After his parents divorced when he was 9, Pinto and his mother lived in a Boston housing project. Valuing the power of education, his mother strongly encouraged his academics.
Before entering sixth grade, he and his mother worked to get him admitted to an all-boys, six-year liberal arts school in downtown Boston. Every day, he navigated multiple trolleys and subways alone to and from school.
“That was my world,” Pinto recalled.
An interest in drafting and architecture led him to a technical high school, and then he set his sights on colleges with accredited architecture programs that he could possibly afford.
When the acceptance letters arrived, with an annual tuition at the time of $660, plus scholarships to help, he chose the University of Florida.
“I hopped on a Trailways bus to go the 36 hours to Gainesville,” Pinto said.
He became the first in his extended family to attend college, and he worked multiple part-time jobs year-round to make it possible.
In the summer of 1966, Pinto took a four-year service detour in Germany as a radio traffic analyst in the U.S. Army. After returning to Gainesville, Fla., he completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in building construction.
In 1974, he joined Atlanta-based Ira H. Hardin Company, founded in 1946 by its namesake.
“As the developers were growing Atlanta, Hardin grew with it,” Pinto said. “We were a developer’s contractor.”
In the early ’80s, the company evolved into Hardin Construction, and in the year 2000, the company moved from its original Atlanta headquarters and purchased a 100,000-square-foot office building in the Wildwood Office complex off of Powers Ferry Road.
Pinto became president and chief operating officer in 2003, and the company prospered — until 2008.
“Our primary work went into cardiac arrest … there were not any office buildings, shopping malls, or hotels,” Pinto said. “We have lived through other downturns and recessions, and the major difference is that in prior recessions, there were geographic areas that were better than others. This recession was everywhere and everything.”
Eventually, the company had to cut 25 percent of the salaried workforce.
“We actually didn’t know how to do it because we had never done it before,” he said. “It was a difficult time.”
Pinto said the two market segments that have kept the company’s construction going are student housing and shopping malls.
Hardin’s gem in Cobb County is the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, completed in 2007. The company also built the City of Marietta’s public safety complex and the Hilton Atlanta/Marietta Hotel and Conference Center.
The company has 275 employees and offices in Atlanta, Austin, Orlando, Raleigh and Tampa; and a portfolio of projects in 29 states. Revenues in 2012 were in the low $300 million range, but Pinto expects 2013 revenues to hit the mid- to upper $300 million range. Pinto and Brantley Barrow, chairman, are the majority owners of the privately-held company, along with six partners within the firm.
Pinto has a reputation for being “focused on the details” and is known for his dry wit. He’s also still passionate about the value of education.
“I want to try and help people grow to be the best they can be,” Pinto said.
The YMCA of Metro Atlanta has long been one of Pinto’s philanthropic efforts.
Dan Pile, senior vice president of operations of the YMCA, described Pinto as “a very humble and thoughtful leader who is highly respected by his volunteer peers.”
“Bill is obviously known in the construction world. I know him as someone who is also committed to a higher calling as expressed by his support,” Pile said.