VOL. 126 | NO. 65 | Monday, April 4, 2011
City, Community at Heart of Montgomery Martin’s Work
RICHARD J. ALLEY | Special to The Daily News
Construction, says Montgomery Martin, is hard. And he should know, having been in the business since 1978.
“You’re creating something out of nothing, you’re taking a raw piece of dirt, grading it off and digging holes and pouring concrete and creating an edifice for an environment to work in and live in,” Martin said. “That’s all very appealing and neat, and a necessary thing to do for society and for culture and for people to live and operate in.”
The projects of Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC, a mixture of residential, commercial and civic, are highly visible around town: Barboro Flats, Hope Presbyterian Church, Opera Memphis, Mercedes-Benz of Memphis, Memphis College of Art Fogelman Hall and Downtown graduate school, Harbor of Health, Briarcrest Christian School and Christian Brothers University Center for Life Sciences.
The projects are many and varied out of town as well, but it’s Memphis that Martin calls home and that he holds close to heart.
Born here and an alumnus of Memphis University School, Martin left for Auburn University for its pre-med program, switching to building sciences in his sophomore year. His father was an architect and Martin spent much of his time as a kid in architects’ offices taking notice of the plans and specs. It was all theoretical to Martin.
“I spent a lot of time in architects’ offices and very little time on job sites,” Martin said. “But I saw soon enough that I was more geared toward engineering and construction. It was a natural fit for me.”
He returned to Memphis after school to work for MCDR, where he worked for 17 years before going out on his own to start Montgomery Martin Contractors in 1995. His first building project was the 100,000-square-foot Building A at Lenox Park near Kirby Parkway and Tenn. Highway 385 for developers Clark & Clark; followed quickly by a sanctuary for Balmoral Presbyterian Church. It’s this variety of projects that would become the backbone of the company and see them through the slow times in the building industry.
“Everybody is looking for an expert, everybody wants the contractor with the most experience in office buildings or churches or schools or retail or hospitals, so the more experience you’ve got doing that then the better off you are,” Martin said.
The first 10 to 12 years were growth years for the company, the chance to find their footing and establish a foundation in the industry. By the time the market slid in 2008, Montgomery Martin had offices in the panhandle of Florida and Nashville, and had evolved their expertise into residential and Downtown renovation projects.
The slowdown saw the need to re-evaluate their reach and reconsider the market.
“We did retract some, our volume is down about 40 percent, which is the national norm,” Martin said. “But we’ve been able to exercise our core competencies quite well and stabilize a group here for two years that has been able to acquire work and keep us going.”
Montgomery Martin employees about 120 people.
As one of the premier builders in town, Martin works closely with local developers and architects and is known as a man of veracity, someone who gets the job done and chooses good people.
“I get a big kick out of working with him, and his organization is very good to work with from top to bottom,” said developer Henry Turley. “They hustle and get things done. He’s easy to work with and effective.”
Turley worked with Martin and architectural firm Looney Ricks Kiss to build Barboro Flats on Main Street and the ensemble is currently rehabbing the Van Vleet building at Second Street and Gayoso Avenue into a mixed-use development.
“The company reflects the leader and they all have high integrity; I’ve enjoyed working with everybody over there,” said Rob Norcross, principal with LRK Inc., who has known and worked with Martin for 15 years.
Martin is a family man, married to Laura for 33 years. The couple has two daughters – Lauren, 28, and Neile, 23.
And of all of the projects Martin has worked on, none speak to him and his principles more than those of a civic nature in his hometown. He stresses the importance of teamwork in projects such as Shelby Farms Park Conservancy’s master plan, Playhouse on the Square and the Kroc Center.
“Construction is a business and you’ve got to make money to stay open, but the added benefit of being able to be involved in the building … and watching our city grow and become a great place to work and live, that’s what really pushes my buttons and gets me up and to the office quickly every day,” he said.