The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


November 15, 2008

Hard work, a little luck are key to success for Richland Township business

Dick Burke Jr. could be the poster child for the Upstarts and Innovators speakers series.

The 33-year-old owner of Richland Township-based D.B. Homes has lived the philosophy that launched the series – if you can’t find a job in the region, create one.

Burke delivered some of his life story last week to students at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College as part of the Upstarts and Innovators series. The series, sponsored by The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown Area Regional Industries and the Greater Johnstown Keystone Innovation Zone, takes area entrepreneurs into classrooms in the region to tell their success stories.

Burke explained that he and his wife, Amy, long ago decided they wanted to stay in the region. But after completing his degree in criminology at Pitt in 1999, Burke found it would be difficult to live in the area and work in his chosen field.

Ideally, Burke said, he was seeking employment with federal law enforcement, but there are relatively few of those jobs in the region. He settled on a position as a probation officer in Somerset County, but soon realized it had limited potential.

“I didn’t see much chance for advancement or to grow,” Burke said.

“I loved the job, but it didn’t hold the kind of future I wanted.”

At about the same time, Burke’s father had begun to dabble in the modular construction business, giving Burke his first exposure to the industry. He quickly realized it might be the opportunity he had been seeking and founded his company in 2000.

Burke and his brother-in-law, Keith Skowron, caught a blessing in disguise when Skowron lost his job in the Pittsburgh area and was seeking to move back to the region. Skowron, now the general manager, worked at the business full time while Burke maintained his day job and worked at D.B. Homes during his free time.

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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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