When Christopher Pacitto drills deep for soil samples, he knows exactly what he's looking at because he's been down there himself.
The Fort Myers engineer is an advanced cave diver, exploring Florida's underground caverns where few people have ventured. Pacitto says cave diving lets him see the various geological features below ground that he analyzes when his geotechnical equipment bores into the earth.
“I get to see it from the inside,” he says with a smile.
But Pacitto hasn't had much time for scuba diving lately because he formed Velocity Engineering Services last year, a company that provides geotechnical, environmental and building inspection and services.
Pacitto, 37, formed his new company just as the economic recovery got underway. “Right now, there's more work than any of us can handle,” says Pacitto. “Everyone is just slammed.”
Pacitto, who was a Business Observer 40 under 40 in 2011, left his position as branch manager in Fort Myers for GFA International in June 2013 and launched Velocity the following month. “I was very surprised at how quickly work started coming in,” he says. “By the end of my second day, I had a project.”
That first project turned out to be a sinkhole in the Pelican Bay development in Naples. “I do a lot of sinkhole work,” says Pacitto, who's carved out a niche in that business.
Velocity has also landed work for community associations, helping them with a broad range of services such as evaluating roofing and paving jobs. Pacitto's wife, Michelle, is a community association manager, and Pacitto himself has served on the board of a community association.
Meanwhile, Pacitto estimates as much as 80% of Velocity's geotechnical work today is due diligence for real estate investors. “All of our clients are looking to buy property,” he says. That includes both business expansions and residential real estate developments.
The economic recovery for engineering firms in Southwest Florida began in earnest in 2012. “It really was a fantastic year in the business,” Pacitto says.
Pacitto is well known for his networking skills, frequently attending real estate and engineering industry functions. “That's where my success has come from,” he says. “I really sell myself. I love that stuff.”
Velocity recently moved into new offices in the Gateway area of Fort Myers and has two employees. Pacitto says there are plans to hire more people to handle a growing pipeline of work. “Funding the growth hasn't been an issue yet,” he says.'
Blast from the past
Here's a look back at some of Christopher Pacitto's answers to the questionnaire published in the Business Observer's 2011 40 under 40 issue.
Birthplace: Norwood, Mass.
Best place to network: Real Estate Investment Society monthly luncheons.
All-time favorite book: “Caverns Measureless to Man,” by the late Sheck Exley. This book chronicles the progression of cave diving in Florida, including the discovery and exploration of numerous cave systems and the fatal mistakes that formed the basis for safe cave diving procedures.
If I had a magic wand, I'd: Make the politicians in Washington put aside their personal agendas and work together to fix the problems and address the challenges that are facing our nation.
Book you're reading now: “The taming of the Slough.” This book details the history of the Peacock Springs cave system in Luraville, Fla. It begins with the first scuba dives in this cave in the late 1950s and describes the exploration and mapping of the system through the 1990s.