The modern world is replete with attempts at efficiency. Hacks, shortcuts, and productivity apps are peddled at every aspect of life. Whatever we need done, there has to be a faster way of doing it. We’re losing sight of the notion that some things just take time. And some things are much better for experiencing the fullness of time. The Blythe family has been operating a construction business in the Carolina soil for nearly one hundred years and have come to know nearly every inch of the connected states in the process. In that time, they have developed both an expertise of the land upon which they labor and a deep connection to their numerous partners and customers with whom they share that land with.
The current iteration of the company, Blythe Development, was founded by twin brothers Jack and Frank Blythe in 1989. The previous version of the business was bought by an English outfit, which the brothers managed for several years before starting up the new venture from scratch. It wasn’t long before they were once again growing rapidly to scale. According to Jack, “the original company was formed by my grandfather and his brother. That was in 1920 and that was Blythe Brothers construction company. That evolved into Blythe Industries. Blythe Industries was sold in 1986 to an English company and then we started Blythe Development in ‘89. A few years later we started Blythe Brothers Asphalt company, which is our asphalt manufacturer as well as our asphalt paving operation.” The company is one of the foremost siteworks construction businesses in the Mid-Atlantic, tackling a wide-breadth of both public and private jobs. Blythe Development takes an entirely holistic view of its enterprise, offering the whole suite of services to customers, effectively becoming a one-stop shop of what Jack calls, “everything from the ground down”. Elaborating, Jack said, “Clearing, grading, erosion control work, storm drainage, water line and sanitary sewer line work, curb and gutter, sidewalk, concrete and asphalt paving. We also install retaining walls, concrete culverts, and bridges.” Quite an extensive menu.
There is a method to the extensive offerings. It is a significant advantage being able to offer clients effectively turn-key solutions for site work. Dealing with one company and not a small army of contractors is extremely appealing and allows for more focused attention to detail. Coordinating with multiple contractors presents more points of failure, and requires more resources. As Blythe said, “That’s why a lot of our customers like to contract with us. Because we have the ability to do all of it, it gives us more control over the schedule. And time is money.” Through both its broad range of offerings and its deep familiarity with the area, Blythe Development has been able to cultivate a large pool of repeat customers. In both the previous and current companies, the Blythes have been earning a reputation for excellence and reliability for nearly 100 years. That’s the type of thing that no amount of marketing can buy – boots on the ground, sweat equity and long-term relationships. It’s a tangible advantage that is earned the hard way. As Blythe sees it, “I’d like to think that we’re the most reliable site work and road contractor in the area. Clients know if they contract with us that we will not only do a good job but if we have any problems, we’ll stand behind it and correct it at no extra cost. They know we’re here to stay.”
Over the years as the company has grown to its current, formidable size, it has worked on both private and public jobs. It has turned out to be a strategically astute play as at different time periods, jobs in either sector having waxed and waned. After the devastating financial crash in 2008, private sector jobs dried-up considerably and without its ability to handle the scale necessitated on most public jobs, the company would have been in a precarious position. But, Jack and his brother Frank had the institutional experience that equipped them to handle it. Significantly, they had already formed the sister company, Blythe Brothers Asphalt, which gave them a massive leg up and the capability to handle larger-scale public jobs. Blythe said, “When we started over again, we concentrated on the private sector because we saw a real need to help our clients with the site work on their projects. And once we got bigger we got back into the asphalt production operations. Then we did start doing more public work because that’s where a bigger volume of asphalt is required.”
“The company is one of the foremost siteworks construction businesses in the Mid-Atlantic, tackling a wide-breadth of both public and private jobs.”
Blythe Development happily bounces between public and private sectors now as the markets dictate. Easy in the knowledge that whichever way the wind blows, it will be able to tack to the new course. It is currently undertaking several ambitious projects in both sectors. On the private side, Blythe Development is performing the large majority of site work for the Carolina Panthers’ new training facility in Rock Hill, SC. Coming in at 700,000 square feet and over a billion dollars to build, it is a project of serious scale. The project will bring new economic development to the area and also foster a sense of unity, giving the team a presence in both North and South Carolina. Demonstrating the power of its long-term relationships is the Charlotte Pipe and Foundry job the company is working on. Having purchased materials from the piping outfit over the years, Blythe Development was sought out to help build a new facility in Stanley County. Blythe explained, “We have used Charlotte Pipe and Foundry products for years and have a relationship with the family that owns the company. They came to us because they wanted to build a new facility. It is a large site work project and they trusted us to do a good job.”
On the public side the company is currently also working on widening Highway 16 in Catawba County. A massive job, the company is widening 12 miles of highway. The project was delayed two years while existing utilities along the corridor were relocated causing significant schedule and cost impacts. As a result of its existing relationship with The North Carolina Department of Transportation, they were able to amicably work through the increased costs and additional time, utilizing what Vice President of Operations Luke Blythe refers to as, “Our private client mentality.” Meaning not driving an unnecessarily hard bargain and treating the Department of Transportation as a partner. Everything is relationships.
As everywhere, COVID-19 has brought its fair share of difficulties. Maintaining numbers in the work force is an ever-evolving challenge and supply chain issues require the company to remain nimble. Embracing newer logistics technology has been helpful, as well as redirecting resources when possible. Even with less employees than before the pandemic, the same amount work has been able to be completed. Both examples of Blythe Development’s institutional knowledge expanding with time.
The company and its predecessors, run by a century’s lineage of Blythes, have sat easily in the endless green expanse of the Carolinas. Whatever the challenges of the industry, Blythe Development is exceptionally well situated to handle the twists and turns. After all, roots that deep keep you standing firm in the face of even the harshest winds.