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DePriest Torrance Construction goes to work in January

Contractors flesh out businesses by joining forces

CLINTON — Rodney DePriest is a details man. Ronnie Torrance’s experience runs along the lines of heavy commercial construction.

Both men own construction companies in the Jackson area, but they didn’t know each other until a mutual friend, Chris Govero, put them together last year.

As the CPA for both businesses, Govero knew the ins and outs of both companies and that both men were looking for help. DePriest, president of DePriest Construction Inc. in Clinton, wanted to expand his company and was looking for someone with strong commercial construction experience who could help with project management. Torrance, president of H & T Construction Co. Inc. in Jackson, was looking for someone who could take care of the business end of running a construction business.

With his accounting degree from Mississippi College, DePriest seemed like the right man for Torrance, and Torrance, who has 28 years of experience in the construction industry, likewise fit the bill for DePriest.

After a successful, year-long trial run from a shared office in Clinton, the two men have decided to close their respective companies and form a new company, DePriest Torrance Construction Inc. Starting in January, all new work will be contracted through the new company.

“It’s really a unique fit because we didn’t overlap at all,” said DePriest, a Clinton alderman for eight years. “Our skills complement each other, and it’s made the market larger for us.”

DePriest has built many projects from the ground up, but the bulk of his work has been interior build-out. He got his start in 1990 as a residential builder, but it wasn’t long before he began doing commercial work. He soon carved out a niche market in commercial renovations and build-outs with clients like Blockbuster Video, Sherwin Williams, DHL Worldwide Express, Quizno’s Subs and Papa John’s Pizza when that company was a newcomer to Jackson.

DePriest won Papa John’s business and repeat business thanks to a meeting he attended with the landlord of the building that Papa John’s wanted to lease when the company first came to Jackson. Since that first, unexpected meeting, DePriest has built 13 locations for the company.

“It’s past business now. We’re all good friends,” said DePriest. “Papa John’s calls me and tells me, ‘Here’s the address of our next store.’ I go down there and measure it, get the plans drawn, permits, and we may never even see the owner. The week we’re finishing up, the training team comes in, and I hand them the keys.”

With numerous large-scale projects under his belt, Torrance brings experience in heavy commercial construction to the DePriest-Torrance partnership. Torrance started his own business in 1995 after nearly 30 years of coordinating construction projects for MP&L, Cook Douglass Farr Lemons, Ltd. and Eley Associates Architects.

“I used to tell people that the H & T stood for ‘hard times,’” said Torrance, who was nevertheless successful in landing jobs like BankPlus in Clinton, Mississippi Sports Medicine in Jackson, and the president’s residence at Alcorn State University — a challenging, combination residential/commercial job because of the home’s many uses.

Over the last year, DePriest and Torrance have continued to operate their separate companies while working together on several projects. Larger projects requiring bonding were done through H & T; smaller projects were done through DePriest.

Combined, the two companies currently have $2.9 million under contract, including:

• adding a second floor to the Mississippi Sports Medicine building;

• building the BankPlus on Adkins Boulevard in Jackson;

• doing the interior buildout of WB40’s tower station, which fell a few years ago when it was owned by WLBT-TV;

• being selected to do the design/build for Hinds Independent Methodist Church, which was burned down;

• finishing up a renovation of Hinds Community College’s vo-tech building in Vicksburg.

The two companies have nine employees, including three superintendents. DePriest and Torrance would like to add more employees next year, but they are leaving it up to the economy to decide if they should take on more overhead.

“Based on what we have under contract now, and projects we’ve been invited to bid on, I feel real good about next year, but we’ve all been in situations where the plug gets pulled at the last minute on a project,” said DePriest. “This goes back to my conservative accounting side. We’re going to be real cautious on overhead so that long term we’re in a position to be solid so we can take care of us and our customers.”

Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Russell Ingebretsen at kelly@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1027.

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