Fred Altmann is a unique character; unassuming, friendly, obviously an avid outdoorsman and extremely active just shy of 68 years old. I met Mr. Altmann for lunch at Yosh’s Unique Deli in South Meadows (I might need to write a post about them soon, the Tri-Tip Sandwich on Dutch Crunch was awesome) to hear his story. After talking with him, chances are most Reno residents have run across one of Fred’s companies in the past 30 years: Altmann Construction, Altmann Ott Homes, or today’s Better Green Building. His current venture, Better Green Building Company focuses on green construction practices, renewable energy and energy efficient buildings in Reno and Lake Tahoe.
35 years ago Mr. Altmann got his start in construction after he and his father built Fred’s (and his wife Jill’s) first house in the Santa Cruz mountains. Fred said, “It was a disaster of an experience, but you know, I really realized that I loved working with my hands and I enjoyed seeing the whole idea come together.” Growing up Fred’s father had been a Ranger in up in Lassen National Forrest, then a Creamer in Oakland, and finally became an inspector and builder in the Bay Area. “We did everything in that house, you know; concrete, framing, plumbing… I plumbed that whole house… everything except for electrical.” With the passion for working with his hands and the stable backing of a school-teacher’s salary, Fred and some of his school teaching buddies began building one house each summer before return to teach school in the fall.
Fred and his wife Jill were introduced the Reno area when they took a year to live and ski in Alpine Meadows. “I had really been getting the itch to go skiing all the time and I figured we’d better get it out of our systems. So Jill and I moved up to Alpine Meadows.” Fred says he was working nights at Lakeside Pizza in Tahoe City, and coaching skiing during the day. By that spring Fred and Jill’s neighbor in Alpine introduced them to the budding and brand-new Caughlin Ranch development in Reno.
“Believe it or not, I sold that first house that I built in Caughlin Ranch to Chuck Mathewson.” That’s Chuck Mathewson of IGT fame and fortune. “Our concept in Caughlin Ranch was a completely new thing; nobody was doing that here.” While the building industry hasn’t exactly been hot the past few years, Fred says he working on some new concepts for Reno once again.
At heart Fred Altmann told me he is an educator and a craftsman. He enjoys working with his hands and seeing the fruits of his labors. Even this week you find Fred, at 67 year old, out in his backyard digging with his backhoe, building his new garden boxes, hammering away as his nails boards together. Fred says he believes in proving a concept on his own, at his house before taking it out and building it for others.
As we left the restaurant, Fred pondered, “You know, I wonder what would have happened if I would have stayed in education?” Well the truth is he never really left. Today Mr. Altmann’s greatest passion if for K-12 education in Northern Nevada. Fred spent many summers in his younger days teaching political science and history in Europe. Fred later told me he is a 7-year board member and past president of The Education Alliance of Washoe County. Also, recently Fred has become a founding member of the Washoe K-12 Education Foundation. This week he heads to Spain to visit with his son (a professor in Zurich) and grandchildren.
If you are interested in learning more about Fred or Fred’s company, they are online at BetterGreenBuilding.com.
For my complete disclosure; I have been helping Fred out for the past few weeks with online marketing and am taking a course called “Personal Branding” at the University of Nevada, Reno. While I am doing my best to portray as accurate and unbiased of a post as possible, please know that for this particular post, I am not a completely independent, unbiased 3rd party to Better Green Building Company. I did figure, however, that this would be the easiest starting point for this new blog about Locally Owned Reno Businesses and Entrepreneurs. With all future posts I intend to present businesses with whom I am completely unrelated. – Dan Herr (19-Apr-2012).