Contractor builds on family business
Steve Murray is in the business of building.
Building structures, building customers and building a company.
He's also a big employer that operates from a small town.
Started as Eastern Technologies in 1989 by his late father, Mouzon "Spunky" Murray, the then-North Charleston business focused primarily on ship repair and sheetmetal work. After his father's death in 1999, Steve Murray partnered with Stephen Potts in 2001 in Potts' Metal Technician firm near Sangaree.
In 2008, Murray initiated a buyout of Potts and changed the company name to Carolina Contracting Solutions.
"The previous name deadheaded us as a metal company," Murray said. "We do so much more than that. We are very diversified."
From debris clearing during the recent ice storm to erecting buildings such as the new $2 million Children's Discovery Center in Mount Pleasant, Murray's enterprise and his 130 workers are scattered throughout the Lowcountry.
On site at the 9-acre business on S.C. Highway 61 near Ridgeville, Murray, the owner, oversees an office staff, a fabrication and metals shop, paint facility, carpentry shop and auto repair garage for a fleet of more than 40 vehicles plus heavy equipment such as bulldozers and backhoes.
Across the Charleston area, workers from the Givhans community business have been involved in projects at the KapStone paper mill, S.C. Electric & Gas Co. and Santee Cooper power plants, Boeing South Carolina and numerous other local industry juggernauts and smaller companies.
"When things break down and they are just too bad for them to handle, they call us in," Murray said.
They recently finished construction on Morrison Automotive repair shop and Enterprise Rent-a-Car, both in Summerville. Work will begin soon on a second Tru Auto pre-owned dealership on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston near the post office.
They've built fire stations and homes, performed site work and designed buildings. Just last week, they won a $1.2 million contract for two new fire stations near Hollywood.
Last year alone, the company performed between $20 million and $30 million in contract work. Employment rose as high as 150 at one point, and the number of workers has grown steadily from the 40 or so in 2008 when the company changed names.
"Business is better than it's been since 2005," Murray said. "It's coming back strong, but it's different than before. You have to cross every 't' and dot every 'i' now to compete. But I've always had to fight for everything anyway."
About 18 months ago, Murray hired an in-house architect.
"We just had a need for it," said office manager Melinda West. "We had spent so much outsourcing."
Joellen Rogers, the architect with a degree from Ball State University, couldn't be happier.
"It's an opportunity for me to work on a variety of things," the Summerville resident said from an upstairs office overlooking the metal fabrication shop.
Murray and his staff put out about 30 to 50 bids a week.
"About 10 percent come through," Murray said. "That's very good."
The company pays 90 percent of its employees' health insurance costs, 80 percent if they smoke. It offers a 401(k) retirement plan, six paid holidays, no sick leave but will work with an employee if there is a serious ailment, and a week of vacation up to five years on the job, two weeks after five years.
It's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as needed. Employees can get as much overtime as they want.
"We care about our employees," Murray said. "This company is nothing about me. It's all about us."
It pays out about $100,000 a week in salaries, $150,000 a week in bills and $45,000 a month in health insurance coverage for its employees.
Murray considers his company one of the bigger contractors in the area, one that's tripled in employees since 2008.
Including Potts, who is now a supervisor, the company's staff includes former owners of small construction companies that went belly up. The vice president is Curt Altman, the former owner of the now-defunct Lowcountry Steel.
"They are among the hardest workers," Murray said. "We have grown when other companies have shut down."
In 2011, work started to take off. "We were like a sleeper," Murray said. "We were just lying low. We let our work talk for itself."
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.