It had never crossed the mind of Jordon Construction Co.’s founder that he might find himself on CBS News’ 60 Minutes. He’s been too busy.
But in November, producers of the show requested James Jordon’s expertise while he was in Palm Springs, Fla., receiving the Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 Award from Ernst and Young as a Southeastern finalist.
Six days later on a Monday morning, presenter Bill Whitaker flew to meet Jordon in Greenville to prep for an interview on the company’s adjustments in a competitive labor market.
“I got in at 1 a.m., actually Monday morning, and jumped off the plane, ran home, got some quick sleep,” Jordon told GSA Business Report. “And then, when I met Bill Whitaker at Lazy Goat the next morning, I spent about half a day with him. It was pretty cool.”
The episode featuring Jordon aired on Jan. 9 at the end of what have been a fruitful two years for the contractor, despite the circumstances — or in some cases, through serving a need because of the circumstances.
“We have been so, so fortunate,” he said. “Our primary sectors are federal, health care and commercial and retail,” he said. “We’re now leaning more into the multi-unit apartment space, but for our primary markets, things have not slowed down.”
When much commercial construction came to a screeching halt in 2020, the Jordon Construction Co. soldiered onward with federal projects during the shutdown, a market that has at least doubled over the past two years, he said.
“And we’ll probably triple that in 2022,” Jordon said.
For the firm, that has meant revamping the HVAC system and floors at Sumter’s Shaw Air Force Base, sanitizing Transportation Security Administration areas at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and renovatiing Beaufort’s U.S. Navy Hospital.
“At Parris Island, for example, we had 17 buildings we were responsible for doing the maintenance on,” he said. Parris Island houses another U.S. Naval Hospital and a Marine Corp. Recruit Depot installation. “After someone tested positive for COVID, we had to come into certain barracks to do COVID cleaning inside those barracks.”
Since 2020, Jordon Construction Co. also has helped build out several hospital expansions to mitigate the bed shortage for COVID-19 patients.
Past clients have included Prisma Health, Piedmont Hospital, the Grand Strand Medical Center, and the Lexington Medical Center, among others.
There was one project that made Jordon a bit nervous during a panicky spring 2020: Greenville’s new federal courthouse.
Jordon and his partners, Brasfield & Gorrie and Jacobs Technology, had quite the job ahead of them: a $105 million project spanning 193,000 square feet including seven courtrooms, nine judge’s chambers and office space for the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a federal public defender.
Under a decade-long mentorship relationship with Brasfield and Gorrie, Jordon Construction Co. won a portion of the bid in 2016. In 2019, the General Services Administration and family of the courthouse’s namesake, former Gov. Carroll Campbell, gathered to break ground on the project in 2019.
Throughout the pandemic, a large project meant more employees and more employees meant more opportunity for infection, but Jordon said he was grateful Brasfield & Gorrie stuck to Centers for Disease Control guidelines and had compliance officials onsite to keep employees safe.
A final topping-off ceremony had been scheduled in 2020 to place the last metal beam on the structure, but after the event was cancelled because of COVID-19, workers surprised the project team by chiseling their names onto the final beam, according to the General Services Administration.
“It means so much to see all of the recognition this team has received for the hard work they’ve put into this project,” Public Buildings Service Regional Commissioner Kevin Kerns said in a statement. “Their dedication to ensuring this project is a success and that we deliver a state-of-the-art courthouse that meets the operational needs of the judiciary.”
Jordon Construction Co. and partners completed the courthouse in October 2021.
“It was a dynamic work environment,” he said. “It seemed like weekly, different news was coming out about the right way to social distance and the right safety mandates and things like that. We were fortunate we were able to keep the majority of our staff working on that project because of the mentor-protégé relationship.”
Many contractors tend to shy away from federal projects due to the regulations involved, but COVID-19 shutdown aside, Jordon sees opportunity in the challenge.
The regulatory environment has encouraged Jordon Construction’s operations to be more structured in ways that helped the contractor when blazing new trails in the private market with buildings like Camperdown’s Deca Apartments — one of the company’s first residential projects also completed during the pandemic.
The company’s status as a small minority-owned business also helps Jordon on the public playing field, which also tends to reward federal contractors with more federal contracts.
To date, Jordon Construction has completed more than 150 federal jobs, all followed by strong evaluations from supervisors, according to Jordon.
“It’s one of those things where you’re starting out with smaller projects and you’re working to demonstrate credibility, and the more projects that you successfully complete, the larger projects that you can compete for and that they trust you with, because you have the upper-pass in performance,” he said.
So when the General Services Administration sought out a contractor to revitalize the neo-classical Clement F. Haynesworth Federal Building, Greenville’s former 1937-era courthouse, it hired Jordon Construction for the job directly.
“We competed to win the opportunity to be contractor of choice for the GSA for any renovations that will go on in that building,” he said. “As folks have been transitioning out of the Haynesworth building and into the federal courthouse building, there’s still been work that we’ve had to go into the old federal courthouse to do,” Jordon said. “It is still an impressive facility for its age.”