Business Cover

Acadiana's Top 50

A company’s annual revenues don’t tell you a whole lot about its success, but this figure is a key indicator of which local businesses are driving an area’s economy. With privately held companies, it’s as close as we can get — a measure that still allows business owners to maintain most of their privacy. The public companies also listed in this section no longer enjoy that privilege, and their 2008 net income is included.

It cannot be argued that uncertainty looms over the local economy, and this year’s inaugural Top 50 is a mixed bag of results. We are, however, pleased to report more ups than downs. It’s a major accomplishment, as there aren’t many regions that held on as well as Acadiana did in 2008. While it is highly likely business began trending downward toward the end of the year for companies with close ties to the oil and gas industry, the list reveals somewhat inconsistent performance among the entities in this group: Some companies’ revenues dipped, while a number of them posted impressive year-end results. For example, Crowley’s Francis Drilling Fluids’ revenues jumped almost 14 percent from 2007 to 2008, and Frank’s Casing Crew & Rental Tools improved 23 percent. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful most companies in this sector will grow in 2009, and there is tremendous concern from all business leaders about how this will impact the overall economy. We’ll know more when the Top 50 list is compiled next year.

On the medical side, revenues are up across the board, as companies like Acadian Ambulance, the Schumacher Group and Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital all experienced healthy revenue growth.

Whether up or down, these well-run companies are together a shining example of the best Acadiana has to offer, 50 reasons more and more people choose this area to live and work. We salute their success.

Matt Stuller

Photo by Robin May

Stuller Inc.

There are few areas of daily life that virtual reality does not touch. Consumers have been able to build their cars online for some time now. Contractors can use the technology at the LITE center to literally “walk” through a project and make changes.

Now, even the creation of something as small as a wedding ring or a pair of diamond earrings can be done through a computer, and it’s no surprise that Stuller Inc. is among the vanguard.

Stuller’s inaugural Owner’s Conference, recently held at its massive complex, demonstrated its advancements in cutting-edge technologies to jewelry store owners throughout the country. Those high-tech advancements included enhancements in computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing, virtual selling systems and even the development of an Apple iPhone application, where design, size and selection of jewelry can be accomplished from a cell phone.

Lafayette-based Stuller Inc., founded in 1970 by Matthew Stuller, has operations on three continents. The company, which deals solely with independent jewelers and not the general public, has core product categories that include diamonds, gemstones, finished jewelry, mountings, findings, bridal jewelry, tools and supplies. “Jewelry is one of our most subtle crafts and joyful arts,” Stuller says. “Taking that which has its own intrinsic beauty, and through the craftsmanship of the artisan giving it new, exquisite form — truly, jewelry is one of our most imaginative accomplishments.”

The complex, located at the corner of Verot School Road and Rue Louis XIV, contains some 750,000 square feet under roof and a main hallway almost six football fields in length. More than 1,200 people are employed there and the security system in place is responsible for not only the millions of dollars of gemstones and precious metals on hand, but also the evolving technology, which is rapidly turning inventory into a thing of the past.

“There are stores out there that have absolutely no inventory and there are those where everything they sell is from their inventory,” says Jay Jackson, COO of Stuller Inc. “But in the long term, the model that requires you to do $1 million in sales from $1 million worth of inventory just isn’t sustainable anymore. In addition, the consuming public is more in a mind these days to want something just for them. They want to feel special, and when they go to their jeweler for that engagement ring or anniversary ring, they want something a little more special than what was selected out of the showcase.”

Those independent jewelers that go this route will be able to welcome customers into a store free of inventory. Customers will sit down with a salesperson and virtually build the piece they specifically want, and the end result will be designed especially for them. The turnaround time would generally be less than a week with the price negotiated between the jeweler and consumer.

Once the Apple iPhone application is officially launched at the end of July, a customer will be able to connect to the site via cell phone and be walked through the necessary steps, which includes a photograph of the built piece of jewelry adorned by the customer, the better to show off to friends and family for advice or merely appreciation.

With the emerging technology in the industry, the possibilities appear endless and for many independent jewelers, virtual shopping could be a saving grace.

“The numbers of jewelers going out of business has increased significantly,” says Jackson. “Their business models were probably stressed before the economy [worsened], and the downturn was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Traditionally in a year, you lose 500 and gain 500 new people, but in the last couple of years, we’ve probably lost three times the number of people coming in.”

