Facchina Construction Co. poured the concrete to rebuild the Pentagon after Sept. 11. It built the $96 million rental car garage at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and is developing a tower of luxury condos in Rosslyn, with a four-bedroom unit priced at more than $6 million.
These high-profile projects have helped build Paul Facchina Sr.'s business, but his most enduring work is at home. From his first office in a garage on Quailwood Parkway in a Charles County subdivision, the gruff, no-nonsense 58-year-old has become one of the dominant names in an industry that is propelling Southern Maryland's post-tobacco economy.
He is La Plata's Donald Trump, reviving and reshaping the county seat after the devastating tornado in 2002. Former mayor William F. Eckman calls him a "godsend." The town's manager, Doug Miller, credits him with saving the commercial core from becoming a ghost town.
The construction magnate is also the one whom political candidates -- such as Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R), who is running for the U.S. Senate, and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), who is running for governor -- come to court when they want to tap campaign funds and test the pulse of residents.
Some traditionalists have whispered that Facchina's taste -- the most notable example of which is a marble fountain outside his headquarters -- is out of place in the understated town of 9,000. And one developer has accused him of trying to "take over" the town after the tornado.
But Facchina, not one to mind critics, is proud of the distinctive image he projects and his vision for the town, which has been his home since the late 1960s.
"I think I know what people like, and I'm giving people what they want -- the quality, beauty and sense of identity," he said from his office, which overlooks the fourth brick office building in a cluster his company built and the spot where a fifth will rise this month.
Less than two blocks away is the $2.6 million Town Hall, which the company built last year, and the police department, which Facchina is renovating.
Charles County was largely an afterthought in the region's explosive growth, which helped turn Facchina's garage operation into the Facchina Group of Cos., with 1,000 employees and more than $400 million in annual business.
Facchina is not looking to replicate Montgomery County or Northern Virginia in Charles. He wants to balance the county's rural roots with a business climate that attracts high-paying jobs and allows residents to work as close to home as he does.
"You can't have one continuous bedroom community and commercial strip," he said, his hands slicing the air with a flair he often uses to make a point.
It's a mix Facchina has tried to bring to his life. He is among the state's most extensive conservationists. The Maryland Environmental Trust counts Facchina as one of four people in its history to permanently preserve more than 1,000 acres.
He is an avid hunter and owns eight farms, including the historic 600-acre Mount Air, where he lives with his wife, Melissa, and two of his six children. The cottage next to the pool is a trophy room devoted to the buffaloes, antelopes and lions he conquered on a half-dozen African safaris.
Before dawn last month, Facchina placed dozens of decoys on a soybean field that sits below the family's 13,000-square-foot colonial overlooking a half-mile of the Potomac River. Tucked behind a camouflaged curtain, he called to the Canada geese and watched them take flight.
Facchina's face is anchored by a graying handlebar mustache. He sometimes wears his khaki-colored hunting gear to the office and says his dual passions for construction and conservation are compatible because he tries to be thoughtful in his development.
More than any one building, Facchina said, his legacy is in conservation because "that's going to last forever and provide beauty in its most pristine form."
For that reason, he doesn't like to talk about a citation from the Maryland Department of the Environment this spring. Facchina workers and the general contractor for a subdivision, Hunters Brooke LLC, were found negligent for allowing sediment to run into storm-water ponds. Hunters Brooke paid the $15,000 fine, a department spokesman said.
"When you have a blinding rainstorm, you lose a little bit of silt, and we instantly attended to it," Facchina said.
One of Facchina's mottos in business and in life is: Quality is the cheapest investment you can make.
His appreciation for high-quality materials, sculpture and antiques can be traced to his Italian heritage. Facchina's grandfather did backbreaking terrazzo work, and his father, Columbus, was an accountant with a small construction business in Hyattsville. Facchina joined the trade soon after graduating from Archbishop Carroll High School.
The lobby of Facchina's Centennial Street headquarters is laid with three types of marble. Hallways are decorated with auction booty, such as bronze busts from England and furniture from the collection of the late fashion designer Gianni Versace.
A ceramic tile resting on his office bookshelf reads, "You can agree with me or you can be wrong."
Not everyone does. La Plata had never seen anything like the ornate fountain capped with the likeness of Neptune, god of the sea.
"The fountain was perceived by a lot of people as ostentatious. Here was a company that had this huge fountain out in front, and they were trying to make some kind of a statement, and nobody was quite sure what that statement was," said Del. Sally Y. Jameson (D-Charles), who welcomed the fountain as a landmark across from her office at the county Chamber of Commerce, of which she is executive director.
"If nothing else, you have to give the man credit for being Paul. He doesn't put on any airs. He has his own beliefs, and he lives by those beliefs, and you're not going to change him," she said.
Facchina plans to put another fountain in front of the next project in his downtown cluster. "Why should people have to drive up to the Mall in D.C. to see art and beauty when they can see it right here in their own hometown?" he said.
Facchina's ascent began just when he thought he was slowing down. At 40, he was exhausted from crisscrossing the country as a vice president of a national mega-construction business. He came home to La Plata in 1987 to work in real estate and consult on construction jobs. That didn't last long.
He laughs now when he remembers Miller, the town manager, kicking him out of his garage-based office. He moved the business just north of La Plata and took on subcontracts, such as replacing the platforms at Union Station between train arrivals and departures and building the Shaw and U Street Metro stations.
"They called him a pusher," said Charles McPherson, the company's chief operating officer, who has worked for Facchina from the beginning, as many of the top managers have.
"A lot of people just get to it when they get to it; there's no sense of urgency. With Paul, we need to beat the schedule and do better than what we said we were going to do."
When catastrophe struck La Plata three years ago, Facchina had already picked a spot downtown to build a larger home base. That day, the crane on his site was twisted like a corkscrew. Facchina didn't wait for direction from elected leaders. He approached them with blueprints for a temporary trailer town to ensure that businesses would not flee to Waldorf or White Plains. He had it paved, assembled and landscaped within eight days.
"He can see the big picture, and he's very adept in inspiring other people to go down a path with him," said Debra Schoonmaker, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Metro Washington, whose board Facchina chaired in 1998.
One White Plains developer, Leslie Morris, who owned property at the edge of Facchina's parking lot, was less pleased with the outcome.
He "flexed his muscles a little bit too much after the tornado," Morris said. "I feel it's almost an attempt to take over La Plata rather than work with the town."
To that, McPherson said: "There's always going to be somebody who doesn't like change. We've worked very hard to try to figure out what the community wants and provide it for them."
His supporters in the business community say Facchina's commitment to La Plata and rebuilding after the tornado gave them the confidence that the town could come back.
"We felt a sense of empowerment knowing that he had rebuilt the Pentagon, and in record time," said Nancy Gasparovic, who owns a local title company.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.