No doubt, one of the South’s most powerful and active subcontractors is F.L. Crane & Sons Inc. Like the writings of William Faulkner, the company’s work is rich, is considered by most to be of the highest quality, the demand consistent, the output abundant. Headquartered in Fulton, Miss., the subcontractor’s reach extends well into the Delta in such locations as Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. Not quite the everlasting arm, it still would be fair to say that the company has a significant reach in the South and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine part of its business plan would be a footprint in Arkansas, Georgia and even eastern Oklahoma. In just two years, the company will turn 70.

The finishing contractor was started by (the man himself) F.L. Crane in 1947.

To date, the company’s services are metal studs and drywall, prefab exterior panel systems, acoustical ceilings, stucco/EIFS, fireproofing, insulation, ceramic tile, resilient floor covering, carpet and metal panels.

The company started with a crew of fewer than 10 people. Over the years, Crane’s sons Jimmie and Johnnie Crane were brought into the business. In 1963, the business was incorporated. By the mid-80s, the contractor had expanded outside the state. At that time, approximately 150 people were employed. Then in the early 1990s, the casino construction began. Based on the success of these smaller offices, as well as the Fulton Division and the modern technology of being able to estimate jobs with a computer rather than by hand, additional offices were opened in Middleton, Tenn.; Southaven, Jackson, Cleveland, and Ocean Springs, Miss.; Tuscaloosa and Huntsville, Ala. and; Pensacola, Fla. The corporation now consists of the headquarters being in Fulton, its newest additions FLC Imports and FLC Industrial Services. F.L. Crane has approximately 625 people currently employed.

Mike Heering, who serves as the company’s president, began in the field as a drywall finisher and then moved on to all of the trades that the company does. He has served as a field manager, estimator/project manager, regional vice president and finally was promoted to his current position in 2006. Remarkably, he has been employed by F.L. Crane & Sons for 41 years.

Success and its Price

“Business is definitely on the upswing this year,” says Heering. “It is still quite competitive out there, which I don’t understand due to the number of jobs that are in the bid market today.”

He says that the regional market is good in some of the markets, not so good in others. There is an uptick across the board but some areas are lagging behind others. With F.L. Crane having multiple office locations, it is a little easier to keep things going by shifting staff to locations that are doing better.

“I would think that because things are changing on a daily basis, you never know what might be facing you when you walk through the door each day,” says Heering. “The technology side of our industry is changing so fast and it is interesting to see what works and what does not.”

Heering does worry about whether the company will have enough manpower as the company’s work volume increases. It is challenging every day to keep up with the work load and the man days that it will take to perform the work and when you exceed that number, trying to find the personnel to take care of it, he adds.

Heering has a valid concern, particularly for the company—though it could be echoed with other successful contractors, as the rest of the year seems to hold a full schedule.

“I would say long term goals would be to make sure that we have the next generation prepared to take over the business,” he says. “I think we have been working on that goal for some time now and feel that in the next few years the new team will be ready for that assignment.”

Memphis Smoking Hot

Recently, one of the company’s bigger projects was the University of Memphis, Community of Health, a combined dual-use facility that houses the Loewenberg School of Nursing and School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. The Loewenberg School of Nursing building features the latest in technology, security, simulation, classroom learning modules and research facilities. It will house the nursing school, which features eight simulation labs with debrief rooms, five skills labs, and three health assessment labs, in addition to a 180 seat testing center and a 170 seat lecture hall with tiered seating. The School of Communication Science Disorders features 24 faculty research laboratories, testing suites, a two-story Anechoic chamber and a public speech and hearing clinic. Quite a good project the company can add to its portfolio.

Drywall and FRP cornice work is what the company was contracted to install.

“This 200,000-square-foot design gives each of these distinct schools their own four-story wing, connected by common areas of shared space and circulation,” says Heering. “Though both schools are Health Sciences, each has its own complex program with unique spatial needs. Well lit, accessible, unconcealed communicating stairs encourage health and fitness. Natural light throughout the building creates pleasant and comfortable learning environments.”

The company installed Marino\Ware steel framing, USG Securock, Glass-Mat Panels Mold Tough, Ultralight Type X and Mold Tough, and CBL Architectural Fiberglass Cornice Modular Arts Interlocking Rocks Blocks.

“I was particularly impressed with the performance and the engineering behind the USG Ultralight and the aesthetics and installation associated with the Modular Arts Interlocking Rocks,” Heering says. “The reduced weight of the Ultralight product has definitely had a positive effect on the installer productivity, morale and our bottom line.”

Other Players

In addition to USG products, F.L. Crane also frequently uses plenty of National Gypsum, ClarkDietrich Building Systems, Armstrong World Industries and Sto Corp. lines and accessories. Herring also cites and credits the distributors L&W Supply, Pyramid and INEX that help with good services.

“We have always made it our duty to make sure that we provide service and quality in every job we do whether it is a small job or a multimillion dollar project,” says Heering. “We send out questionnaires at the time of our final invoice to get feedback from our general contractors so that we can strive to make sure that we are doing our job well and so that we can address our weaknesses.”