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Delta Industries pours solid foundation for 60-year success story

While Delta Industries Inc. may not be a household name, its numerous business units are very familiar. Jackson Ready Mix, Gulf States Ready Mix and Pine Belt Ready Mix are just a few of the nearly 40 different operations of Delta Industries.

For more than 60 years now, the Jackson-based concrete company has been growing, and currently has hundreds of employees and dozens of plants serving four states. That trend continues today as the company continues to broaden its footprint.

Delta Industries president and CEO Dave Robison attributes the company’s success — and longevity — to a number of factors.

“We are fortunate to have very strong local management,” he says. “We strive to have local people in the areas we serve, and that has been a key to our success.”

Other reasons he notes is the excellent reputation forged by the company since its founding, involvement in the communities served by Delta Industries and involvement in the industry on the state and national level. (The company’s original president was heavily involved with the National Ready Mix Concrete Association, and Robison currently sits on the organization’s board of directors.)

“We have also not been afraid to take risks,” Robison adds. “Over the years, we have ventured into areas outside of ready mix concrete. We have won some, lost some. Now, we are focused exclusively on ready mix because that is where our expertise lies.”

Branching out

On December 28, 1945, Jackson Ready Mix organized under Mississippi law and issued its corporate charter. The original mixer fleet was composed of 22 U.S. Army surplus trucks, and the ready mix concrete plant was established on Woodrow Wilson Drive on a 35-acre site.

Delta Industries still occupies that original site today, but the current company bears little resemblance to the original operation due to near constant growth. Within the first decade, a second ready mix plant and a concrete block plant was opened in Jackson. (Currently, Delta Industries has five plants in the metro Jackson area.)

Delta Industries’ growth began in earnest as it pushed outside the Capital City. Concrete requires quick delivery. Thus, the company, as it grew its service area, began purchasing and building plants and supplier operations in Central Mississippi in communities such as Crystal Springs, Magee, Mendenhall, Brookhaven and McComb.

With Central Mississippi “conquered,” the company began expanding its operations network throughout Mississippi and beyond. Today, Delta Industries operates 36 plants covering the entire state, from DeSoto County to the Gulf Coast and from Vicksburg to Meridian, as well as plants in Amite, La., and multiple operations in Central and South Alabama. (The company also serves Tennessee and Arkansas from its Tri-State Ready Mix operations composed of plants in Olive Branch and Byhalia.)

Delta Industries employs more than 400 workers, and keeps a fleet of more than 250 trucks on the road. Its sales of approximately $100 annually ranks it well within the upper tier of the largest privately-held companies domiciled in Mississippi.

A good yardstick of Delta Industries’ growth is capacity. The original Jackson Ready Mix plant in 1945 had the capacity to produce 1,000 cubic yards of concrete per day. Last year alone, Delta Industries’ operations produced more than one million cubic yards of concrete.

Its customers include home builders, general contractors, road builders, concrete contractors, utility contractors, developers and city, county, state and federal agencies, who can choose among hundreds of concrete mix designs. It has been involved in some of Mississippi’s largest construction projects, such as the massive Woolfolk State Office Building in downtown Jackson. More recent projects include Bass Pro Shops in Pearl (which utilized tilt-up walls), Legacy Condo I and II in Biloxi, Trustmark Park in Pearl, the new parking garage in downtown Jackson, Home Depot in Madison and Academy Sports in Ridgeland.

Delta Industries growth is not all about quantity, and it is here that state-of-the-art technology comes to the fore. It operates an in-house quality control department as well as a fully staffed testing laboratory in Jackson with satellite labs scattered across other locations. The staff is certified in multiple areas of ready mix expertise and led by its in-house professional engineer, Les Howell, P.E. Daily, the Technical Service personnel run a battery of tests on everything from incoming raw materials to the comprehensive strength of concrete while monitoring the electronic batch results provided by Delta Industries’ automated batch systems.

Pouring it on

While Delta Industries has experienced impressive and constant growth, it is certainly not done. More plants are coming on line, some of it spurred by Hurricane Katrina.

According to Delta Industries director of sales and marketing Charles McLemore Jr., a number of the company’s coastal and South Mississippi operations were impacted by the 2005 hurricane. But he adds that the company has largely rebounded from the damage, and is now growing its presence in the most storm-affected areas as rebuilding continues.

A plant in Saucier was preparing to go on line at press time, and a plant is under construction at Moss Point. It is expected to be in production by year-end.

One of the constants through all the change at Delta Industries is Robison. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1971 with an accounting degree, Robison began his career at Delta Industries, and spent the majority of his early years with the company in the Ready Mix Concrete Division as a sales professional. In the late 1980s, he was promoted to vice president and finally to president and CEO in 1995.

When asked what brought him to Delta Industries and kept him there all these years, Robinson says, “My goal was never to be a CPA. I was presented an opportunity to come on board with Jackson Ready Mix, and I took it. I never saw my dad change jobs. I thought once you got a job, you kept it. I never thought about leaving. I feel I have been treated fairly over my career by the company, and, obviously, when I realized I had a chance to one day be president, I wasn’t going to leave.”

Robison says his future vision for the company is maintaining a solid return on investment for the company’s investors. He says that all new-hires are told that the four groups that must benefit from Delta Industries’ operations are the employees, suppliers, customers and investors. That is what drives him and his team.

“We have grown mainly through acquisitions, and we will continue to look for opportunities of that nature in the future,” he says. “There are opportunities to grow with the markets we already serve, such as Jackson — maintain a healthy market share. We don’t have our eyes set on being the largest ready mix concrete company in the world, certainly, but we are always looking for new opportunities.”

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

About Wally Northway

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