Celebrating 50 years: How it all began
A message from Burt Odom, CEO & President, EMJ Corporation
Happy New Year! 2018 marks a special year for EMJ: our company’s 50th anniversary. It was back in 1968 that Ed Jolley at the urging of his friend Charles Lebovitz of CBL Properties started a general contracting company. That decision by Ed started a chain of events that would lead to 50 years of ingenuity, innovation, service and grit, and what is today EMJ Corporation.
We have many events in the works to celebrate this important milestone and the clients, partners, colleagues and tremendous team of employees who made it what it is today. We are also publishing a book entitled EMJ Corporation: The First 50 Years to share the company’s story and honor those who got us here.
The book is the result of two years of research and interviews with current and past clients and executives. We are excited to share the final product with you later this year.
Throughout 2018, we’ll share an excerpt from the book, starting today with the following passage about how it all came to be.
It all began in the back of a private four-seater plane that was heading to Chattanooga, Tenn., late one night in 1968. Ed Jolley and Charles Lebovitz were returning home after a meeting, and they were sitting together on the brief flight.
Lebovitz, who helmed shopping center developer Independent Enterprises with his father, Moses, and cousin Jay Solomon, looked at Jolley, a general contractor and president of H. E. Collins Contracting Company, and spoke off the cuff.
“I said to Ed, ‘You should come work with us,’” Lebovitz recalls. “He said, and I’ll always remember his response, ‘You can’t afford me.’ I said, ‘Try me.’ Before we got off the plane, we had a deal. The next day, I went to my father and cousin and said, ‘I struck a deal with Ed Jolley last night to form a new construction company to build shopping centers for us.’ That’s how it started.”
The qualities that Lebovitz saw in Jolley convinced him to make that pivotal proposal in the back of the plane on its way home to Chattanooga. And the deal they made was a rather unique one, as the new construction company would serve as the exclusive general contractor for Independent Enterprises.
Thus, Ed Jolley left H. E. Collins Construction Company and launched his own venture, Independent Construction Company, in 1968. According to Lebovitz, “It proved to be a win-win situation.”