foundation Canada that raised $2.5 million for lymphoma research—surpassing the projected goal for the event by $1.5 million.
Whether it’s galas or business ventures, success has been the common theme for Romeo’s initiatives. So too has been a connection to Seneca. ConDrain has hired Civil Engineering graduates, and Romeo has expressed interest in serving as an adviser.
“I truly loved the program,” says Romeo. “If you’re happy in the job you’re doing, you don’t need an alarm clock. For me, the engineering program at Seneca was the same way.”