This year marks the 75th anniversary of Irby Construction. This remarkable milestone prompts us to look back before we look forward, to remember where our company has been. What began as a little company with promise during wartime in America is now a stronger organization than it has ever been thanks to the legacy and the people that came before us.
Stuart C. Irby Co. weathered the war with a handful of jobs that included building electrical power lines and systems for a handful of military camps and bases. The company also installed lines for private power companies and the Rural Electrification Administration.
By 1946, people and businesses were ready to move from a wartime to a peacetime economy and return to a more normal life. Stuart C. Irby Co. had completed work far beyond its Mississippi roots, including contracts in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. In an optimistic America, fresh from winning a global conflict, there was the promise of more, similar work to come.
By now, it was clear to Stuart C. Irby that the construction part of his business offered opportunities to grow. More and more electric power lines would be necessary to sustain the nation’s post-war growth, he realized. He also decided to separate the company’s wholesale electrical supply business and the construction business. The Charter of Incorporation for Irby Construction Company was issued on July 1, 1946.
But manpower was scarce, and materials were, too. Wire shortages in the wake of the war created project hold ups for the new company. Financing construction projects was also a challenge. Junius Robinson, a long-time Irby accounting employee, was quoted as follows in the Stuart C. Irby Biography.
“Irby Construction Co. had a pretty tough go at in the early years in financing the projects until they were completed. Supplies had to be bought and payrolls had to be met. Stuart C. Irby Co. was at one time a principal source of financing for Irby Construction Co. This seems ironic in the light of the construction company’s explosive growth in the 1960s and 1970s,” Robinson said.
“Each year the construction company did a little more business than the year before. The company was constantly having to expand and re-invest its profits in its own operation. No dividends were paid. Mr. Irby had a drawing account for many years, and he would leave his salary in the company to help finance it. He drew just enough to cover his bare living expenses.”
Despite those early struggles, Stuart C. Irby, Sr. recognized that post-war growth would mean more power lines would have to be built. This would mark the official beginning of the Irby Construction Co. story.
The full story of Irby’s 75 years will soon be printed in a hard-bound book. In the meantime, view our anniversary video.