NC contractor rebuilds hurricane-eroded beaches
Two things you quickly learn about Matt Mitchell is that he loves Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, where he has lived his entire life.
And he loves dirt.
“A grown man can be a grown man, but somewhere deep inside he always has a little boy inside him,” he says. “And they all like to play with little toys and dirt.”
“I love challenges,” he adds, explaining why he loves being an entrepreneur. “I really like doing the things they say you can’t or can’t do.”
This attitude has led his company, CM Mitchell Construction Company, to have more than 50 employees, 35 pieces of equipment and annual revenues of $ 10-13 million. For this and more, Matt is one of the Equipment world2020 Entrepreneur of the Year award finalists.
Matt learned of the hard work, honesty and integrity from his father, a retired Marine who had been stationed at nearby Camp Lejeune. His father and mother ran a small country store and hardware store in Vultures Landing.
“Son, your word is all you have,” his father told him.
He helped instill a strong work ethic in Matt.
“As a Marine he taught us how to work and he taught us what our backs are,” Matt recalls. “When I was growing up it was backbreaking work. He wasn’t taking any shortcuts.
They are also said to be digging the graves of deceased local residents. It was a free service that his father started, and Mitchell Construction still pursues it today.
As a teenager, Matt worked for a family friend who owned a construction business. Matt would use a bulldozer and excavator and drive a dump truck. He worked for him for about 10 years. Then the owner had a heart attack and sold the business.
Matt bought a commercial fishing boat, but this new career only lasted about 10 weeks. “I was there one day fishing, and I just said, ‘I’m done with this. I’m back in the dirt business. I will do it myself.
That was in 1994. He used the money from the sale of the boat to buy a farm tractor and trailer. Her parents co-signed for a loan of $ 25,000. Matt used the money to buy a 1974 dump truck, backhoe, and bulldozer.
His brother Mel was driving the dump truck and Matt moved the earth. They cleared land, put culverts in the driveways, whatever people needed to do.
He did a lot of contract work and landed his first big job at Camp Lejeune. During this job he met Theresa who was working for the general contractor on the project. She helped him with the papers, and he told her that if she ever decided to quit her job, he wanted her to come and work for him.
“I don’t think you can afford it,” she told him.
But over time he conquered her, and they have continued to grow CM Mitchell ever since.
With her as CFO and Matt at the helm of the construction company, they’ve landed many multi-million dollar projects over the years.
Get big jobs
The company landed its first million-dollar job while traveling to Virginia to meet with a large construction company. The company was planning a complex project involving a 100 square foot amphibious boat launch at Camp Lejuene. Matt convinced them he could handle the job.
“We were so excited,” Theresa recalls. “We had a $ 2 million job.
Equipment worldThey started to hire more employees. In addition to the boat launch, the project included the construction of docks, ponds and parking, as well as the installation of sewer and drainage lines.
The work is going well, but the finances are in trouble. Mitchell was not being paid by the contractor on the project, and the company needed money to repay the funding for the project.
The contractor eventually paid the $ 800,000 he owed Mitchell. But the stress of trying to get it back had left Matt and Theresa rethinking their business. “One minute you’re up there, and the next minute you could lose your house if someone doesn’t pay you,” says Theresa. The couple were also raising their three sons at the time.
After another episode in which they had to sue a contractor for payment, they decided to reorganize and downsize. “We’re going to stop chasing after the shell,” she said. “Let’s take control of what we do.”
They have become more cautious of the contractors for whom they have been replaced. They landed work with great entrepreneurs, which brought them multiple projects. And they paid on time.
“We were able to choose who we worked for,” says Theresa. “We could do a little bit of background on them and make sure that the people we were trying to be a subcontractor for were of good character.”
Then the terrorist attacks of September 11 threw down the local construction economy. Mitchell was successful in carrying out projects on military bases. Government plans also got them through the Great Recession.
In 2011, the company had around 40 employees. And Matt decided to cut down to about 25 employees. He started to turn some of his attention to other businesses. He opened a restaurant and a boat store. He bought two shrimp boats. He bought and refurbished boats and sold them. Then he spent about five years building his own boat, while still running his construction business.
“I don’t know why this was happening,” Theresa says. She calls it her “nostalgic tour”.
Matt just laughs.
“But one thing about my husband,” she adds. “He doesn’t have a hobby. Everything he does must generate income.
Rise in power
During this time, the construction business was doing well and remained stable. And finally, many secondary businesses have moved away.
“Our real passion that really drives us is here,” says Theresa, referring to Mitchell Construction.
Equipment worldTwo of their sons love the construction work and the couple want the business to be available to them.
The company has reverted to 50 employees. She updated her accounting software, switched to project management software, and started using iPads on construction sites. They also increased wages and benefits to attract and keep the right employees.
Along with the changes, the company continued to benefit from Matt’s work ethic and quality standards.
“A lot of people really respect Matt,” Theresa says. “A lot of his employees respect him because he’s the kind of guy who’s out there in the ditch with them.”
The company also maintains a family atmosphere. Theresa prepares lunch each day at the office for the employees. A number of employees are real family members.
Their eldest son, Mark, has worked with them since 2000 and recently went on his own to start a concrete business. Their youngest son, Matthew, is the supervisor of the company’s asphalt division. Matt’s two brothers and Theresa’s sisters also work for the company.
“We’ve always been a real close family,” says Matt.
Displacement of dirt
One of Mitchell’s latest projects was to rebuild the sand dunes on the beaches of Surf City and North Topsail, which had eroded during Hurricane Florence.
The projects involved transporting and placing over 200,000 cubic meters of sand. Mitchell dump trucks came and went hauling sand miles away, while excavators and bulldozers moved like clockwork to build the dunes.
“I can move dirt and love to move dirt,” Matt says.
Surf City Clerk Stephanie Hobbs agrees.
“It’s a great company,” she says. “I would give them the highest mark you have. They show up on time and get the job done on time and on budget.
Matt attributes his success to hard work and recommends the same to new entrepreneurs.
“You have to work hard. You have to devote your time to it, ”he says. “When everyone is having fun, you have to make a deal with someone. “