The local jewelry manufacturer and distributor has itself been impacted by the national recession, having announced a round of layoffs early last year, and there is more uncertainty in what lies ahead. Last year Stuller laid off 45 employees — 2.5 percent of its workforce of 1,770 — in a realignment of its management team.

“We have not been immune to the downturn by any stretch of the imagination,” Jackson adds. In fact, it’s the primary reason founder Stuller is back at the company’s helm; he returned to running the day-to-day operations earlier this year when president Chuck Lein retired after 15 years. “I’ve agreed to take this on indefinitely as we expect 2009 to be a very challenging year,” Stuller said in making the announcement.

“The jewelry industry has been pretty much in turmoil,” says Jackson, who assumed Lein’s role as COO. “It’s a luxury item and not one that people have to have.”

Still, the COO believes Stuller is better situated than most to weather the downturn. “We’ve not been as affected as the industry as a whole primarily because of our business model. We’re pretty much special order, and as [retailers] bring their inventory down in their showcases because of the inability to, for example, get credit, then the independent jeweler tends to rely more on Stuller’s ability to provide them with what they need the next day. So our model becomes more and more important over time, and the longer the downturn lasts, the more important we’ll become to the industry.”

Nathan Granger

Photo by Robin May

Quality Construction & Production

Sometimes it’s those chance meetings that can make the difference.

In 2001, Troy Collins and Nathan Granger created Quality Construction and Production LLC, a construction and fabrication service company in Youngsville. Although the two had known each other for years — Collins worked for his father’s company while Granger was employed by a competing firm — they’d operated on different sides of the track; Collins was in operations and Granger specialized in sales for Omega Natchiq.

But Collins’ dad had recently sold his company and Troy was looking around for someone to partner with when a friend of a friend mentioned Granger’s name.

“Nathan and I met at a horse barn,” laughs Collins. “We talked about it a bit, decided it was a good idea, and signed the papers.”

Eight years later, Quality Construction and Production has 650 employees, revenue approaching $60 million and has become a leading producer of offshore construction services. In 2007 it was named the 138th Fastest Growing Company in the USA by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Not bad, for a trip to the horse barn.

“I had always been on the operations side of things and Nathan had always been on development and sales,” says Collins. “It was easy for me to get the work done, but it was hard for me to get the work in the first place.”

That doesn’t seem to be a problem for the company today, even in the face of lower energy prices and the ensuing economic downturn. Collins says Quality Construction is doing a steady business, hasn’t really experienced much of a slowdown, and there have been no layoffs. “We’ve been very fortunate.”

The company is divided into two separate entities: Quality Construction and Production LLC and Quality Production Management LLC. QCP provides offshore construction superintendents in the industry and offshore fabrication services. QPM, located in New Iberia, oversees some 150 producing properties in the Gulf of Mexico with a wide array of operations management services and includes Pro Active Compliance, a professional compliance group that keeps the organization up to date with all codes and federal regulations.

“There’s a lot of maintenance on the construction side,” says Collins. “Like corrosion issues that involve regulation, and we get them back into compliance.”

The partners do so with a wary eye on the bottom line. Collins says it’s a lot easier to look at numbers when it’s not your money and that 15 years ago, it was different. “When it’s not yours, you can go ahead and spend money to make money. Otherwise, you start looking for ways to save it,” he says. It’s the philosophy of a man who signs the checks these days instead of cashing them.

Reggie Dupré

Photo by Robin May

Dupré Logistics

Almost 30 years ago, Reggie Dupré figured it was time for a better mousetrap. He saw a need for a more efficient response for service in the transportation market in which he was involved. Not that there was anything wrong with his current service company; Dupré just knew it could be done better.

“We were a rapidly growing company, and the people we were using just weren’t responsive enough to our needs,” he says. Today, Dupré Logistics, a family-owned company, employs more than 700 drivers among its 1,000 employees and owns some 350 trucks operating throughout 10 states with headquarters in Lafayette. The company is billed as a team of professionals who design and deliver safe, diversified logistics solutions and services for quality-focused clients committed to increasing their competitive advantage over their competition.

It’s a slightly longer way of saying exactly what Dupré originally thought 29 years ago: If you want it done right, do it yourself.

