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IMS Engineers has grown from three to 189 employees since being launched in 1996

Firm’s CEO named SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year

John Calhoun

John Calhoun

It is no wonder that John D. Calhoun, Ph.D., CEO of Integrated Management Services (IMS) Engineers in Jackson, was recently selected as Mississippi Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Under Calhoun’s leadership, IMS Engineers in Jackson has grown from a three-person staff in 1996 to 189 employees in nine offices today. IMS is now one of the largest minority-owned engineering firms in the nation.

“IMS continues to grow because the firm works very hard to bring global solutions to local problems,” Calhoun said. “We pride ourselves on our reputation for developing innovative solutions to complex problems. It is our employees that set us apart from other firms. Our employees have established IMS’ reputation through their technical competence and true concern for the needs of our clients. The requirements and expectations may change, but the competence, attitude and motivation of IMS’ employees will not.”

IMS is currently working on a number of large public and private infrastructure projects throughout the region including designing roadway improvements in Memphis, Tenn.,in New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria in Louisiana and in Hinds County, Greenville and Holly Springs here in Mississippi.

As a joint venture partner involved in the 18-mile Byram-Clinton Parkway, IMS is responsible for designing and preparing construction plans, technical specifications and construction documents for the new $90-million roadway. The corridor will consist of a multi-lane arterial roadway system beginning in the Byram community at I-55 in the southern portion of the Jackson Metro Area, extending westward to the Norrell Road Interchange at I-20 in Clinton.

Another high-profile project is the technical support IMS is providing to the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) for the Corps of Engineers Permanent Pumps. The pump stations are located at the canal of 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue.

“Our role as technical support includes review of the design build documents and recommendations for possible improvement for operability for the S&WB,” Calhoun said. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hurricane Protection Office, recently awarded a $675-million design-build contract to CBY Design Builders, a joint venture of CDM, Brasfield & Gorrie and Yates Construction, for construction of the Permanent Canal Closures and Pump Stations (PCCP) at the mouths of the 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue outfall canals. This is the final Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) 100-year contract award for the East Bank.”

Calhoun said the 44-month contract calls for designing and constructing the three pump stations simultaneously within the project footprint that was determined during the environmental clearance process. Construction could begin as early as June 2011, and the new structures will work in concert with the existing S&WB of New Orleans pumping stations along each canal. During a tropical event the pump stations will evacuate rainwater from the canals into Lake Pontchartrain.

“The PCCP will replace the Interim Closure Structures (ICS) that were constructed at the mouths of the three outfall canals immediately after the 2005 hurricane season,” Calhoun said. “The ICS, which have a limited project life, provide risk reduction from a storm surge event that has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year.”

Calhoun said serving clients means understanding the sometimes conflicting demands of infrastructure needs. Environmental and public health protection have to be balanced with fiscal reality. Calhoun said this requires a special service sensitive to the client’s needs. Client service also means being flexible in project delivery by offering start-to-finish services or by supporting any individual phase of a larger program.

“From big picture program and infrastructure management to initial studies and design, through completion of construction, IMS’ project teams integrate the appropriate multi-disciplinary resources and streamline efforts throughout a project life cycle,” he said. “For every project, we incorporate quality management processes, address issues of health, safety and community relations, and position ourselves as strong client advocates during regulatory strategy development and negotiations. The result is the best solution for each and every client.”

Calhoun has recently shown his commitment to revitalizing the inner city of Jackson by purchasing and completely renovating the old Addkison Hardware Store, located in the heart of the Historic Farish Street District, for the company’s corporate headquarters.

“I am a product of the inner city,” said Calhoun, who is also an assistant professor of entrepreneurship and professional development in the College of Business at Jackson State University. “When I was growing up, Farish Street was the main corridor where blacks used to shop, go to see the dentist, doctor or a lawyer. Farish Street was also where the Almo Theater and other entertainment ventures were. We don’t have those areas now.  History is missing in our community. Additionally, many of our neighborhoods have been abandoned. This has to be a major concern for all Jacksonians and Mississippians.  We all must be committed to saving our capitol city, which includes saving our inner city.”

Calhoun’s vision is for IMS to be a national firm that addresses global issues locally.

“We will always be community focused,” he said. “The evolving requirements and expectations of our clients are dramatically changing the engineering industry. The world in which we live, work and play presents many challenges. In both the public and private sectors, our clients are striving to improve quantitative returns on capital investments, operate more productively, take advantage of the advances in technology and reduce their risk.”

Calhoun’s most recent SBA award comes after a long string of business successes. The November 2001 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine cited Calhoun as one of the country’s brightest young business leaders. In February 1999 Black Enterprise Magazine did an article about the rapid growth of IMS Engineers overseen by Calhoun and his business partner, Rod L. Hill, PE.  

Calhoun also is a prolific author having written or contributed to articles such as “Driving Company Growth” in Inside the Minds, a work done by Aspatore Books incorporating the views of top CEO’s on developing their individual successes; The Impact of Financial Appropriations on Desegregation Activities and Enhancement Efforts at Mississippi’s Historically Black Public University” in the Academy of Management Journal, “Organizational Culture in Local Governments” in the Journal of Business Administration; and “Contaminated Groundwater Impact on Economic and Community Development” in the Proceedings of the National Forum for Black Public Administrator.

In 2008 IMS Engineers ranked 30th on the Inner City 100 Award List for the fastest growing inner-city businesses in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year. In 2007, IMS was named to the Inc. 5000, the first ever list of the 5,000 fastest-growing businesses in the country. In 2006, IMS was named to the prestigious Inc. 500 list as one of America’s fastest growing companies for the fourth straight year.

Calhoun attended Jackson Public Schools before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Memphis State University. He has a MBA from Jackson State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi. He did post-doctoral executive education studies at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, the Center for Closely Held Firms of the Sellinger School of Loyola University and at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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About Becky Gillette