By JULIA MILLER
Small town living comes with its perks: lower cost of living, friendly neighbors and shorter commute times. However, a drawback can arise from a lack of employment opportunities. For Columbia, that problem has been avoided by a prolific business environment.
“We’ve got a small town atmosphere with big city dreams,” Mayor Justin McKenzie said.
Columbia is home to several large companies, including Dungan Engineering, Duff Capital Investors and Jones Companies, as well as an array of mid-range to small businesses throughout the Marion County area. The Duffs of Duff Capital Investors cited the many other corporate citizens who have contributed to Marion Country’s economic growth like Hubby and Mernice Griner (Griner Drilling), Bob Kemp (Kemp Companies), Thomas Wallace (T.L. Wallace Construction), Charles Rogers (Rogers Lumber) and Mike Riley, (MDR Construction).
“I think we’re just truly blessed to have these business start here and stay here,” McKenzie said. “All of our huge successes are homegrown, and I think that say a lot about our community.”
McKenzie credits the community for why these businesses have stayed in the area. Between a pro-growth and pro-business government and a loyal and reliable work force. The area also provides three public schools and one larger private school as well as unique transportation assets at the intersection of several state and federal highways. He also added that the city is constantly learning to recruit new businesses as well as focusing on retaining their current ones.
For the three largest companies, McKenzie said, the greatest reason for them staying rooted in Columbia is their family ties.
“Each one of them was started several years ago,” he said. “The optimistic attitude of the owners and executives have allowed them to grow.”
Jim and Thomas Duff, who co-own Duff Capital Investors, agree that Columbia provides a quality for their own families as well as those of their employees.
“We never take for granted how blessed we are to be able to work with neighbors and friends every day and to have the support of so many people across the state who have been instrumental in our success,” Thomas Duff said. “Jim and I understand that we have a sacred responsibility to be good stewards and we always want to see Marion County and Mississippi prosper and succeed.”
DCI’s first company established was Forest Products Transports in 1971 and then Southern Tire Mart in 1973. So, it was natural for the Duff brothers to headquarter their companies in their hometown and continue to grow their business enterprise from Columbia.
“Our companies have been a success because we care about our employees and customers, that’s our focus and it has led many of our companies to be the largest in their field,” Jim Duff said.
DCI credits there success on those who have come before them. Marion County has always had an economic base far greater than its population because of its entrepreneurial history, such as Bill’s Dollar Store which was headquartered in Columbia for 30 years.
Duff Capital Investors other subsidiaries in Columbia include T.L. Wallace Construction, DeepWell Energy Services, Southern Insurance Group, Magnolia Grille and Magnolia Inn & Suites. DCI also owns KLLM, the state’s largest trucking firm in Jackson.
Jones Companies provides solutions to organizations, projects, communities and individuals to meet the specific needs of the energy industries. Examples include pipeline support service, recycling programs for grocers and transportation of large equipment. Its subsidiaries include Jones Lumber Company, FV Recycling, Jones Logistics, Jones ReadyMix, New South, PortaBull Fuel, PortaBull Storage, Spot and YakMat.
Dungan Engineering P.A. provides civil engineering services to state agencies, local governments, utility providers and private developers in south Mississippi.It also has offices in Brookhaven and Picayune
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