In 1996, when the U.S. military decided it was in the defense business and not the housing business, a door opened for companies interested in helping house the military. Rhode Islander John Picerne walked through that door. Today, his company, Picerne Military Housing, employs 850 across the country, 80 of those in East Greenwich, at Picerne's corporate headquarters on South County Trail.
Picerne has manages 25,000 housing units nationwide. Oddly, none of them are in Rhode Island.
The biggest miliary bases are in places like Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
"The Department of Defense's expertise really is providing a military defense for our country," said John Picerne in a recent interview. "They had a backlog of construction needs and fixes."
Picerne moved in to fill that void and has continued to grow.
Picerne builds or takes over a property and prepares it for rent. "We're a service provider," he said. There are fewer than 10 companies that manage military housing on the Picerne scale.
It's a surprise, perhaps, to find a company with such a big national footprint headquartered in little old East Greenwich. While Picerne may not have any military housing properties in Rhode Island, John Picerne himself is bullish on the Ocean State.
"It's the quality of life," he said, conceding the business climate isn't perfect.
"Rhode Island could be more business friendly. It makes up for that in the quality of life," Picerne said.
Recently, the Corvias Group was established, as an umbrella for the miliary housing arm and the newer higher ed arm.
Picerne, who was born in Cranston, is happy in East Greenwich and has no plans to move the company.