Hard-Work and Honesty: Thrift Development – A Family Company Built On Years of Tradition

Thrift Development Corporation
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Thrift Development Corporation remains as true to its values of trust, integrity, and professionalism as when it was formed over twenty years ago. The family-owned and operated company was established in 1994 by the father and son duo of Glenn V. Thrift and Gary V. Thrift and has grown to over twenty-five full-time staff today.
Thrift Development works as a prime contractor, self-performing grading, base work, and storm drainage and regularly works with qualified subcontractors on many highway projects. The highly experienced licensed general contractor specializes in heavy civil works but handles all areas of major projects and has a reputation for quality and dependability.

Thrift Development’s many years of experience has resulted in the company being a pre-qualified prime contractor with the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

Earlier this year, Thrift Development was joined by Gary’s son, twenty-nine-year-old Rush Thrift. He represents the next generation of the successful company and will be serving as its Vice President and General Counsel.

“I’ve grown up in the business. Anybody who’s known my granddad or dad, the first words that come to mind are hard work and honesty,” states Rush, adding that back in his grandfather’s day, deals were sealed with a handshake. “Over the years, no one has ever worried if we would get the job done or if we would get it done on time.”

Rush spent his summers working on different crews for the company, which he describes as “a true family-owned small business.” Rush learned all aspects of the job from laying pipe to running bulldozers and excavators. At Auburn University, he enrolled in a building science program, graduated, then attended Cumberland School of Law at Samford University where he earned his law degree, passed the bar and went to work for a civil defense firm in Birmingham, Alabama. His education and years of working for Thrift Development, have been invaluable to the company.

Now working with his father, just as his dad worked with his grandfather, Rush draws on his legal expertise to also serve as general counsel for the business. “I am truly involved in all aspects of the company,” he says. “Most days, you will find me on a road construction project site.”

Founder and President Gary Thrift also owns the Thrift Group, Inc. along with six Tri-County Ace Hardware retail stores across South Carolina. The family-owned Ace Hardware stores are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary this year and owning the hardware locations benefits Thrift Development and vice-versa.

Since road construction is often determined by weather, employees will sometimes put in their hours at a hardware store if it is too rainy or hot to work outdoors. “Those two companies really do work hand-in-hand,” says Rush. “They are both owned by my dad. They were both owned by my dad and granddad.”

The company works on an average of two to three projects at any one time, with an average contract value of $2.2 million. It has taken on about ten projects in the $1 million to $7 million range, and its largest job to date was worth $22 million. While working as a subcontractor, its projects average between $10,000 and $40,000.

Ninety-five percent of Thrift Development’s work today is for departments of transportation in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. Working as a pre-qualified DOT contractor requires not only considerable experience but bonding, as only licensed general contractors are qualified to bid on DOT works.

“You have to be bonded, and that is more important today than it’s ever been, considering the economy and the market,” says Gary Thrift. “And our bonding relationship and capacity are things that we cherish and work hard to maintain. We are fortunate we’ve had the same bonding agent for thirty-plus years and have a good reputation with them. Being able to bond the jobs is vital to our success.”

Accountability on transportation department projects does not stop with Thrift Development. All suppliers and vendors also must provide certificates authenticating DOT status. Additionally, materials from these vendors, such as metal poles used in construction, also have to be certified by the DOT.

The DOT provides estimated quantities for projects, and Thrift is responsible for submitting the unit pricing to the department. This is accomplished by the company’s in-house engineer who is experienced with DOT requirements. The engineer takes on all estimating and pricing and uses formulas and vendor pricing which are entered into a computer program the DOT uses, with the bid submitted to them. As part of the DOT’s standards, Thrift is provided with estimated start and completion dates, and there are penalties involved if these are not met. The company has never been penalized for failing to complete a job on time.

One example of the company’s expertise is demonstrated by highway widening project for the Georgia Department of Transportation (EDS-545), which saw Thrift Development take Highway 17 in Toccoa, Georgia, from two-lanes to four-lanes – approximately a twenty-five million dollar contract.

Prior to starting the work, the company wisely bought land which had 350,000 yards of suitable earth. This, along with Thrift’s approximately fifty pieces of equipment, saw the five and a half mile long, three-year project completed on time. The company owns excavators, rollers, motor graders, skid steers, twelve dump trucks, and various other trucks and equipment attachments. It is using GPS more frequently on its equipment and jobs, especially larger DOT projects. Global positioning satellite technology represents a substantial investment for the business and helps operators with some of the heavy equipment.

“We self-perform grading, storm drainage, and base work as a prime contractor, and work with subcontractors to complete all scopes of work,” says Rush Thrift. “We take on highway projects from various entities and provide a turn-key product. We have the experience, knowledge, and expertise to manage all aspects of the project through completion.”

Safety is a top priority. The company has annual safety meetings and provides training to all employees, including specific training such as traffic control and trench box.

One of the challenges facing the company is finding good, skilled operators since fewer young people are going into heavy equipment operation.

Usually, Thrift works on locations up to two hours’ driving distance from its headquarters. On a typical day, employees meet at the shop before heading to the project, “and we try to have them back at the shop at the end of the day to go home,” says Thrift. “We try not to take on projects which are farther than what we can drive in a day. Plus, we have a lot of good work around us such that we are able to do that.” The company’s non-DOT work includes county and municipality projects and private jobs for railroads.

Encouraged by the recent upswing in the economy, the company is looking forward to this summer and the projects it holds. “We think there is going to be a whole lot more infrastructure going on, and we want to be in a position to take care of our share as we can,” comments Thrift.

Although Thrift Development does not have an official slogan, it continues to abide by the values set forth by its founders and the words of Rush’s late grandfather, Glenn V. Thrift: “Get it done right the first time, every time.”

“My grandfather built this company by earning a reputation of being an honest, hard-working and trustworthy man,” says Rush, “and he instilled those values in me.” Glenn V. Thrift was a founding member of Thrift Brothers, Inc., a South Carolina general contracting company that has been doing business in the Upstate of South Carolina since the early 1950s.

“We are a family-owned company who is proud of our heritage and reputation,” says Rush. “We take tremendous pride in our work product and in our reputation. Hard work and honesty are two things we take very seriously, and we strive to make each value is reflected in all of our projects.”



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