Florence — When Henry Dunklin, MSA, IFAS, founded the Dunklin Appraisal Group in the late 1970s, he set two important goals. One was to work every project, big or small, to his utmost ability, and the other was to grow his company into more than just an appraiser of residential property.
Almost 30 years later, Dunklin and his company are reaping the rewards from those two goals after landing work on the largest gaming project ever proposed in Mississippi. Dunklin Appraisal Group recently assessed the value of the total proposed project at nearly $2 billion. And, it all started with a relatively small project involving a handful of acres of land in Tunica.
“In this business if you think no further than appraising houses, that’s all you’re going to do,” Dunklin said. “When I received my certified general appraisal license, I knew I was authorized to appraise everything from a doghouse to the White House. I always had the goal of being more than just an appraiser of residential property.”
It has been an interesting journey for Dunklin. Born in Chicago, Dunklin moved to Florence as a young child before returning to the Windy City when he reached school age. However, he returned to the Jackson area to complete high school, attended the University of California for a year then transferred back home to Jackson State University (JSU).
He subsequently entered the U.S. Air Force, earned a master’s in Chinese language, and worked seven years in Air Force intelligence before returning once again to Florence in 1973. Dunklin earned both a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an MBA (1977) from JSU.
While still attending JSU, Dunklin established a brokerage business in 1975. Over time, he said he saw some inequities on the appraisal side of the business that troubled him. So, he earned his certification and founded Dunklin Appraisal Group in 1978. He admitted it wasn’t love at first site.
“Initially, I hated it,” he said with a grin. “Coming from a sales background, I disliked how detailed the work is. But, the more I did it, the more I liked it.” (He liked it so much, in fact, that he closed his brokerage firm.)
Since then, Dunklin Appraisal Group has grown in both size and services offered. It is a provider of appraisals for primary and secondary mortgages, mortgage refinancing, employee relocation, private mortgage insurance removal, estate planning and divorce settlement. It offers industrial appraisals, commercial appraisals and expert witness, with a focus on the last two.
The company has landed customers from across the state, and currently employs five appraisers — two of them experienced and the other three new trainees. Training is another Dunklin offering as it is a provider of the “CE @ Sea” education cruise seminars.
In fact, education is one of the pillars upon which Dunklin has built his business.
“The key to success in this business is education, diligence and reputation,” Dunklin said. “Everybody wants to win, but a lot of people don’t want to do the things that prepare them to win. It’s all about education and hard work.”
This mantra recently paid a large dividend. In 2000, some Tunica landowners hired Dunklin as an expert witness in an eminent domain case involving a mere three acres of land. When it was all over, the landowners were singing Dunklin’s praises.
As it turned out, one of those landowners was a relative of a principal involved in the proposed Myriad-Tunica, LLC, development. Myriad Entertainment & Resorts Inc. has unveiled plans for a massive gaming/entertainment development in the Delta city that would include everything from an 80,000-square-foot casino, 1,200-room hotel and 375,000-square-foot convention center to an 18-hole golf course and even a snow park.
Needing an appraiser to valuate the proposed project, Dunklin Appraisal Group got the call because of the work it performed in the aforementioned Tunica eminent domain case. Valued at $1.9 billion, it is easily the largest project ever worked by Dunklin Appraisal Group. However, Dunklin said while the Myriad project is obviously a significant milestone, it is not the pinnacle.
“I never want to be quoted as saying I am successful,” Dunklin said. “I only want to be quoted as saying I’m striving to be successful. Success is a not a destination — it’s a journey.”
That journey is ongoing at Dunklin Appraisal Group. The company is currently working an eminent domain case on the Mississippi Gulf Coast involving one of the new proposed bridges. And, Dunklin estimated that his company’s work for Myriad in Tunica would continue for another two years. Other projects are scattered in between.
“I spend so much time going from one end of the state to the other, I need a helicopter,” Dunklin said with a laugh. “The best strategy I ever heard about achieving success came from a guy I met in Baton Rouge, La. He told me it was easy. You just beat it, and beat it, and beat it until it finally gives in.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.