DARRACOTT – The late John Hanna, Sr. had plenty of sayings he passed along during his lifetime to his children and employees of Hanna Contracting stressing the importance of working hard for what you want in life.
“Can to can’t and daylight to dark.” “If you didn’t want to eat this ham sandwich, then you work more and go to McDonald’s and buy McDonald’s.” “No matter how bad it is today, you’re going to go to work tomorrow and make it better.” “You can bend but never break.” “You’ve got to be able to take a lick and keep going.” “You’ve got to make your licks count.”
“The biggest thing he built this company on as far as his motto was, ‘When you go out here and bid a job and do a job for the public, do what you say you’re going to do. If it costs you money to go back, make sure you do what you say you’re going to do because people’s word is everything in this business,’” said his son, Jimmy, who is company president.
The business celebrates its 50th anniversary Aug. 1.
After returning home from St. Louis in 1970, he started the company with a truck, trailer and a rubber tire backhoe. Fifty years later, his children, John, Jr.; Jimmy; and Linda Pugh, are running a business operating in a 60- to 70-mile radius with 15 employees, more than 20 pieces of equipment and a 700-plus acre bentonite mine.
The footprint Hanna Contracting has left on the area includes miles of utility lines and dirt work for Texas Eastern, the City of Aberdeen, Mississippi State University and its Palmeiro Center, Southern Natural Gas, Birdsong Peanuts, Triton Boats, the Monroe County Detention Center, Aberdeen’s Walgreen’s and Vista, which is now Westlake.
“For the past 10 years, we’ve been running a mine,” John said about another aspect of the business. “It’s 130 feet deep, and that’s to get a 10-foot segment of bentonite. We average about 700,000 yards of dirt per year.”
Exactly just how many yards of dirt the company has moved in its 50 years is unknown.
Digging through the generations
Monroe County has a few businesses into at least their second generation. Just like the Hannas learned to work hard at a young age, the third generation is coming into play through Jimmy’s son, Thomas, who is 12, and John’s sons, Will, 15, and Michael, 18.
“My biggest memory is he’d take you somewhere and tell you what he wanted done and get in the truck and leave. He expected you to get it done. I was 12 and if you didn’t know a way to get it done, you figured it out.
“For the 60th anniversary, we still plan on being here kicking. For the 75th, the third generation will have to kick on in,” Pugh said.
John started working when he was 12, and Jimmy was 10. They both recalled being told to leave a job running 1,000 feet of sewer lines per day at True Temper.
“The job superintendent said we were too young,” John said, adding another time when they were young, they drove trucks while loading dirt for a project. “We weren’t in school two weeks and two grown men took our spots and totaled both trucks out. He said, ‘Y’all are fired. Twelve-year-olds can do better than that.’”
In addition to immediate family, their stepbrother, Chris Harmon, cousins and in-laws make up the majority of employees working for the company.
John, Sr. had between one employee to 80 at one point. He passed away in 2011 at age 71.
The range of jobs Hanna Contracting does ranges in cost from $300 to $3 million. In doing jobs, the Hannas try to recommend local contractors for jobs such as vinyl siding, concrete or construction to compliment their work. Additionally, they support local businesses for supplies needed to operate.
“It’s great that we’ve been in business for 50 years but we wouldn’t be where we’re at if it wasn’t for our customers,” Jimmy said. “If it wasn’t for Daddy, none of this would’ve happened.”