"Let's take the convertible," Bob Miller said. "It's a nice day."
Bob is taking me out for a ride. He's showing me his empire, a collection of mostly industrial space around Chittenden County.
Bob, 78, still comes to work shortly after 5 a.m. and leaves at 5 p.m. Work is his hobby.
"If we don't have space, we build space," he said.
He has 40 buildings amounting to 2 million square feet of building space all over the state of Vermont.
Call him Robert, Bob or Bobby, he says he's a regular guy. The corporate headquarters for Robert E. Miller Development is in an office not much bigger than a ranch house, a paradox considering he's the largest industrial building owner in the state of Vermont.
"I'm a common man; I haven't changed," Bob said.
He knows what it's like to be poor. Growing up in Rutland, his dad drank too much and couldn't hold a job. His mother raised five kids and worked. They were constantly kicked out of their apartment for not paying the rent. Bob figures he moved more than 30 times by the age of 17.
"I've always risen to the occasion that I can do anything I want to do and I was always out to prove it," Bob said.
Bob was born with a mangled arm. The doctors removed it shortly after his birth. Nothing seemed to stop him. He became a teen mechanic. Then he and a buddy went to California to make it rich. He failed.
"We watched the Easter parade in San Diego, California. We had six cents in our pocket and hitchhiked home," he said.
Bob took a job as a mechanical draftsman in Connecticut, but Vermont was home. He landed a position in Chittenden County, and years later started his own company.
"So I started a company called New England Air Systems," he said.
They supplied the duct work for companies like IBM. He made tons of money; he figured he could have retired at age 35. But he had business flops, too.
Reporter Joe Carroll: What was your biggest loser?
Bob Miller: Probably the incinerator in Rutland.
Joe Carroll: How much money did you figure you lost?
Bob Miller: I stopped counting at a $1,473,000.
After environmental outcry, the plant was shut down.
But Bob had more successes than failures. With much of the money he's earned, he's given away a good share of it. He estimates he and his wife, Holly, have given away $25 million-$30 million in land, buildings and in cash.
"That's a lot of money, that's a lot of money," he said.
The most recent gift is a warehouse and 15 acres of property in Williston donated to Fletcher Allen Health Care. It's valued at $13 million-- the largest gift the hospital has ever received. The donation kick starts a new project, building a new addition to the hospital.
"It's the greatest pleasure one can have if you do it," Bob said.
A guy who made his millions taking chances and believing in himself with a little less money in the bank account, but who's richer for it.
Bob and Holly have three children. Two of them work at the business with their dad.
PO Box 4508