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Merger power: ST&R, Gillon & Company partner

Smith, Turner & Reeves, P.A., stepped up a notch in size and strength when the certified public accounting and financial consulting practices firm merged with Gillon & Company, Ltd., September 1, making it the fourth-largest Mississippi-based CPA firm.

The firm, to be known as Smith, Turner & Reeves (ST&R), will have a combined professional staff of 58, including 32 certified public accountants. The three partners in Gillon & Company — William H. Gillon III, Cathy R. Reed and Louis M. Tatum — will assume similar positions in ST&R, which will now have 11 partners.

“It’s truly a merger,” said Jon C. Turner, managing partner of ST&R. “They’re about a quarter our size, so the implication of the size difference and the fact that we’re retaining our name makes it seem like an acquisition, but we’re simply joining together and moving forward.”

ST&R, with offices in Jackson and Oxford, and Natchez-based Gillon & Company both opened for business in 1974 and are celebrating 30th anniversaries this year.

“Billy (Gillon) and I kept bumping into each other at conventions and we’d always talk about partnering in some fashion,” said Turner. “Earlier this summer, we began negotiating in earnest. Our corporate philosophies are very similar-we use the same billing system and the same tax and audit software-and will provide for a seamless transition. It was a very good fit.”

ST&R’s only expansion outside Jackson occurred January 1, 1999, when it joined practices with Vickie M. Cook, CPA, of Oxford. Since then, the northeast office has experienced tremendous growth. Other smaller mergers in the Jackson area have included The Church Company, a healthcare firm, and several solo practitioners in recent years.

“We look at five or six of these type situations a year and usually end up not doing anything,” said Turner. “We don’t look for sheer size just so that we can get bigger. It has to be the right situation.”

ST&R had worked with Gillon & Company on various projects, including municipality and planning district work. For example, Gillon handles work for the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District and ST&R does the same work for the Central Mississippi Planning & Development District.

“We handled some evaluation work for their firm because they didn’t offer evaluation services,” explained Turner. “Earlier this summer, we joint ventured/proposed and were awarded the audit for a regional hospital in Natchez. We’ve worked in and around them, so we’re real familiar with them. Plus, we have great respect for them professionally and personally.”

The merger also positions ST&R as a statewide firm with offices in North, Central and South Mississippi — on Lamar Avenue in Oxford near the renowned Square, Main Street in historic Natchez and at the corner of Capitol and Lamar Streets in downtown Jackson.

“Another aspect that piqued our interest was Billy’s presence in the Brookhaven and McComb area,” said Turner. “He’s also over in the Monroe, La., area a good bit and does some work in the Delta.”

The firm will move forward with Gillon’s plans to open an office in Brookhaven this fall.

“We’re doing enough work in that area and we felt like we needed to have somebody’s feet on the ground there,” said Turner. “It’s a town that has a lot of good things going on.”

Gillon’s area of practice also includes traditional audit, tax and consulting services and work for auto dealerships, and oil and gas. He is immediate past president of the Mississippi Society of CPAs. ST&R’s clients represent the telecommunications, manufacturing, healthcare, insurance, construction and government sectors.

Also included in the merger is Gillon’s affiliate, Magnolia Medical Billing, LLC, which provides billing services to area physician practices and assists with coding expenses for reimbursement for HIPAA compliance, and general practice issues.

“That was another thing that appealed to us,” said Turner. “They had the company up and running with a good client base. We’d been thinking about starting a service like that for a while because we have a good number of physician clinics as clients, and we also handle rural hospitals, nursing homes and dental practices, but we weren’t offering those services. We plan to take that service to the metro Jackson area and statewide.”

The merger also coincides with the increased workload for accounting firms as a result of new regulations resulting from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

“It’s unbelievable the cost of compliance with that act,” said Turner. “One of the big national firms recently sent out a list of 40 clients they could no longer serve. Overall, the changes are probably for the good in the long run but it’s been brutal trying to make the transition.”

Turner doesn’t anticipate any changes in personnel or job duties.

“There may be some staff sharing, but there will be no major overhaul of who does what,” he said. “As a result of the merger, our operation will become more efficient.”

There’s only one area where Turner and Gillon do not see eye-to-eye, especially during football season. Both Delta natives, Turner is president-elect of the Ole Miss Alumni Association and Gillon is past president of the Mississippi State Alumni Association.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with that rivalry,” said Turner, with a chuckle.

Coming up for ST&R: the announcement of a national alliance.

“It’s not a merger or anything,” Turner indicated. “It will allow us to tap into services and resources that will help us even more. In the next few years, we might look at adding a couple of offices in Mississippi and then maybe venturing outside the state by opening an office in a major city to serve our clients in the southeastern U.S. But first, we’ll concentrate on this merger. It takes a while for the cultures to blend. I think that’s going to do it for us for now.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.


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