published Sunday, February 12th, 2012

EMJ goes green as retail line ratchets down

Jay Jolley, CEO of EMJ Corp., watched his business shrink by half between 2007 and 2009.

The construction company was considered among the most accomplished shopping mall builders, with 80 percent of all work going toward large retail projects that brought in income of some $1 billion in 2007.

By 2009, company revenues had fallen to $500 million.

“We used to be very one-dimensional,” Jolley said.

With retail construction falling dramatically, the company opened up the idea folder and launched, bought or bolstered new lines of businesses to stabilize income.

Now, the company has multiple divisions specializing in solar energy, hotel construction, government buildings and even a company that specializes in working with Native American groups on casino projects.

“Necessity is the mother of invention, and obviously when retail started going down, that’s when we said OK, we’ve got all these great ideas so let’s go water and fertilize them,” he said.

As a result, revenue in 2011 climbed 40 percent from 2010, he said, as the company’s percentage of retail and mall construction fell to 40 percent from 80 percent.

And instead of focusing on large retail work, EMJ offers all sorts of construction management services on jobs of all sizes, in addition to its typical role as a large contractor.

“A successful company that sells a car also does maintenance, does warranty work, they lease, they rent, they provide a car in a lot of different ways,” Jolley said. “That’s what we do.”

Even with the expiration of some government solar subsidies, Signal Energy CEO Ben Fischer is confident that the company can top $100 million in revenue in 2012.

“From a cost perspective, wind energy blows everything else away, and solar is close to being competitive,” Fischer said. “The price of a solar plant is a third of what it cost a few years ago.”

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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