ENVIRO AgScience Inc.
When selecting its subcontractors, ENVIRO AgScience feels bound by its sense of social and civic responsibility. Founder and chairman Dr. Louis Lynn says the company likes to work with smaller trade firms. He sees it as part of his company’s mission to give back to the communities where it works by hiring local subcontractors. By giving a small business a large role, Lynn says it allows the subcontractor to build its capacity and grow its business.
Supporting small businesses is important, Lynn says, because it’s where ENVIRO AgScience came from. Lynn, who holds a doctorate in horticulture, began the business 30 years ago as a commercial landscape contractor. But ENVIRO AgScience raised its profile in the early 2000s when it became a minority partner on a project to build 18 public schools in its home state of South Carolina.
The school projects gave ENVIRO AgScience the means to expand its business, and with each new building it took on more responsibility until the contractor that hired Lynn’s company eventually became one of ENVIRO AgScience’s major subcontractors.
Transitioning For Growth
ENVIRO AgScience still has a sizeable landscaping business with more than 60 employees, but each year the company shifts further into construction. With only about 20 staff members dedicated to construction, the company predominately serves as a project manager or as the design-build construction manager and outsources almost all of its trade work. But Lynn says that wider view of a project has served ENVIRO AgScience’s clients well because the company’s experts are well versed in design, pre-construction, value–engineering and constructability and also promote a culture of safety.
As licensed architects, ENVIRO AgScience understands both the management and construction of a project and can work closely with clients. “We make a very good owner’s rep because, when we have to, we’re also the constructors,” Lynn explains.
The company has offices in South Carolina and Georgia, with most of its work in those two states plus North Carolina and parts of Alabama. ENVIRO AgScience is best known for building schools, but has also been involved in military structures, jails, mess halls, warehouses and historic renovations. Currently, the company is overseeing the renovation of the Atlanta City Council’s interior office suites, is involved in about $40 million in various projects at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and is helping to build a new minor league baseball stadium, Spirit Communications Park, in Columbia, S.C. In the last few years, at Camp Lejeune, N.C., ENVIRO AgScience completed a design-build LEED Gold detention center and a design-build LEED Platinum mess hall.
Lynn credits the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SBA 8(a) program for opening up many of those opportunities. The program is geared toward helping minority-owned businesses compete in the market and ENVIRO AgScience has served as a symbol of its success. In 2012 – ENVIRO AgScience’s last year of eligibility in the program – Lynn was honored with the Ronald H. Brown Leadership Award – Small Business of the Year from the Minority Business Development Agency, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. In 2013 and 2015, ENVIRO AgScience was listed amongst the Nation’s 100 Largest African-American Businesses.
Despite the access SBA 8(a) provided, Lynn says ENVIRO AgScience will only partner on projects as a value-added participate where the company can provide meaningful work. “The reason we’ve done well in that program is we’re an active participant,” he says. “We believe in a helping hand and the opportunity to compete and not a (handout).”
Planning For Future
After 30 years at the helm, Lynn is preparing for retirement. Lynn intends to expand his public service roles where he now serves on various boards, including the corporate board of BB&T Bank and National Association of Minority Contractors. He also dreams of a teaching role at Clemson University, where he has served on the board of trustees since 1988. Lynn will leave the business to his children, who are already entrenched in its operations. His daughters, Dr. Krystal Conner and Adrienne Lynn-Sienkowski, are now the CEO and COO, respectively, and his son, Bryan Lynn, is the company’s landscape division manager.
Conner and Lynn-Sienkowski have been working with the Minority Business Development Agency Business Center-Atlanta family success planning unit at Georgia Tech for the past three years to prepare for change. Meanwhile, Lynn’s role has shifted away from the day-to-day operations to being a mentor for his children. “It’s great for us because we have the opportunity to learn from him in a different capacity,” Lynn-Sienkowski says.
In passing the company down to the next generation, ENVIRO AgScience will become a female-led business. The designation will open the company up to woman-owned business programs, similar to how SBA 8(a) created opportunities that allowed ENVIRO AgScience to successfully transition from landscaper to construction manager. “We want to accelerate the succession so it can truly be woman-owned instead of woman-operated,” Conner says.
Those woman-owned business programs will aid ENVIRO AgScience as it begins the next phase of its growth. Bidding for the government projects ENVIRO AgScience has specialized in becoming more competitive as larger construction firms diversify and push into the public sector. The company is adapting by looking for more private work in new markets. “We have great past performance. We want build upon the company legacy and be known as a great business that happens to be woman/minority owned,” Lynn-Sienkowski says.
But while diversifying its project portfolio could lead to gradual growth, ENVIRO AgScience is thinking bigger. The company is exploring international opportunities by fostering relationships in Accra, Ghana. The mayor of Accra, Alfred Vanderpuije, was formerly a principal at an elementary school ENVIRO AgScience worked on in Columbia, S.C. “Because of the relationship in building his school 15 years ago, he asked us to come to Ghana,” Lynn says.
Ghana is an emerging economy in West Africa, and if ENVIRO AgScience can build relationships in the city it offers tremendous potential for construction activity throughout all of Africa. Lynn and Conner both say that ENVIRO AgScience would be a strong fit for Ghana because the company is focused on construction management services internationally. “We’re the perfect partner in emerging economies because we’re not bringing competing workforces, but providing management, technical assistance and knowledge-sharing,” he says.
But before it commits to any projects in Accra, Conner wants to ensure ENVIRO AgScience has the right partners. She’s already visited the West African city twice to develop those relationships. “We’ll hopefully soon be participating in some of the building going up there,” she says. “We want to make sure we’re going to be there long term and not do one-off projects, but be a partner in the expansion and development.”