McGee Brothers History
The company name comes from reality. There were six brothers in the McGee family. Harry Lee was the oldest. Then followed Jesse Warren (Whitie), Samuel Alexander, Robert Billy, Donald Ray, and Michael Reid. There were three sisters: Wanda Neil Kubach, Mary Elizabeth Huntley (Lib), and Sybil Dianne Helms. The McGees were all raised on the Carriker Road farm in Union County, N. C. The farm developed a strong work ethic in the McGee siblings. While as individuals they often saw things from different perspectives, they remain a close knit family. Harry Lee was trained in mechanics and he established and operated the maintenance department from 1973 until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1983. His wife, Barbara Helms, had passed away one year earlier. They had six children under age 16. Don and Gladys McGee who had two daughters took the six into their family and raised them to adult hood. Bill McGee’s life came to an untimely end when his plane encountered a mid air collision in 1997. Though Bill and Rodney Rushing were killed in that plane crash, they live forever in the annals and memories of McGee Brothers.
In late 1970 Sam began to make plans to start a business. It was always understood that the entire family would be welcome to participate. Early 1971 found Don and Sam working out plans for a masonry start up company. Anticipating that other family members would probably join them, the name McGee Brothers was selected. Don, an accomplished mason, undertook the task of teaching Sam to lay brick. Sam, who was experienced in sales and management, agreed to manage the new company while he learned the trade. A major consideration in starting the company was to provide a training ground and place of employment for the many McGee descendents. After considerable preparation, the first day of actual work on a job site was April 26, 1971. On that first day, Sam’s son Jonathan (Doc), and a local teenager, Nelson Welch, came to the job after school. Thus began a long line of training young people in the masonry trade, which would eventually attract the attention of the U. S. Department of Labor.
Mike McGee, a trained mason, joined the company as a partner in late summer or early fall of the first year. Bill McGee, who had operated his own masonry company for a decade, came on board as a partner a month or so after Mike.
Any history of McGee Brothers must address the Huntley family connection. J. Preston Huntley was a local mason who trained his five sons along with many others to lay brick. The McGee family of nine children was acquainted with the Huntley family of twelve children of similar ages through the local True Light Church. Cletus, a Huntley son, married Lib, a McGee daughter. Bill,Don and Mike McGee were originally introduced to the masonry trade by working for J. P. Huntley and Sons, a masonry contractor. Sam married Mildred “Midge,” a Huntley daughter in 1963, and Don McGee married Gladys Huntley in 1971. The Huntley operation became somewhat of a model for the McGees to apply a more conventional business application to. As the business principals began to pay off, the Huntley masons began to work on a sub-contract basis for the McGees. Eventually, McGee Brothers bought the Huntley company and merged the two companies into one. All the Huntley employees and owners became McGee Brothers employees.
The company started as a labor only provider. The general contractor provided all materials (brick, block, sand, mortar, wall ties, etc.). McGee Brothers would furnish the labor and related equipment to put the materials in place, and charge a price per unit or per thousand. The work was mostly residential, and collection in full was required at completion of each job. No retainage fee was withheld.
As the business developed, several philosophies, slogans, mission statements and mottos also took hold. In the very beginning the Mission Statement was developed as follows: “To bring professionalism and orderliness to our industry. To make it simple, pleasant and affordable to do business with us. To enable our employees to learn, progress, and earn in proportion to their contribution.”
A couple of commonly quoted slogans were: “Don’t tell me, Show me. Don’t worry about the mule, just load the wagon. When we finish, we will swap you an invoice for a check.”
New methods and labor saving devices were always encouraged for increased efficiency. The first forklift was a three-point-hitch attachment for a Ford tractor built from scratch by Sam McGee. Fork lifts were used to move and raise the heavy masonry materials. Aluminum corner poles were developed to implement uniform plumb corners without building leads. Pump jack scaffolds with elevated material platforms were used to keep the mason at a comfortable working level and reduce back bending. Corner poles were further refined to accommodate quoin corners. Pick up trucks were fitted with utility beds for tool storage and racks to carry ladders, walk boards and objects too long to fit in the bed. Portable gasoline powered masonry saws have become standard equipment. Four wheel drive trucks and fork lifts allow completion of jobs in severe conditions. Skid steer loaders with rubber tracks have replaced the original four wheeled Bob Cats. Dealerships were established with manufacturers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Tifton, Georgia, and Waco, Texas allowing for direct purchase of equipment.
