By Steve Novotney
He loves a lot of things, this kid from Weirton does. He loves his office building; where he eats lunch; his native city and the village in which he lives; his family; his mentors; making something work; and the progress and attitude he finds himself surrounded by each and every day.
Wil Turani is the director of the global operations center for Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, an international law firm that selected Wheeling for its location in 2001. Orrick, in fact, worked directly with Wheeling’s city manager while searching the world for the perfect location for this facility, and Turani was the city manager.
The firm picked Wheeling and then made Turani its second hire. Initially, his concentration focused on re-purposing the former Wheeling Stamping structure in Centre Wheeling, a building that had fallen into disrepair and was targeted for demolition.
But Turani listened to advice offered, and began a six-month countdown for the wrecking ball to arrive. Instead, Orrick was born.
The 48-year-old was born in Weirton, and he graduated from Weir High in 1984. He chose West Liberty University, was involved with student government, was very active in the campus’ Greek life as a member of the Gamma Sigma Tau fraternity, and still graduated in 1988 with a degree in political science.
He met the love of his life, Tracey, on that hilltop campus, and the couple will celebrate their 25th anniversary this April. They have two children: 22-year-old Nicholas, a WVU grad who is now employed by Catchpoint Digital (http://www.catchpointdigital.com/); and 15-year-old Anna, a sophomore at Wheeling Park High School.
He loves his dog, Chip, too.
Turani dreamed of becoming an attorney in his younger years, but his college experience changed his mind. That’s when he realized he wished to be part of grassroots public service, so he began his professional career climbing the necessary ladders within Hancock County government before accepting the position as Wheeling’s assistant city manager under Jim Curnes. Once Curnes departed, Turani applied, interviewed for the city manager’s position, and was hired in 1996 at the age of 30.
And he loved that job, but five years later he found himself infatuated with a new opportunity with Orrick. Since, he’s had everything he wanted in a job: a great environment; few issues with employee turnover; a stack of superb resumes; consistent expansion and growth; a biz-causal dress code; great people; and a pretty cool view from his unassuming office.
He also adores the fact the Orrick firm has donated more than $200,000 into the Wheeling community, including the sponsorship of ReInvent Wheeling’s “Show of Hands” events.
Turani, though, realizes the day may come when he is faced with a “stay-or-go” decision, but for now he will continue reporting for his duties in a historic building where he knows everyone’s name and what they do – specifically.
He is a self-admitted cheerleader, and he loves squelching naysayers. In fact, that’s what he loves the most.
Novotney: You started working with Orrick in late 2001. Tell me how that came about.
Turani: I started in December that year, and I was the second employee hired. One of my jobs at that time was to get this building built. You had to have vision with this building. When I was with the city I was a bit embarrassed by this building.
We did something different in city government. We land banked. That’s unheard of. You don’t land bank and spend money without an end result, but we did that thanks to Mayor Jack Lipphardt and some of the members on council. So we purchased this building, and thank God we had RED (Regional Economic Development Partnership) and Don Rigby.
But we had plans when I was with the city to tear this down, and there was another development that was going to happen here which was not even close to the impact of Orrick. It was tearing this down and putting up basically a steel-strand building which is not good. That was until we had a public meeting at Chip West’s place up on the hill – there were a ton of people there — and David McKinley stood up and said, “Do no harm. For six months, just do nothing. See what happens. If nothing happens in six months, by all means, we should tear it down.”
And wouldn’t you know it; within that time period here comes Orrick, and they save this beautiful 100-year-old building.
We started with 73 jobs, and today we stand with over 325. It was saved by waiting and being patient. At that time we were starving as a city government for something to happen here so we were ready to do anything, but those words of wisdom from McKinley actually saved it. That was it. We started the timer. We were on the clock because we had a development coming in. It wasn’t super. It wasn’t what it is today, but we saw something coming in that was just something. It wasn’t an Orrick.
Novotney: How did Orrick come to Wheeling?
Turani: They did a search. They had a development arm, and Orrick wanted a global operations center. They started with the world, and they ended up in the United States. It was the vision of Ralph Baxter and our COO. They asked, “Why are we in all of these high-cost locations with staff? We could do it somewhere else and have the same or even better service.
That was the vision, and they searched this country extensively. The finalists were Wheeling, Huntington, Charleston, Nashville, and San Antonio. Those were the five. Ralph, of course, grew up 45 minutes from here, but he’s not going to his board saying that they were coming to Wheeling because you can’t make a mistake in this industry. But Wheeling ended up being the choice.
The real estate people loved this building because it has 88,000 square feet, 22,000 square feet per floor, and the proximity to the Pittsburgh International Airport was huge. Without that, Orrick is not here.
But we had to prove we had the talent. We had to prove to Orrick that we had the talent, and not only for one year but for the future. We brought Orrick a stack of resumes. People wanted to come back home to work in every position – from IT, to finance, to everything we did here at the beginning. We referred to it as the “Mom Network” because when we first opened up, moms were calling their sons and their daughters and telling them that there were jobs here, and they wanted their kids and their grandkids home.
And we proved it, and Orrick signed on the dotted line. And those first 73 proved it. We had our naysayers all over the world. The London Times skewered us. Skewered us, but we overcame that, and here we are today with more than four-times the employees and the fastest-growing office in the firm.
Novotney: So the “move home” campaign in Wheeling actually started 14 years ago, and not just recently?
Turani: It did, and I still get resumes and phone calls every day, and I want to hire everybody. That’s the problem; I want to hire everyone because I want them and their kids to come here.
