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Thad Strickland: An essential part of his local community and a leader in the metal building industry

2016 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

Strickland  Thad Lores

There are people who move through life with quiet confidence, and over the course of a lifetime we are surprised by the influence they have exerted in their community and industry. Thad Strickland, TN Construction, Spartanburg, S.C., is just such a person. During a career that spans more than 40 years, he has executed countless projects that served customers fairly with great service, but he has also been instrumental in helping to create a community for metal building contractors and erectors, and that is no small feat.

A Mechanism for Sharing Information

Strickland was instrumental in the creation of the Carolinas Chapter of the Metal Building Contractors & Erectors Association (MBCEA), which is one of the most robust and dynamic of the chapters. Its annual summer meeting is widely attended, and includes many people who travel from outside the chapter area.

Initially started when the association was known as the System Builders Association (SBA), the Carolinas Chapter is, according to Jacqueline Meiluta, speaking on behalf of the MBCEA, "Thisis the group that all other chapters aspire to be. There is great camaraderie, teamwork, collective goal setting and giving back. They were the first chapter to establish a scholarship program, which aligns with Thad's goals of developing new people for the industry and giving back to the industry."

"I'm proud to think we made a few of our customers happy. We've been blessed to have some customers for 30 years or so. I think we've done a few things right and have a good reputation in the community. We like to treat folks fairly and we hope to continue that."

Thad Strickland

The scholarship and the development of new talent are threads that weave throughout Strickland's career. "Over the years, we've been able to bring in younger people, who are the lifeblood of the organization," he says. "To get new contractors and keep them involved. We have good training programs and safety programs. In the summer meeting, we present awards in seven or eight different classifications."

A Life in Construction

Strickland grew up in Pinesville, Ga., and left to attend South Georgia College. After a couple of years at the junior college, he transferred to Georgia Tech, where he completed a degree in structural engineering. He later earned his professional engineering certification.

Straight out of school, he worked for the Georgia Department of Transportation in the bridge department and later served in the army from 1963-64. Over the next couple of years, he worked in either South Carolina or Georgia, including with one company that sent him all over the country to work on different projects. "I went wherever they needed me," he says. "But Elaine [his wife] and I were expecting our first child and it was time to settle down."

Stickland took a project manager position with Christman and Parsons, a general contractor based in Spartanburg. With them, he oversaw numerous projects throughout the Carolinas with a focus on industrial and commercial construction. It was through Christman and Parsons that he got his introduction to metal building systems.

In 1972, he left and formed TN Construction with a partner. The partnership lasted about three years, but Strickland persevered afterward. One legacy of the partnership, though, was an increased attention to systems building. "We had done a number of projects at Christman and Parsons that utilized the systems building approach," he says. "My partner had been a Butler Builder in the Greenbuild area. So we applied for a dealership. It took about a year before we finalized that. It gave us another tool to work with and provide our customers."

TN Construction is a general contractor, and metal building systems account for anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of its volume. "We're more like construction managers," Strickand says, "so we sub out most of the work." Strickland serves as president and the company has about seven employees, which is a comfortable level. "Before we had like 50 employees and we were just turning dollars," he says.

The company has always had a strong focus on serving its customers. "I'm proud to think we made a few of our customers happy," Strickland says. "We've been blessed to have some customers for 30 years or so. I think we've done a few things right and have a good reputation in the community. We like to treat folks fairly and we hope to continue that."

An Essential Part of the Community

Strickland became involved with the SBA and was instrumental in helping put together a chapter for the Carolinas. "We basically wanted to have representation in the Carolinas that were involved with systems building process," he says. "We started an alliance for sharing ideas, and giving references to people when someone had questions and concerns. It's been an invaluable tool over the years. You can call on friends from other parts of the state and share ideas."

That impulse, to share and help others, runs throughout Strickland's ethos. It led to the creation of a scholarship fund "that we promote heavily," he says. "We offer two to three scholarships annually to deserving graduates to help them go on to college and get into engineering. It's one of our most exciting projects."

Of course, the community Strickland serves is larger than just the metal building industry. He has served or is serving on the board of trustees for the local school district, on the board of Daniel Morgan vocational school, and as chair of the Spartanburg Zoning Board of Adjustment and Appeals. He is a past president of the Lions International District 32 A and has been involved with Habitat for Humanity.