Jim Meyers was good at figuring and, in his mind, the numbers weren't adding up at his construction job in the mid-1980s in Omaha.
Meyers was a construction estimator bringing in million dollar jobs in 1987 for Hicks Construction Co., and he had begun to question whether he could bring home bigger paychecks with larger numbers if he made the leap from employee to owner.
About three years shy of 50, Meyers was not at the age most people embark upon such a risky business venture. But he had it all penciled out in his head. Meyers believed one of the keys to success was convincing one man to follow him out the doors at Hicks Construction - a partner who would be the yin to his yang.
Thirty years ago this year, Meyers met with Bob Carlisle, a project manager at Hicks Construction, and told him of his plan to start his own company. In Meyers' memory, the conversation was short and sweet. Carlisle didn't need a whole lot of convincing.
"I said, 'I'm thinking about going into business' and he said, 'Yeah, I'll go with you,' " recalled Meyers, who is now 76 and retired since the fall of 1999.
The partnership hammered out that day between Carlisle and Meyers was the starting block for a company now known as MCL Construction, one of Omaha's largest construction companies with more than 120 employees.
MCL Construction is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, a milestone that will be marked in a number of ways, including monthly profiles of key employees, clients, and others who have contributed to the company's success over the past three decades.
Meyers is one of those people who helped build MCL into the company it is today.
Meyers didn't start out his working life in construction. In his 20s, he drove a truck, delivering packages in Omaha for a company that he describes in his earthy, blunt fashion as a "low-life version of UPS."
In his 30s, Meyers went to work for his first construction company in the Omaha area, and he liked it better than being in a driver's seat all day. "It didn't pay much, but it was better than driving a truck," he said.
In 1978, Meyers went to work for Hicks Construction, where he met a young Bob Carlisle. At the time, Carlisle was going to college, working at Hicks part-time to make some money.
Meyers later talked the college kid into staying in the construction trade after Carlisle earned his bachelor's degree in marketing. "I said, 'Bob, you'll never make as much money as you'll make in construction,' " Meyers recalled.
When it came time for Meyers to venture out on his own, he knew he had to convince Carlisle to join his entrepreneurial endeavor. "Bob was phenomenal at marketing. He could get jobs. People would just give him jobs," said Meyers.
After they had decided to become partners, Meyers and Carlisle walked in and gave their two-week notice together, earning the wrath of their former bosses together.
Several weeks later, their new construction company started in a small office in an industrial park at 9973 J Street. By this time, they had recruited Lyle Ott and several other employees from Hicks Construction.
The first day they opened, Meyers said he remembered reassuring one of the wives that the business would pan out.
"The first year, we ended up with ten superintendents, six or eight laborers, and a truck driver," Meyers recalled. "In two or three months, we had a budget that could support us for a year."
Meyers sold his share of the company in 1998 to Gary Leapley. He continued to work for another year, before officially entering the ranks of the retired.
It took him several years to settle into a life of leisure. "I missed it really bad the first three or four years - mostly the people," said Meyers.
Today, Meyers devotes much of his time to refurbishing classic cars and hot rods. His current project is a '57 Chevy. "I hope I get it done before they take my license away," he says.
Sometimes, when he's out on the road behind the wheel, Meyers' thoughts drift to his career and his years at MCL Construction. He's amazed how his life rolled out like a movie script. "When I go through it and think about it, while driving, I think, this is like watching a movie about someone else. It was like it was meant to be."
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