McGee Brothers was quick to recognize the value of a comprehensive safety program including the relationship to efficiency. Fork lifts were built with permanently attached towing chains for safe winching when stuck. Hand rails were added to the back rest so employees could safely hold on when being raised up to scaffolds on work platforms that were attached to the lift to prevent falling. Fall protection was designed and built in house for scaffolding. Special metal bracing and bases were provided for scaffolding. Regular safety meetings are held to share experiences. The goal was for every man to gain more than one year’s experience each year as a result of being exposed to the experiences of all the other crews. A full time safety director was brought on board from the ranks of the OSHA Program. A full color weekly newsletter was developed and distributed with the pay checks to keep all employees informed of any incidents or developments.
Incentive programs have been a part of the business plan from early on. The idea is to pay crews for what they accomplish, control salary costs, and promote production and quality. Promotion from within has always been the order enabling the brightest and best to grow and advance without having to leave the organization. Many young people have developed very comfortable lifestyles as a result of their careers at McGee Brothers. Many general contractors have grown and prospered exponentially during their unofficial partnering careers with the company.
McGee Brothers has been able to use its maintenance shops to develop and manufacture many pieces of equipment that were not otherwise available. The company operates hundreds of trailers, many of which were designed and built for a specific purpose. A special sand scoop was developed to take the back breaking drudgery out of shoveling sand into a mixer utilizing the fork lift for the heavy lifting. In addition to maintaining the equipment, maintenance has built hundreds of trailers, mixers, scaffolds and other items in order to get what is needed on the job site.
In the early 1990s McGee Brothers opened a concrete ready mix operation at their industrial site in Midland, N. C. This operation is used primarily to serve the needs of the footing, flatwork, and poured wall divisions. A fleet of over a dozen mixer trucks is kept busy.
A wholly owned subsidiary; McGee Huntley Construction Company, promotes, builds, and sells all brick houses. The primary purpose of this operation is to demonstrate that brick is still a viable material for less expensive homes and can be used profitably. The all brick home subdivision concept was Mike McGee’s brainchild. The McGee Huntley company was founded by Cletus Huntley.
For over a decade McGee Brothers has been recognized by masonry magazines, ENR News and other sources as the largest masonry contractor in America. As a result the company has been requested to make presentations to local schools, regional, state, and national events. Presentations have been made all across the country in over a dozen states. Of course, people always love a good success story, which is usually followed by the question: To what one thing do you attribute the success of this company? The answer is there is no one thing or two or three things, but a combination of a series of common sense ideas and an orderly application of them mixed with a heavy dose of honest hard work and an attitude to always do right by the customer, the employee, and your fellow man.
Top management has long recognized that fame, fortune, and glamour attract the type employees desired to build a top flight organization. These issues are addressed by the opportunity to work for the largest organization of its kind in America. The incentive programs allow bright hard working people to earn on the basis of how they produce as if in their own business. The glamour issue is addressed by employees who win contests at the local, regional, state, national, and international levels. Garrett Hood, a 25 year old employee, has won numerous contests including the national Skills USA high school championship in Kansas City, and most recently the International Bricklayer 500 in Las Vegas. As a result Hood is considered the best brick layer in the world. A recent Industry leader stated, “I don’t think it would be a stretch to say Hood is to brick what Woods is to golf.” Travis McGee, another twenty-something employee, has held the Guinness Book of Records title for Fastest Bricklayer in the World for over 10 years.
McGee Brothers operates several small airplanes and its own airport at the Carriker Road Office. For the benefit of those connected to aviation, the airport (McGee Field 24NC) is listed on the FAA sectional charts for Charlotte, N. C. and is located on the 108 radial approximately 24 DME from the Charlotte VOR. It is approximately 2500 feet of concrete with pilot controlled lighting on 122.9 CTAF.
The company currently operates out of six offices in the Charlotte, N. C. area in addition to Greensboro, N. C., Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston, S. C. See link for addresses and phone numbers.