Celebrating 50 years: Above and Beyond
A message from Burt Odom, CEO & President, EMJ Corporation
EMJ’s purpose and mission have evolved over the past 50 years, but we have always stayed true to our roots to go above and beyond. There are many stories passed around our organization that speak of all-nighters to finalize a job, executives assisting on-site crews, and coincidental meetings that turned into decade-long friendships.
Our mission, to deliver unique value to our clients, partners and colleagues, is about performing to the best of our abilities so that everyone we encounter receives an exceptional experience. These experiences lead to long-term relationships of trust and collaboration, similar to the bond that Ed Jolley and Charles Lebovitz built so many years ago.
I believe EMJ has thrived for half a century because we aim to think differently than other general contractors, and that’s something I am extremely proud of.
I hope you enjoy this second excerpt from EMJ Corporation: The First 50 Years, a book developed to share the company’s story and honor those who built EMJ. Printed copies will be available soon, and look for more excerpts on the blog throughout 2018.
“I remember we were building a shopping center once in a small town in South Carolina—Laurens, South Carolina,” Charles Lebovitz of CBL Properties recollects. “The night before the grand opening, Ed and I were out there in the parking lot helping to finish the striping of the lot. The stores were fully-fixtured and had merchandise. We had represented that we were going to open on a certain day at 9 a.m. And the night before, we did what it took to get it done.”
Going above and beyond became a hallmark for Ed Jolley and Independent Construction Company. Not only did the company always deliver on time and on budget, but Jolley also took a unique approach to the way he worked with Independent Enterprises.
“There was a tremendous chemistry between the Lebovitz family and Ed Jolley, and eventually myself,” says Jim Sattler, who joined Independent Construction Company in January 1976. “That chemistry was so important. [Independent Enterprises] had a development team, but they counted on Independent Construction Company to basically perform all of the preconstruction services that they needed. If they were given an assignment to go out and evaluate certain properties and see which would be the best properties, we were always involved.”
Charles Lebovitz adds, “[Ed] understood our approach to development. He was able to participate directly as we would go to different cities to meet with utility companies and others as far as developing initial budgets, where utilities had to be extended to the property, how to handle the storm water drainage for the property—all the things that went into a project. Ed became almost an extension of Independent Enterprises. He would go to those meetings and be identified as the contractor, but he understood the business. He understood what it took to put these shopping centers together, and he was very helpful in the negotiations with different local officials to secure the permitting and everything else. To say that [Ed] was our general contractor was really a misnomer.”
That strong connection between Independent Enterprises and Independent Construction Company became even more clear in 1978. Charles Lebovitz and four associates formed CBL & Associates, and Ed Jolley showed his solidarity with the new firm by renaming Independent Construction Company.
“Since there was no longer an Independent Enterprises and we were now CBL, Independent Construction Company changed its name to EMJ Corporation,” Lebovitz explains. Although Jolley claimed he would never use his initials as a company name, he recognized how beneficial it could be when Charles Lebovitz did just that with his new company. Both men had sterling reputations based on the work they had done over the years, and the credibility they built translated to the new iterations of CBL & Associates and EMJ Corporation.
Edgar M. Jolley was born on December 9, 1928, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to John E. Jolley Sr. and Grace Scott Jolley. He grew up in the Chattanooga neighborhood of Ridgedale, as well as in Boynton, Georgia. He graduated from Central High School in Chattanooga and in 1951 received a degree in business from the University of Chattanooga, where he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and a head cheerleader for the Chattanooga Mocs, which he fervently supported after his graduation. While his family business was in the automotive industry, he found his professional calling in construction services and at the helm of EMJ. He retired in 1993. In addition to being a father of seven, a grandfather of fourteen, and a great-grandfather of two, he was an avid golfer and pilot (of both private aircraft and remote control planes), as well as a community leader. In 2005 he was inducted into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame at UT-Chattanooga. He passed away on January 30, 2007.
Check back for more excerpts from the EMJ anniversary book throughout 2018.