For Glen Smith, 61, the journey from a young boy growing up in the River Parishes to a business community leader began when he was 12 years old. Those years of hard work recently paid off when Smith was honored as a “2013 Money Maker” by New Orleans CityBusiness.
“Getting an award is one thing and getting an award and making money is even better,” Smith said.
His father, Henry Smith, began Mid-South Construction in the 1950s. The company, which has since transitioned to Magnolia Holdings, Inc., dealt largely with marine-based operations such as dredging. Smith began working with his father in the family business at a young age.
“If you knew my dad, once you got to were you were able to walk you were put to work,” he said.
By 15, Smith was driving dump trucks. Later, he moved into management of the family business, eventually becoming CEO. Along with his brother, Gary, he has grown the business started by his father into the 23-company conglomerate with $110 million in assets it is today.
“Basically, it is a family owned company. My dad started a constriction company years ago. What developed was the mindset he had of putting a group of people together,” Smith said. “He loved the art of making a deal and that has continued as the business has expanded.”
Although the bedrock of the company is still its marine operations, the creation and acquisition of other businesses has led them into real estate, motorsports, film and TV production and more recently the production of LED light bulbs.
Only two years ago, Magnolia Holdings moved their organization from Jefferson Parish to it’s current location on Airline Highway in St. Rose.
Smith said placing the business in St. Rose made sense because of his family’s close ties to the River Parishes community.
“We are from the River Parishes. We have lived in the River Parishes all of our lives and when we had the opportunity we jumped at it,” he said
The site they picked is located right next to the St. Rose Travel Center owned by the company and has seen a great expansion since its inception. Recently, Magnolia Holdings partnered with Los Angeles-based Quixote Studios to build the largest sound stage for film and TV production in southeast Louisiana in St. Rose.
With Louisiana’s generous tax incentives surrounding the TV and film production industry, Smith said he believes that portion of the business will experience substantial growth in the coming year.
In fact, the studio actually landed a large-scale production of the ABC Family TV series “Ravenswood” before construction of the facility was even completed.
“I expect our investment over the next two years to double. Our investment already exceeds $10 million a year in financing,” he said. “Real estate handles the studios and our financial group handles the tax incentives.”
The most recent company Magnolia Holdings acquired is a Lafayette-based LED light manufacturer, which they came about purchasing based on growth estimates provided by their financial department.
“Just recently incandescent light bulbs have been outlawed. As of Nov. 1 LED, halogen and other light bulbs are going to be in high demand,” he said.
Smith said the financial group of Magnolia Holdings is constantly exploring new growth opportunities and is currently looking into six areas of potential investment.For all of their focus on business, Magnolia Holdings also gives back to the River Parishes community. Through G. Smith Motorsports, a custom motorcycle and car sales operation, the company provides grants and funding to local causes.
Earlier this year, the company provided a $25,000 grant to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office for bullet proof vests. They also sponsor recreation league sports teams.Smith said the secret behind Magnolia’s success has been that he and his staff really like the work they do.
“We have a good work ethic and we enjoy what we do and the people around us have the same work ethic” he said. “We really enjoy what we do so we really don’t work at all.”