The U.S. Small Business Administration has named Orangeburg-based company Cox Industries the 2013 South Carolina Family Business of the Year. A manufacturer of pressure-treated wood products, Cox is a third-generation family-owned and operated business with 14 facilities in 10 states.
Founded in 1954 by brothers W.B. and E.J. Cox, the business has grown in the last 59 years from a single facility operating on a few acres to a multi-facility provider of wood products throughout the Southeast. Products range from decks, framing and fences to utility poles, docks and retaining walls.
Cox won top honors in the family business competition based not only on its history of growth and innovation, but also on its most recent growth and financial performance—a fact made more remarkable by the recession and its lingering effects. Current president and chief executive officer R. Michael Johnson, grandson of founder W.B. Cox, took over the company in 2007 from his uncle–and W.B.’s son–Billy Cox. Led by Johnson, Cox Industries experienced nearly 100 percent growth at a time when many wood treating businesses were scaling back operations or shutting down. In 2011, Cox Industries was named the South Carolina Manufacturer of the Year by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. By 2012, Cox had grown to just under 400 full-time employees with sales of over $185 million.
Cox Industries’ recent growth depended in part on its expansion into the utility pole market over the past 15 years. When Johnson first joined the family business as an employee in 1999, then-company chief Billy Cox put him in charge of developing its new utility pole division. Johnson oversaw the acquisition of a N.C. utility pole plant and the creation of a brand new plant in Alabama. Over the following decade, this enabled the business to reach most of the major utility companies along the East Coast. Today, Cox is the largest pole producer in the eastern U.S.
Despite its growth, Cox maintains a focus on employee well-being and community involvement. Not only does Cox offer full employee health care benefits and performance-based wages that outpace inflation, it also provides scholarships to employees’ children through the Cox Foundation, awarding $580,000 since 1986. Cox Industries is also involved with Habitat for Humanity and for has built a house for Habitat for Humanity every fourth quarter for the past six years. In 2012, the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance spotlighted Cox’s efforts by presenting the company with the Excellence in Corporate Responsibility Award.
Cox Industries was nominated by Joseph Astrachan, chair of family business at Kennesaw State University, where both Johnson and Vickie Neighbor, daughter of founder W.B., earned master’s degrees.
Other 2013 South Carolina award winners include Small Business Person of the Year Noah Leask, president and chief executive officer of Ishpi Information Technologies in Mount Pleasant; runner-up Small Business Person of the Year Jerry Ellison, president and chief executive officer of JBE Incorporated in Hartsville; Young Entrepreneur of the Year Chris Manley, cofounder and managing partner of Engenius in Greenville; Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year Nathaniel Abraham Jr., publisher of Carolina Panorama; and Women in Business Advocate of the Year Jennet Robinson Alterman, executive director of the Center for Women in Charleston. The SBA will recognize all award winners during the annual Salute to Small Business event on Thursday, May 23, in Columbia. More information on the Salute to Small Business is available at http://scsalutetosmallbiz.com.
For more information:
Contact: Anna Huntley, 803-253-3753 (SBA)
Contact: Keith Harris, 803-928-5096 (Cox)
# # #