Energy forward: Rob Smith receives Shafer Award

Apr. 25—SAEGERTOWN — Feedback and energy are what push Rob Smith forward.

"Almost like a vampire I feed off people and their energy," Smith told the crowd in accepting the Gov. Raymond P. Shafer Award for Distinguished Community Service on Wednesday evening. "Combine that with my never-ending desire to always be building things and that's me."

Smith, 72, a Meadville resident since the early 1990s, formally was presented with the award at the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce's Diamond Awards dinner in Saegertown. He was named recipient of the award earlier this month.

Started in 1991 and named for former Gov. Raymond P. Shafer, the award recognizes an individual who has made a positive impact on the quality of life in western Crawford County through volunteer service. It's sponsored by Allegheny College, the Shafer Law Firm and the Chamber of Commerce.

Smith was one of the founders of today's Acutec Precision Aerospace Inc. in Meadville back in 1988. He returned to Meadville in 1993, taking over ownership of Acutec in 1994. In 2015, he retired from the business and became its executive chairman.

During his more than 30 years in Meadville, Smith has been a business leader, a member and leader on multiple community boards, and a mentor to other businesses and organizations.

A 1973 graduate of Allegheny, he served multiple terms on the college's Board of Trustees from 2001-22 including chairman from 2013-16. He's been a trustee emeritus since 2023.

Smith also has served on the board of Women's Services Inc. since 2010 and its treasurer since 2021; Meadville Medical Center's finance and investment committees since 2014; the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County's nominating committee since 2014; the Academy Theatre Board's finance committee since 2020; and the Community Development Corp. Steering Committee since 2023. In the 1990s, he was elected to two four-year terms on Crawford Central School Board, serving as president during his second four-year term.

Since his retirement from Acutec, Smith and his wife, Nancy, started RAN Investments, a company that has redeveloped multiple buildings in Meadville's downtown.

Its current project is developing Cussewago Square in Meadville's Fifth Ward. Cussewago Square is the former Race Street Lumber Co./Meadville Distillery property on 7 acres between Spring and Race streets.

Smith told the crowd of more than 230 on Wednesday that Meadville is a great place to do things "because in our area there is instant feedback, good or bad."

"It's a wonderful thing," he added. "Let's celebrate this as many communities don't have this."

Smith said everybody in the area "needs to continue to get involved and stay involved. The Meadville area has so much potential."

The area is poised to thrive, according to Smith, and those those who complain about virtually everything should be ignored and people should "get to doing."

As an example, he mentioned comments about the Cussewago Square project that have been posted to Facebook.

"A woman wrote, 'Why would anything be done in the Fifth Ward?'," Smith said. "I answered, 'Why not?' To the naysayers, the answer should always be, 'why not.'"

Smith called on the crowd to emulate the school crossing guard positioned at North Main and Baldwin streets near First District Elementary School. Smith passes her appointed post about 8 a.m. every weekday on the way to his office.

"She is there every morning, sleet, hail, rain or sunshine," Smith said in referencing Elisabeth Lelko. "The conditions can be pretty bad, but there she is and every day she is smiling, laughing, hugging kids and parents, and moving that traffic, and those kids.

"That's the way we should all be," he added. "We adopt her spirit no matter what the weather and there is nothing we can't do."

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at