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Bob Riggle, a 33-year veteran of the Vail, Colo., public works department, used his ingenuity to turn a jobsite frustration into a new company. Photos: RTR Fabricating Inc.
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RTR Fabricating's Multi-Vise Tool II makes it fast and simple to pull together culvert bands, install water-pipe repair bands, and install bell pipe.

Bob Riggle is a 33-year veteran of the public works department in Vail, Colo. Known by his colleagues as “The Wizard,” he has a reputation for tackling problems in unique ways, with a little hard work and a lot of brain power. Years ago, Riggle decided he had had enough of wrestling with culvert bands, an onerous and time-consuming task.

“There were times when we were trying to put those bands on and it would take us an hour or even more,” said Riggle. “One day, I got tired of doing that, and a light clicked on in my head. I asked the guys in the shop if they would cover for me, because I had an idea. They said sure, so I went back to the shop and tinkered.”

Riggle's experimentation led to an ingenious device he christened the Culvert Band Installation Tool (CBIT). Designed for two- and three-hole culvert bands, the device is a handheld vise with indexing pins that fit in the band holes; it enables the user to pull the band together simply, easily, and safely. According to Riggle, the tool reduces installation to 10 to 15 minutes or less.

He and his colleagues in the public works department kept the device to themselves until his wife, JoAnn—who married Bob in 1999—stepped in.

“When we first met, I'd always hear him talk about this tool,” she said. “At the time, I had another small business. Well, after hearing people talk about it for a few years, I said to him at lunch one day, ‘Would you mind if I closed that company to focus on this?'”

Her husband agreed, and the couple got to work. They spent hours researching patents at the Denver Public Library, contacted a company that assists inventors in securing patents, and corralled a patent lawyer. The Riggles were lucky enough to live next door to a lawyer, who helped them incorporate their business.

Today, all their hard work has paid off with the birth of RTR Fabricating Inc., the Eagle, Colo., headquartered business that offers the original CBIT and two new tools. The Multi-Vise Tool I enables users to pull together water pipe repair bands, and to install bell pipe with rubber gaskets, without damaging the pipe. The brand-new Multi-Vise Tool II has the added capability of pulling pipe apart.

Because the company is fairly young, and because Riggle is a public works guy by trade and not a businessman, the process has been a learning experience for both him and his wife.

“We're flying by the seat of our pants here,” said JoAnn. “But we found a good manufacturer and we're really happy with the way it's turned out.” She handles the shipping and marketing for the products, labeling her husband the “brains” of the firm.

RTR Fabricating has started humble but business is picking up, with orders coming in from Alaska and all across the country. For more information, visit www.rtrfab.com.