It’s worked well, and today I estimate that 60 percent of our workforce is from West Virginia, and the rest are from Ohio and Pennsylvania. We have a commuter van that brings people in from Western Pennsylvania because we try to make it as easy as possible, and we are one of the most preferred employers in this region because we foster a great environment and celebrate everything and everyone we can while providing a great service for the firm. We work hard.
It’s the people here who make it. I’m so proud of our people here. Wheeling, West Virginia, has a global operations center for an international law firm. That’s amazing.
Novotney: You had worked for county and city government and then for Orrick. How did that come to be?
Turani: I had applied for the position. I had three interviews, and my last one was at the Pittsburgh International Airport, and it was on Halloween. I’ll never forget it. I was happy at the city, but I felt I had to take advantage of that opportunity, and I was fortunate enough to be offered the position.
I gave notice to the city, and I took no time off in between. My last day with the city of Wheeling was on a Friday, and my first day with Orrick was the following Monday. I went to New York to start my training, and he coolest thing ever happened; I go to New York for the first time and I’ll be damned if they didn’t have a nameplate for me on the door to my office.
Novotney: If you would have had an IPhone at that time, would you have taken a picture of it?
Turani: You’re damn right I would have, and I would have posted it everywhere!
That’s a perfect example of the culture we have at Orrick, and it’s not just here in Wheeling. That’s why people want to stay here. From the top down, the culture here is fantastic.
Novotney: From time to time, we in the Upper Ohio Valley hear that some companies have issues with the quality of the workforce, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue here at Orrick.
Turani: Not at all. I think the worst thing I can say is that it takes us 30 to 60 days to hire someone for an open position, but that’s mostly because of the number of resumes I receive when we do have an open position.
We get talent here, and then they don’t want to leave. People really want to stay here, and that’s something I am very proud of.
And there’s talent here. A lot of talent.
Novotney: In Wheeling, there is a constant wish for “more.” What do you think could work as well as Orrick and Williams Lea are in Wheeling?
Turani: Williams Lea started here in our building, and now they are at the Stones Center and growing constantly. It can happen again, and it can be any professional services company.
We have the talent here, and people from here are consistently coming home. Not having the talent can’t be the excuse anymore.
Novotney: Orrick is the sponsor of ReInvent Wheeling’s “Show of Hands” event by donating $1,000 for the winning presenter for each event. The company has also decided to continue that sponsorship. Tell me why.
Turani: It’s our spirit. I went to that first event and was blown away.
Steve Johnston brought this concept to us so we talked about it. It was a no-brainer.
That’s the enthusiasm that we want. That’s our culture. If we can help out the city by doing that, it can only grow and prosper. I love the “Show of Hands.” It’s the entrepreneurial spirit we need here. If we don’t have other Orricks or Williams Leas or other large companies, that’s how we grow our city … and we grow it T
Look at Centre Market. I love walking down there, and we take people from around the country there, and they are always impressed with it. It’s a great place to be, and “Show of Hands” represents the true Orrick spirit. That’s why it was an easy decision to sponsor it again for the next year.
This town is motivated again, and I love it.
Novotney: Many folks wish for the development that has happened in Centre Market to extend into the downtown district. How does that happen?
People drive everything.
I would like to see the area around Williams Lea perk up a bit, and I think it will. I love the renovations on Market Plaza, and I think that’s going to be a force once it’s complete.
People drive services, and that’s what we need here. I’m confident about this city and the future of the downtown. There’s a feel here in Wheeling right now, and I love the vibe. I love Wheeling, and for those who say it’s hard to do business here, that’s ridiculous.
You know, I love that Orrick is a big player in town, but it will happen again. More companies will come into Wheeling, and that’s because of our success, the success of Williams Lea, and the successes of several other companies.
Novotney: Will Orrick continue to expand?
Turani: We hope so. We are still the place where they will hire all staff positions. If it doesn’t need to sit next to someone in New York, San Francisco or L.A., it will come here. We’re growing in fives and tens now. We have added departments here in the last year, and they are growing and prospering. So I do see growth, but I don’t know if it will be enough to where we have to add more space. That’s possible, but that hasn’t been determined. If that does happen, we’re ready.
This firm survives on the backs of these wonderful people from the Ohio Valley. These people are great people. Their work ethic is unmatched. I’d put these people up against any other group from anywhere. The work ethic in this valley is different. It’s just different. They come to work, they work very hard, and then they go home, and all they want is a fair pay, to be treated well, and that’s why our retention rate is as high as it is.
Novotney: Should mothers continue encouraging their children to send you their resumes?
Turani: Orrick.com. Yes. They should do that. We have a variety of positions here. We have anything from human resources to pension administration systems to billing, and it goes on.
Novotney: You love what you do, don’t you?
Turani: I do, and I am very proud of what we accomplished as a group. It’s not just me. It’s everyone, from the original 73 to the 300-plus people we have now.
Novotney: You have said that people don’t want to leave here, but what about Wil Turani? Will he ever leave Orrick?
Turani: Well, you know there’s always the time, and when that time comes, I will walk out of here with my head held high. But I think that day will arrive.
Like anybody, I am motivated to do more. That’s part of me. I want to do more, and I’d love for it to be here but if another opportunity comes, well … .
I love learning new things – I like the challenge of it – so if something comes that peaks my interest and it’s in the best interest of my family, then yeah, we’ll take a look. But Orrick is a great place to work because of the people, from the top to the bottom. It’s a joy to come to work every morning. I love it here.
(Photography by Steve Novotney)
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