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Wade Stephens

(VIDEO) ALAN TURNER — Lard Oil expands Mississippi operations

Recently, we had the opportunity to meet and get acquainted with Wade Stephens, manager of industrial and commercial business for Lard Oil Co. of Mississippi, and learn about its growth and business plans for Mississippi.

The parent company is actually based in Louisiana, and was founded in 1922, so it has a long history in the energy business.  Essentially, the company has two different businesses, a retail division which has some interests in convenience stores, and a commercial division, dealing with other businesses and supplying lubricants and fuels for them.  Currently, the company has about 33 employees and three locations in Mississippi with plans for growth, and employs more than 300 people in all of its operations.

After growing up in Louisiana, Wade graduated from Louisiana Tech with a degree in chemical engineering, and has spent his entire career in the energy business, beginning with ExxonMobil, and the moving on to Lard Oil.

“After acquiring Pine Belt Oil in Mississippi, we started focusing on building a good book of business in the state, and I’m pleased to say we’ve been growing steadily, adding new jobs and product lines.”

Wade says that even compared to Louisiana, Mississippi is a more “relationship-based” environment.

“I really have come to know and respect the people and companies we deal with in Mississippi,” he said.  “Almost everybody wants to do business with a company that has integrity and delivers great service, and that’s a pretty good definition of what we stand for.”

Lard takes pride in their advanced technology and logistical support, pointing out that orders are now passed electronically to delivery drivers, and the pumping process is highly automated, therefore reducing the potential for errors and customer service problems.

“Our key goal at this point is to grow our commercial and industrial division,” Wade said.  “That’s where we see our future, and we know that going forward, we’ll create many new jobs in the state.  Technology is a big key to our success.”

Asked what he sees as the obstacles to growth in the energy business, he was quick to point out that some of the heavy government regulations don’t necessarily support growth and innovation.

“For instance, the permitting process to construct a new refinery is all but impossible to navigate.  It’s not that we don’t need new refineries–we certainly do–but the process is just too complex and costly for most companies,” he said. “You know, America, and the whole world for that matter, runs on energy, and I think it’s vital that we find ways to capitalize on every possible energy source if we expect to have any kind of growth or progress in the coming decades.”

What about the Keystone pipeline?

“Oh, I do think it will get build eventually,” he said.  “I know it’s a big political issue, but we really do need it, and if we as a nation don’t capitalize on those assets, they’re going to wind up going to Asia or elsewhere.”  He considers that as a very negative outcome, and says that what we really need going forward is a kind of “all-in-one approach” to energy, where all of the different companies and governments work together to do what is right and best for the future of America.

Looking down the road, Wade and his company are generally optimistic about their future in Mississipppi, and in the Mississippi economy overall.

“We do see good things ahead for the state,” he said.  “This is a really positive economic and business climate insofar as states are concerned, and we’re really excited about where we’re headed over the next 5 to 10 years.”

Lard takes pride in being a supporting part of the communities they serve as well.

“We do try hard to give back to the community,” he said.  “We’re really keen on helping to improve the quality of education, and we invest in programs that work to make that happen.  We also support a variety of charities, such as juvenile diabetes and others. We think this is vital to our future and to the people who live and work in Mississippi.”

A brief video featuring Wade can be seen on our website, MSBusiness.com, or on our youtube channel, mbjournal.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.

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