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Company saved in the 11th hour

Third Day Solutions rises to new success

JACKSON — There’s no receptionist. Work stations stand vacant. The name on the door says “Nichols,” but that’s not even the name of the company.

So, is Third Day Solutions, the actual company name, about to fold? Far from it. The information technology consulting firm is seeing exceptional growth, which is exciting news considering just 12 months ago it looked as if it was finished.

“During a period when other companies are downsizing and laying off workers, we’re growing and adding employees,” said Jeff May, managing partner of Third Day Solutions and a man of deep religious conviction. “Only God could have saved this company.”

Third Day’s long odyssey began way back in the late 1970s with the establishment of Conway Computer Group. Locally-owned and operated, CCG started as a small consulting business that grew to have offices in four states.

In 1995, CCG gained the eye of defense contractor Nichols Resources, a large national company that was attracted by CCG’s commercial presence. CCG, operating as a division of Nichols, enjoyed tremendous revenues, according to May, who served as business manager, and at one point hundreds of people worked out of the office in the IBM Building on Interstate 55.

Then, Nichols was bought up by a global company — Computer Sciences Corporation — in September 1999. CSC was primarily interested in Nichols’ large defense and aerospace contracts, and the Jackson-based group started feeling distinctly unwanted. Then, the dotcom bubble burst.

“It just never was a good fit,” May said.

The layoffs began. As the staff shrunk, May said projects started going “in the ditch.” As 2000 began to wind down, it looked as if the Jackson office was dead.

Fortunately, there were still contracts in-house. May took several proposals to CSC to go private. At first, CSC showed little interest. But late in 2000, CSC decided to accept one of May’s proposals. It was the 11th hour, but the company had been saved.

“When we were choosing a name for the new company, we wanted something that said something about who we are,” May said with a wry smile. “We talked about several names, including LAD — ‘Life After Death.’ We finally decided on Third Day Solutions in reference to the Resurrection of Christ. The name ‘Third Day’ represents hope.”

On Jan. 1, 2002, Third Day Solutions opened its new/old doors for business. A small nucleus of seven former employees, which included May’s partners, Rick Whitehead and Ken Slay, made use of suddenly plentiful office space and went to work. May had no immediate plans to hire additional personnel.

But then the phone started ringing. A new client here, a new project there, and now Third Day Solutions has 15 on the payroll, including representatives in New York, Alabama and Tennessee.

“The key has been the employees,” May said. “We were a local company, then we were national and global, and now we’re local again. But through all of that, the faces have remained the same. We have built strong relationships here. Everyone likes us because we’re local. We’ve been Jackson-based for decades”

Today, Third Day Solutions specializes in software development, support and information technology consulting for state and local governments and the private sector. Software development aside, the company also provides service specialties such as staff augmentation — providing quality, trained personnel to clients to enhance their in-house IT expertise — and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance services.

Some of its work includes the State of Tennessee Appellate Court Automation Project, a case management system to support the Tennessee Supreme Court and appellate courts; an integrated criminal justice information system (ICJIS) for Orange County, Fla.; and analysis and programming support for manufacturer Vulcraft for its operations in Alabama and New York. (Vulcraft is supplying the joists for the Nissan assembly plant under construction at Canton.)

Its “flagship” project, however, is the Mississippi Student Information System (MSIS). Developed in-house for the Mississippi State Department of Education in Jan. 1999, the goal of the project was to develop a comprehensive management information system that provides the education community with timely and accurate data collection and reporting of student and school district personnel information.

The model is now used by the Department of Education to accredit school districts and provides management-level reporting for the department’s administrative staff.

May and associates are presently enjoying their success and feelings of vindication. Once faced with axing personnel, May recently handed the employees an envelope that didn’t hold a pink slip.

“For years now — literally — these employees have been promised a bonus,” May said. “But year after year, they never got one. Well, this time they got one. And they were nice checks, too. That was very gratifying.”

So, what’s next for Third Day Solutions? May said it’s more about quality than quantity.

“Don’t get me wrong, we want as many contracts as we can handle, but we’re looking to stay small,” May said. “We want to continue to find niche products and define ourselves better. Five years from now, I’d like to see us with about 50 employees and doing about $10-$15 million annually.

“We want to continue to build our reputation for trust and level of service. It is essential to us that our clients believe we are going to tell the truth and maintain unquestioned integrity.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1016.


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