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TUPELO • Jerry Maxcy was told at an early age that he would be an engineer.
“My dad said I was definitely not going to be a mechanic, but momma told me when I was little kid that she wanted me to be an engineer,” he said.
Turns out, it wasn’t the kind of engineer he was thinking.
“If you really wanted to know the truth, I thought I was going to get to drive a train,” he said with a laugh.
But he did become a construction engineer, which led him to his place of employment for 45 years: JESCO. Maxcy will retire from his role as president and CEO at the end of the month, closing a chapter on a long, storied tenure.
Construction was something that always intrigued Maxcy, which led him to where he is today.
While at JESCO — the only place he’s worked at after graduating from Mississippi State — Maxcy has served as an estimator/project manager, certified professional estimator, vice president of estimating, senior vice president and division manager, corporate executive vice president, and corporate president and CEO.
He’s done nearly every job at the company, starting from the bottom and working all the way to the top. He has rightfully earned the respect and admiration of colleagues and workers not only at JESCO, but across the industry.
Heading a $200 million company with some 200 employees, Maxcy worked — and earned — his way to the pinnacle of success.
Yet, he takes no credit for his success. Instead, he shares the spotlight.
“It’s all the people that stepped up to teach a young guy, the son of an auto mechanic, the ins and outs of this crazy business,” he said. “I look back at the people who mentored me. I was fortunate to be with a good company, a successful company, a family company, and that’s the way it’s always been.”
Among his mentors was Travis Staub, the son of company founder Joseph E. Staub.
JESCO, was started in 1941 by Joseph Staub as a remodeling business. In 1973, the company changed its name to JESCO Inc. to better reflect its range of services, including general construction, industrial services, millwright-maintenance, steel fabrication, mechanical-electrical, design and more. Since 1999, the company has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the Philadelphia, Mississippi-based Yates Companies.
Travis Staub was president of the company for 25 years.
“He taught me everything, and he taught me to do it the right way,” Maxcy said. “He also taught me a lot about life along the way, too.”
Maxcy also pays homage to the many superintendents out in the field who took their time to teach him how to form a wall erect steel and other ins and outs of the business.
“They embraced me,” he said. “They taught me so much over the years. Another person who comes to mind is Jerry Stubblefield.”
Stubblefield was Maxcy’s predecessor as president at JESCO.
“I think of all the people who helped me get here and all the people I’ve worked with to make this company successful for so many years,” Maxcy said. “Am I going to miss it? Yes, terribly. It’s been a great ride. It’s something different every day. It’s not mundane. It’s not always fun. But you can always look back and say, ‘Hey, we built that,’ and there’s so many monuments to what we’ve done over the years that all our people take pride in.”
Working 45 years for one company is a testament not only to the worker, but also the business. Maxcy said it’s a point of pride and a hallmark for JESCO that employee retention is high and the track record for long-time employees is lengthy.
“That’s been the key to our success; people are committed to us, and we’ve been committed to them,” Maxcy said.
Throughout his career, Maxcy has seen the company go through recessions and a pandemic, with everyone learning something along the way. Sometimes they were hard lessons to be learned, sometimes they were lessons that needed to be learned.
And now, a year into the pandemic and business and industry opening back up, JESCO faces another challenge in rising raw material costs that impact suppliers and customers alike.
“There’s pent up demand and business is good, but the industry can’t keep up with it,” he said. “Prices have been escalating all year, and we’re faced with a two-week duration for most quotes because we can’t get price protection beyond that. We’ve seen steel more than double, lumber much more than that and we’re running into situation where you can’t get what you need. Scheduling and ordering has become a big challenge for everybody.”
Indications are that the elevated prices will likely continue to rise through the fall and eventually level off and decline, but Maxcy isn’t going to bank on it to happen before the end of the year.
But soon, the day-to-day inner workings or JESCO can be left behind as he retires as the chief executive. He will remain as vice chairman of the company, but he’ll be able to spend more time with his beloved wife, Carolyn, their children and their grandchildren.
He’d like to be remembered as a hard worker and someone who never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.
“I hope they’ll say I’ve always been honest and straight-forward,” he said.
One of Maxcy’s favorite singers, Tim McGraw, has a song, “Humble and Kind” that perfectly reflects Maxcy’s outlook on life.
Among his favorite lyrics:
“Hold the door, say ‘please’, say ‘thank you’
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb
But always stay humble and kind.”
“I’d like to be remembered as someone who was always humble and kind,” Maxcy said.
And while spending time with family, traveling and maybe revisiting fishing are all on his agenda, there might be one more thing Maxcy might try.
“I have gotten to drive that train yet,” he said with a smile.