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Attention to management, adaptability keep Jackson businessman

Louisiana native Bill Hogg one of Mississippi’s biggest fans

Even after 60-plus years of founding and running companies, Jackson fireball Bill Hogg is still listening and learning, wheeling and dealing, and teaching others the management basics he has applied throughout his life.

Hogg, one of eight Mississippians nominated for the national Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, is founder of food service giant Valley Innovative Services. At 83, Hogg is also an economic developer and speaker and is in the process of nurturing two new businesses, Custom Frozen Meals, for shipping frozen meals, and Common Cents Solutions, a software business for the food service industry.

Hogg is also in the midst of developing some of the area’s hottest real estate — about 400 acres near the Jackson International Airport along Mississippi 25. Beginning in the late 1950s, Hogg bought several hundred acres in Rankin County, then known as “No Man’s Land, USA” by many Jacksonians. Hogg, however, decided to buy the land after seeing for himself how well real estate sold around the Dallas and Atlanta airports.

“I put up a map, drove a nail where the capital is and said, ‘I’ll buy anything within eight miles of the capital that’s in Rankin County near the airport,’” he said.

With the state’s capital close by, he predicted the land around the airport would be worth much more someday, and he was right. Since his first purchase, the value has increased as much as 825 times the purchase price, he said. Hogg eventually owned about 800 acres in the area, some of which he sold and some he donated to the City of Flowood to build a golf course. Hogg and the F.R. (Dick) Newquist family donated 180 acres for The Refuge, which opened a few years ago. Newquist was one of his first employees and one of several millionaires to come out of Hogg’s company.

Hogg is now developing the land around the golf course with upscale office buildings. One building, Canebrake at the Refuge, is finished and a second building is planned. He sold some of his acres for Jackson’s newest mall, Dogwood Festival Marketplace, which is scheduled to break ground next month and be finished in August 2001. In addition, he is building a new corporate headquarters and processing facility for Valley Innovative in Rankin County.

“Hogg just continues to improve not only his company, but the county as well,” said Tom Troxler, executive director of Rankin First Economic Development Authority, where Hogg serves on the board. “He’s an incredible, visionary person.”

It is hard not to catch the entrepreneurial spirit from Hogg, who came to Jackson in 1947 with a ‘41 Chevy, a truck, and a business plan that would become his first company. BTD Inc., short for Bill the Distributor, was a wagon-job business that supplied groceries such as mayonnaise, cheese and margarine to local stores.

As the food business has become more sophisticated, Hogg has always been prepared to change as well. Just two years after forming BTD, he saw the decline of wagon jobbing as chain grocery stores and co-ops began warehousing and delivering their own products. Predicting a trend toward simple meal preparation, he entered the retail frozen food specialty business and picked up such lucrative customers as Florida Gold.

As the 1960s approached, Hogg saw dollar signs in the institutional food business, and opened a new arm of BTD which would later become Valley Innovative Services. Today Valley Innovative Services serves more than two million meals each week over a 20-state area. The company prepares meals on location for correctional facilities, senior meal services, retirement services, healthcare services, and dining services such as company cafeterias.

Hoggs’ Common Cents software, a natural outgrowth of Valley, controls food service from the dock where the food is unloaded all the way to the cash register.

“If 1,000 hamburgers come in the back door, but 1,000 hamburgers don’t go out, (management) knows,” says Hogg, who claims the software is capable of returning 10% on average to a company’s bottom line by controlling waste and unexplained losses.

Since the company’s start in 1998, the software has attracted the likes of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Stanford University Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic, all of whom make big investments yearly in food service.

Hogg believes his success in the food service business has come from selling only quality products, a practice he learned growing up at his grandparents’ grocery store in New Orleans. He has also invested his time in developing the potential of his management using a teaching tool he created called the Captain’s Wheel. He uses its spokes, or elements, in everyday management and encourages his management to do the same. At the center of the wheel is ETO (Enthusiasm, Time and Organization) surrounded by spokes that include Balance, Communication, Creative Adaption and Personal Progress.

Hogg also regularly shares his business experience with high school and college students in and out of state. He teaches them about entrepreneurship, and when speaking to Mississippi students, tells them about his love for this state and what it has to offer a business person.

“I always ask them, ‘Why do you graduate and run off when we have the best of everything here in Mississippi?’” says Hogg. “I want to build up a consciousness about Mississippi, to tell people with talent that they don’t have to skip this state and go somewhere else.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Kelly Russell at mbj@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

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