Jack Barr is a Steelworker and U.S. Army Veteran.
He’s also keeping it reel. Literally.
Barr, a 30-year Steelworker at USW Local 7139-05 in Washington, Pennsylvania, took advantage of his ICD benefit to start up his own fly fishing business – Raise the Barr Guide Service.
There’s nothing fishy about it.
“We work in a business that isn’t the most secure,” Barr explained. “In my 30 years in steel I’ve seen the ups and downs to the point where you worked and couldn’t keep up to where you were just hoping you’d have a job. You have to have something to fall back on.
“There’s people at the mill who work 40-50 years and that’s all they know – and that’s perfectly fine – but sometimes you’ll hear, ‘Hey, did you hear Bob died?’ I didn’t want to be that guy. I wanted to educate myself and find another outlet. The ICD program was the light at the end of the tunnel for me.”
Barr used the ICD benefit to attend the “Fly Fishing Guide School” in Bryson City, North Carolina. He trained under Mac Brown, one of the best fly fishing instructors in the country. He said it would have never happened without having the ICD benefit in his back pocket.
“The ICD program was a brilliant idea,” Barr said. “I know it provided a great opportunity for me to pursue something I wanted to do.
“You can’t get stuck to one thing, and in today’s world, you have to educate yourself a little bit. Why not educate yourself in something you’re passionate about?”
Barr is a second-generation Steelworker at Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI). His grandfather, also Jack, worked at the former Jessop Steel plant before it became ATI-Washington. He knew he wanted to expand his horizons and start his own business when he retired, so he turned a fun hobby into a money-making reality.
“We have a passion in life besides getting up at 5 a.m. in the morning, getting off work at 4, and rushing home to cut the grass,” Barr said. “I know there’s more to life than just work – don’t get me wrong it’s a great place to provide a great living – but there comes a time when you have to do something for yourself, to have that piece of mind. You have to take the time to chase your dreams. You can get stuck in a rut if you don’t.”
Barr’s business, www.rtbguideservice.com, has been running since January. He’s not a one-man band, either, as his wife, Kim, and daughter, Anastasia, are just as important to the family business. Kim is in charge of day-to-day operations as the manager of business development, while Anastasia is in charge of marketing and communications and taking care of his Facebook page and website.
The business teaches anything from basic casting to equipment set-up to getting individuals or groups out on the water.
“I work pretty much in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the tributaries of the Great Lakes, but I’ll do anything from a retreat to taking groups or families to a park to learn how to cast or fly rods. I pretty much touch on every phase of it.”
Barr said a recent outing changed his life and made him proud that he chased his dream.
“A friend of the family just put on a youth fishing day; a guy donated part of a private creek and we put 1,800 trout in this three-quarter-mile section of the creek for 40-some kids to fish.
“No adults, just kids ages 5-15, and I showed them how to fly fish and then they actually went out on the water and caught fish. Seeing the joy in their faces was honestly one of the best days I’ve ever had.”
Business is booming and Barr is just thankful for using his ICD benefit on his educational journey.
Barr also knows good things come to those who bait.
“I honestly needed another direction in my life,” he said. “ICD provided that for me. I pursued a life’s passion and started up my own profitable business.”