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MMC Materials building off a rock solid foundation

Ridgeland — Once again, MMC Materials Inc. has landed in the upper echelon of the 100 largest privately-held companies in Mississippi. Over the course of its nearly 80-year history, the concrete producer has grown into the largest company of its kind in its trade area, and like its products and operations, is rock-solid and on the move.

“We are a fifth-generation, family-owned business. I think the key to MMC’s success has been the fine job of succession planning over the years combined with top-quality, professional management,” said Danny Rodgers, president of MMC.

MMC was founded in Jackson in 1927 as Mississippi Concrete and Material Company by Dunn Investment Company, a Birmingham, Ala.-based enterprise that still owns MMC. (The company changed its name to MMC Materials Inc. in 1998.) The initial company operated one concrete plant adjacent to an asphalt production facility owned by Dunn.

In the early 1960s, MMC began expanding outside of the Capital City, and has grown, sometimes explosively, every since then. First, it was Brandon, then Forest, then Meridian. Expansions followed in North Mississippi, the Delta, the Pine Belt and Golden Triangle regions and the Gulf Coast. By the mid-1990s, MMC had added two new states to its service territory.

Today, it has operations spread from one end of the state to the other, as well as in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama. In total, the company, including its Gulf Concrete, LLC, subsidiary, operates 66 concrete plants utilizing a 475-truck fleet and employs 650 workers.

MMC offers concrete as well as concrete-related products. These include aggregates such as mason sand, concrete and pea gravel, concrete and sandblasting sand and limestone; building materials including mortar mix, sack cement, bagged concrete mix, concrete brick and concrete block; concrete accessories such as floor products, rebar, wire mesh, sack calcium, jointing materials, surface retarder, anchor bolts, poly, residential seals, grout, stains, concrete tools and patching compounds; and, pre-cast items including steps, stepping stones and bumpers.

MMC’s list of projects is as impressive as its growth. Just a few examples include the Mobile Convention Center and RSA/Battlehouse Hotel and Tower in Mobile, Ala.; NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County; the U.S. 82/Mississippi River Bridge at Greenville; and, the Nissan North America Inc. automobile assembly plant in Canton.

Through all of this growth, MMC has kept its focus on its employees and those that manage them. Rodgers said the company, over the last five to six years, has put a renewed focus on its first-line supervisors, developing their skills so as to maintain a top-flight workforce.

“We want our front-line supervisors to become better leaders, to make sure our employees are listened to and taken care of and developed,” he said.

That initiative could not have come at a better time for MMC. It should pay dividends as the company faces perhaps the toughest challenge it has seen since its founding.

Hurricane Katrina hit MMC hard — “we got slammed,” the soft-spoken Rodgers said. Gulf Concrete operates facilities in Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, Gulfport, Biloxi, Picayune and Bay St. Louis. All the facilities were heavily impacted by the storm, though all but the Bay St. Louis plant were left standing and were back in limited operation 10 days after the storm made landfall.

MMC was fortunate that its fleet of trucks was relatively unscathed, and all its employees have been accounted for. Unfortunately, approximately 50% of its workers had homes that were damaged or destroyed. Rodgers said approximately 25% of the workforce has been lost due to relocation or other factors. The plants are operating at approximately 30% of their norm, so the workers who do remain are drawing reduced paychecks.

Thus, MMC is working hard to keep its current workforce together, especially because the company is preparing for a crushing demand for its product as the Coast and South Mississippi looks to rebuild.

How much concrete will MMC need to supply? Rodgers said that is hard to predict. He said resolving the issue of whether or not Coast casinos can build on land was the key first step. However, new building codes have yet to be established.

Rodgers said he expects those new building codes to require heavier, more solidly built structures. More condominium construction is also a distinct possibility. All of this should spell an increased need for concrete.

A good measure of the kind of demand MMC is almost certain to face can be found in highway construction, which is already underway. He said the rebuilding of the two destroyed U.S. 90 bridges, a project advertised at $200 million but yet to be let, could require approximately 120,000 cubic yards of concrete between the two of them alone.

Just as the storm-wrecked areas expect a better tomorrow, so does MMC. The concrete industry is consolidating, with smaller companies being gobbled up by larger ones. Rodgers said MMC is looking to integrate its sister asphalt business in with its concrete operations and other strategies so as to better compete in today’s environment.

Rodgers was adamant, though, that as it looks to grow, MMC will not change its basic makeup.

“We certainly want to remain family-owned. That’s extremely important to us,” he said.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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