In 1989, Herb Akers worked for an 85-year-old company that filed bankruptcy. Among many projects, the company built banks.
Scratching his chin, Herb Akers thought, ‘I can do that.’ Working out of the front seat of his car with his briefcase beside him, he started Akers Inc.
Akers Inc., located in the Clinton Industrial Park, builds banks, savings institutions and credit unions. Although Herb Akers is “in the retirement mode,” his son, Mark Akers, 38, runs the company.
“It’s a niche market,” said Mark Akers, a graduate of Mississippi State University. “It’s highly specialized to build and design financial institutions. We take care of the architectural end, and we have a construction management company. We put the whole package together.”
Once a bank contacts the group to build or renovate a branch, the project is developed in three phases. The initial phase comprises a growth projection study.
“We can tell a banker exactly how big it needs to be built, correct mix of staff, work flow efficiency and the asset size projected 10 years down the road,” Mark Akers said.
“If we build it too big, and there’s a part of the building not being used, it becomes non-profitable. Someone may stick a desk and chair in a corner, but if it’s not necessary, it’s a waste. Our job is to make efficient use of the space,” he said.
“We can also tell when the branch is added or remodeled, how long it will be before there’s a profit. We’ll even determine whether a building should be built or not,” he added.
Part of the study includes not only finding a location, but also proposing the best site within the location, he said.
The second phase involves providing more details on site and floor plans and material samples, and submitting a completion schedule and a cost estimate. The third phase is the construction phase — from initial documents to final inspection, he said.
In 1997, about 20 projects were completed. At a given time, three to seven projects are in the mill. About 70% of their work comes from adding or remodeling existing buildings, Mark Akers said.
“We have the flexibility to take on small projects,” he said. “A lot of companies won’t take projects under $750,000.”
Akers Inc. employs 20 people. Four are sales representatives, three are administrative and the remainder are designers or construction managers in the production department. One unusual employee benefit is a paid membership to Mississippi College’s Healthplex, he said.
Most of the firm’s work is subcontracted, Mark Akers said.
“I don’t have bulldozers or crews,” he said. “If we get a job in Louisiana, we bid it locally to people who hopefully do business with the local banks and credit unions.”
What differentiates his company from competitors is “that we show our customers every invoice, and we work for overhead and profit. We don’t mark up anything,” Mark Akers said. “The only thing that’s negotiable is our fee.”
For a moment, Mark Akers glanced out the window of the conference room.
Beyond the window was a basketball goal. The former basketball player, who stands at 6 feet, two inches, said, “sometimes we like to play a little ball for inspiration and stress relief.”
“About two years ago, the philosophy of the company changed,” he said, pointing to a chalkboard with a lengthy prayer list. “I was saved, and I wanted us to be a Christian company that was ethical and honors God. I think the construction industry is crying out for a company like ours.”
Akers Inc. builds in Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, and plans to expand in Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, and beyond just building banks. A total turnkey operation, Mark Akers said, “we’re ready to branch out.”