Robert Horton is a fourth-generation contractor who was hired several months ago by the Scioto County Commissioners to serve as the Economic Development Director for Scioto County.
Horton was born in North Carolina, then moved to Florida when in was 15. He’s been on the road for the majority of the past 36 years, so why did he choose to throw down roots in Portsmouth?
First, Horton learned the construction industry from the time he could remember. Since he was 6 years old, he would sit beside his uncle at night and trace blue prints while his uncle was watching TV.
By the time he was 12, Horton could read a full set of blue prints.
“I could build you anything you wanted,” Horton said. “I didn’t know how to swing a hammer, but I could tell you how to build it.”
When Horton finished his schooling in Jacksonville, he hit the road. He was part of a crew that built the first 29 Food Lion shopping centers, along the east coast.
Horton eventually went into business for himself in Charlotte, North Carolina, along with two business partners. They had development throughout Charlotte, Atlanta and Myrtle Beach.
However, after the events of 9/11 and with health of his father deteriorating, Horton returned to Florida to stay with his dad. Horton took approximately nine months off while he aided his father. Shortly after his passing, Horton decided he was ready to return to work.
Horton once again hit the road, working for a high school friend that was based out of Jacksonville. He constructed several warehouses before being part of a crew that built the worlds largest Lexus Dealership in south Florida for southeast Toyota. The showroom was valued at $51 million.
After Horton finished building the dealership, he hit the road again. This time he was working on projects for the railroad.
“Working for the railroad, it’s not easy No. 1, but you learn a corporate structure like no other,” Horton said.
After his railroad days were over, Horton got a job in Russell, Kentucky. He built the new, state-of-the-art fueling facility for CSX.
The Russell project lasted about a year and nine months.
“We met a lot of good people here,” Horton said.
His wife, Lyuba Horton, at this point, had been traveling with him about six and a 1/2 years.
“I’d been waiting, because she still likes South Florida. I was done with South Florida,” Horton said.
In the six and a half years of Horton and his wife traveling together, they had been in seven states. During that time, Horton had been waiting for his wife to find an area she wanted to call home.
“When we get here, we meet these people and we fell in love with this place,” Horton said. “She fell in love with this place.”
The last month Horton was scheduled to be in the area, him and his wife were eating at the Scioto Ribber. On their way home, they were staring at a sitting sun and crossing the river when Horton’s wife finally decided.
“I’m telling you, she said,’ Of all the places we’ve ever been, I’m having a hard time leaving this one,’” Horton said.
Horton pulled off the road and acknowledged that he felt the same way. Then he promptly asked her, “Do you want to make this your home?”
With one confirmation, the Horton’s traveling days became a distant memory.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1927, or on Twitter @crslone