April 21 2008 12:00 AM

Paige Electric


As an immigrant teen-ager, Vince Nolletti arrived in the United States barely able to speak English. He picked up the language in junior high school, went on to college, where he earned his degree, and now, as they say, is living the American dream.

Sounds like many of the stories that took place in the mid 1800s to the early 1900s, except that this story began in 1960.

Vince Nolletti was born in Italy, where his grandfather, father and mother were butchers. Actually, by the time Nolletti was born, his grandfather had immigrated to the United States, because he was not able to find work in Italy after World War I. Nolletti's father experienced the same situation after World War II. In order to earn a living to support his family, he went to work in Venezuela and sent money home. Nolletti's mother was left to run their butcher shop in Italy.

Fortunately, in 1960, Nolletti's grandfather was able to bring the family together by helping them immigrate to the United States, where Nolletti completed his schooling. He enrolled in City College, New York (CCNY) and in 1971 earned a degree in electrical and electronic engineering.

After graduating, he took a job as an electrical engineer with the Johns Manville (JM) Company in their irrigation division, working on their decoder systems. In 1973, Johns Manville bought Buckner, and Nolletti went into sales, selling Buckner irrigation systems and JM pipe in the Northeast.

The irrigation market was very different in the early '70s than it is today. People in the West or Southwest knew that they had to install irrigation to ensure plant growth; those parts of the country couldn't depend on Mother Nature to water the landscape. Other parts of the country, at that time, totally depended on rainfall. However, golf courses throughout the country needed irrigation and were the prime prospects for irrigation systems.

By 1976, Nolletti had become JM's international salesman. After that stint, he moved to the company?s headquarters in Denver, Colorado, to take on the position of marketing manager for controllers and valves.

The ?70s were heady times in the irrigation arena?the market was expanding. Buckner was an old, established brand but under the JM banner it had not shown appreciable growth, so Johns Manville sold the company back to Jim Coson, who had sold Buckner to JM only a few years earlier. Nolletti was asked to become Coson's assistant, so he moved to Fresno, California, and set up home.

Buckner had a brass foundry in Fresno, and was known for its valves and other brass products as well as the controller it had developed years before. Buckner was purchased again by Lyle Diversified sometime around 1986, and Nolletti was appointed as its president.

In this period, however, irrigation manufacturers were in transition. Plastics began showing up in the market. PVC became the accepted material for pipe; plastic sprinkler heads began replacing brass heads, and valves made of plastic were becoming the product of choice in the market. In time, plastic replaced most of the brass heads and valves, as well as galvanized pipe.

It was under these conditions that Nolletti ran the Buckner Company. Seven years later he was fired. So what do you do when you're mid-life through your career? Positions that utilized his talents and skill set were few and far between in those days; still he had a family to support and feed.

Nolletti looked around and, finding nothing available in the irrigation field, he decided to open a neighborhood hardware store. Starting with a lot of vim, vigor and enthusiasm, he focused on becoming the entrepreneur everyone dreams of.

Retail wasn't what Nolletti thought it was cracked up to be, and big box stores were starting to move in, so he began thinking of an exit strategy. What makes some people fight the battle, while others just walk away from it all, is what separates the Nollettis of this world from the rest.

Maybe he remembered when he was poor, when he came to this country, when he got his first job . . . whatever it was, Nolletti was not about ready to call it quits.

Fortunately, Paige Electric was looking for a salesperson on the west coast and Di DiRienzo, one of the principles of Paige, recruited Nolletti. A horizontally-integrated manufacturer of wire for landscape lighting and irrigation, as well as wire for the electrical industry, Paige Electric has been doing this for the past 45 to 50 years. Chomping at the bit, Nolletti rolled up his sleeves and went to work. Paige Electric has grown substantially since those years. He became a partner just a few years after joining Paige, and today he is the largest shareholder in the company.

Vince Noletti is married to Marianne, his wife of 33 years; they have one daughter, Katrina, 29. Just to keep it in the family, Katrina also works for Paige Electric.

So what does Nolletti like to do in his off time? He likes to race in autocross, and cook, but says, "Well, I don't know if I really have much off time. I love to work -- I feel a sense of accomplishment -- but I also love my family."

When I look back over Nolletti?s career, I see that he took the blows so he could do it his way.