Business

Flournoy marks 40 years of developing Columbus

In Columbus, if you think Flournoy, you think land.

The family name is synonymous with the development of Lakebottom more than 100 years ago, and successive generations of Flournoys have made careers in real estate.

This year, Columbus-based Flournoy Development Company, a regional powerhouse among apartment developers, marks its 40th anniversary.

Since it was founded by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Flournoy in 1967, the company has constructed approximately 130 developments with more than 28,000 units.

The company was started when Flournoy, a Marine pilot in Vietnam, came back from the war. Trying to decide what to do with his life, Flournoy paired up with high school friend Jim Gates to build single-family homes and subdivisions under the name Flournoy Gates Inc.

Over time, though, Flournoy's interest shifted toward multi-family construction, which he said was more efficient to build.

"It's so much easier because we can make a decision right now," Flournoy said. "In 10 minutes, we'll make a big decision. It just keeps things rolling."

In 1972, Flournoy bought Gates' interest in the company, and a couple of years later it was renamed Flournoy Development.

What's rare about Flournoy Development's model is that it handles all aspects of putting up and running an apartment community. It develops the land, builds the structures and manages leasing operations. The parent company created three subsidiaries in 1975, Flournoy said.

"We feel like we minimize the risk that we are going to lose money on a job either by a construction not producing the product on time or not staying in the budget or having big cost overruns," he said.

"It gives us a lot more security and control of our financial destiny by being vertically integrated."

Keeping busy

Today, with 432 employees, Flournoy Development builds and operates multi-family communities across the Sunbelt. Flournoy said nine new developments in Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida are either under way or soon to be started.

"We're very busy right now," he said.

Asked for the key to his company's success, Flournoy said it's dependability. Since the company's founding in 1967, it has finished every project it started and has never had a foreclosure on a development.

"Our whole culture has been that if we say we're going to do something, we're going to do it," Flournoy said.

Another important part of the equation, Flournoy said, is fairness.

"We've got a cadre of people — suppliers and manufacturers and subcontractors plumbers and electricians — that will go anywhere we want to go almost, " he said. "If we say we want to go to New Mexico, then they say 'when.’ ”

That philosophy was echoed by Randy Osborne, who entered the company in 1979 as a project manager, advancing to the position of president and chief operating officer of Flournoy Construction.

"We believe in doing what we say. We believe in an honest and ethical approach to business," Osborne said.

Flournoy's brother, Tom Flournoy, who is president and chief operating officer of Flournoy Development, stressed the importance of having a reliable staff, and of fostering honesty, ethics and enthusiasm in the workplace.

"We got a lot of people who have been here a long time, and you've got a good culture. It's a hard-working company," Tom said.

That culture is what has carried the company for its first 40 years, John Flournoy said, and in 100 more, he's thinks the company will be around, perhaps doing other things as well, but thriving.

"We are laying the groundwork and the framework for having the company survive whatever it is," he said. "We’re making provisions so that the company will be here and will be an asset to the community and will be a good place for our great-grandchildren to work, hopefully."

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