Gulfport — Landmark Contracting Inc. is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Sue B. Waller is president of the construction company that installs concrete highway median barriers, gutters, curved walls, golf cart paths and other specialty concrete needs.
“We survived!” Waller says. “There was a time when I worked at all four offices and came back at night and cleaned them. We’re proud of the way the company has grown.”
In 1985, Waller gave up a government job at Stennis Space Center and her husband, T.C. Waller Jr., gave up one with the Corps of Engineers to form Landmark. The company later became certified as a Woman Business Enterprise with the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Along with Mississippi, Landmark is licensed to work in Alabama and Louisiana.
“We were urged by contractors to go into the business because they needed minority- and women-owned construction companies,” she said. “Back then it was a no-no to say woman-owned construction company because they didn’t think you really worked and were involved in the business. But the program just gets you going; that’s what it was designed for. Nothing was ever handed to us.”
Although Waller says there were times when she and her husband questioned whether or not they should have left their government jobs, Landmark has thrived. The specialty concrete contractor was the first company in the state to buy an expensive slip-form machine and perform slip-forming barrier walls on bridges. They have poured over one million linear feet of concrete bridge railing and barrier walls and median barriers. They also did the runway at Trent Lott Airport and have done work on Keesler Air Force Base.
Landmark has done golf cart paths for 20 golf courses including the Grand Casinos’ Grand Bear. They are currently working on the Beau Rivage’s golf course, Legacy Oaks Condominiums and the Tradition planned community.
They work throughout the state and mostly stay busy on the Gulf Coast, which is what Waller says they like. “We’ve just about covered the Coast in concrete,” Waller said. “There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t turn down work and that’s a wonderful feeling.”
She stresses the importance of the dedicated, qualified foremen who are loyal to the company and have been with them a long time. Currently, Landmark has 45 employees but that number varies.
“A lot of people have stayed with us through the years and we don’t have any trouble finding workers, although there was a time when we did,” she added. “We’re known to do quality work in a timely manner. We can be trusted and try to handle business in a Christian way.”
As a commercial concrete subcontractor, Landmark has a good reputation and prime contractors call them about work. The company averages approximately $3 million of business a year. Waller says they could have grown bigger but chose to remain a small, family-run business. Now that the Wallers’ son Steve is working with them, it will definitely stay in the family.
Steve Waller is an Auburn University engineering graduate and was working for a Mobile firm when he decided to join Landmark.
“I’m proud that he came to work for us. He’s the future of the company,” she said. “We put him out in the ditches at first.”
But Steve doesn’t resent the six years spent in the field, calling it a humbling process and one he thinks all engineers should have.
“I love working for my mom. She’s a great lady,” he said. “When you get older, you find out your parents are a lot smarter than you thought. It’s amazing what my parents have accomplished.”
He says he’s had no problem working for his mom and sees both his parents as his friends and mentors. “My dad has the construction experience and my mom has the business and financial side, which is every bit as important,” he said. “She has the ability to come in and put her finger on whatever needs to be done.”
Sue Waller, a native of Wetumpka, Ala., is also an Auburn graduate. Instead of pursuing an engineering degree, she earned a secretarial administration degree.
“When I attended college, there were really only three careers open to women: teaching, nursing and secretarial,” she said. “I chose secretarial, which was the closest to the business side of things.”
She says if she could do it all over, she would become an engineer, a course of study that would have made competing in the rigorous construction business somewhat easier. However, Landmark Contracting has been successful with this capable, determined woman at the helm.
Asked if she thinks women are more accepted in construction now, she replied, “Absolutely. It no longer bothers me to be in pre-construction meetings. I now know the answers and if I don’t, I ask. I’ve learned the men don’t know all the answers either. I wish I had known that when I started.”
The men now ask her questions. She says maturity and being in the business 20 years have changed things.
And, “God willing, the company will continue,” she affirmed.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.