Others tend to agree. Inbound Logistics, a leading North American sourcing, logistics and transportation industry magazine, recently named Dupré Logistics a Top 100 Third-Party Logistics provider for the third consecutive year. The annual Top 100 3PL Providers list results from an in-depth assessment of more than 400 service providers. The publication’s editors select providers by evaluating submitted information, conducting personal interviews and online research and comparing that data to its readers’ global supply chain and logistics challenges.

“It’s an honor to be recognized as one of the very few companies that not only meet, but exceed our clients ever-evolving needs,” says Tom Voelkel, Dupré Logistics President and COO. The magazine’s editors claim that culling the list down to a Top 100 is no easy task, especially with more and more 3PLs entering the market each year.

What helps set Dupré Logistics apart from its competitors is the diversity it brings to the task. “To us, logistics includes not only the movement and distribution of items but also the technical support necessary and the management as a whole,” says Dupré.

The company is responsible for basically three types of driving: gasoline transportation, chemical movement and the transportation of dry goods. It’s one of the few companies in operation that uses computer-aided technology in its trucks to enhance safety, and drivers are regularly tested for sleep apnea. It stands to reason that any company specializing in transportation would emphasize safety, but Dupré Logistics often goes beyond the call of duty.

The company regularly monitors more than 400 factors, including driver-alertness levels, to better counteract issues before an accident occurs. Its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed in the industry: Dupré has received numerous safety accolades and industry awards because of its diligence and receives a high percentage of repeat business from clients who appreciate its aversion to risk. Dupré believes all accidents are preventable and put that idea into practice with its AIM for Safety loss prevention system, which includes training and accountability for personnel.

“We hire people who value safety,” notes Dupré. “In fact, we’ve had to deal with customers who were unhappy over our service because of a safety issue. But safety comes first, period.”

Chris, E.J. and Ed Krampe

Photo by Robin May

McDonald’s of Acadiana

“You can’t eat super-sized French fries every day,” says E.J. Krampe, co-owner and operator of McDonald’s of Acadiana. “But you can splurge sometimes.”

That’s a pretty honest assessment from someone who depends on the restaurant to pay the bills. A part of the family-owned business in Lafayette for 20 years, Krampe is justifiably proud of what both the chain and his stores have accomplished. McDonald’s is the largest chain of fast-food restaurants in the world and serves almost 47 million people daily. With 13 locations in the Lafayette-Broussard-Carencro area, it’s hard to drive more than a few miles before you’re in the shadow of the Golden Arches.

“Look, I love our food,” says Krampe. “My family must eat there a dozen times a week, and I figure very few people eat at McDonald’s more than we do, and we’re a pretty healthy family.”

Truth be told, Krampe probably couldn’t have made that claim five years ago. Though unscientific in its conception, the Morgan Spurlock documentary Super Size Me, where the independent filmmaker gained almost 25 pounds over the span of 30 days by eating nothing but McDonald’s products, perhaps inadvertently focused a great deal of healthy attention on an unhealthy subject: the fast-food industry. Five years earlier, investigative journalist Eric Schlosser wrote Fast Food Nation, a book that examined the global influence of the U.S. fast food industry.

McDonald’s was a primary target — if not the only target — in both ventures, leading defenders to claim that there’s always a target on your back when you’re No. 1. But even the staunchest critic has to admit that the industry in general and McDonald’s in particular has become a much healthier spot to eat in recent years. Salads, smoothies and caloric tables (readily available at are sending a message that you can eat fast food and still be healthy.

“McDonald’s has been very aware for some time that healthy choices should always be available on the menu, and we’re very committed to having healthy alternatives,” says Krampe. “We’ve got some great salads now, and other menu items are being added with regularity but, you know, people are going to eat what they want to eat. So far, low-weight items are still a very low percentage of our sales.”

Many consumers will still order a 1,700 calorie lunch consisting of an Angus Burger with bacon and cheese, a large order of fries and a triple-thick shake, passing on the Big Mac, small fries and low-fat milk, which would have cut the caloric intake in half.

But, hey, you deserve a break today, right?

Still, Krampe says the chain continues with a commitment toward fresh-fruit products and increasingly healthy food for children, noting that future commercials will feature, among other things, a slimmer Ronald McDonald.

Regardless of their choice of menu items, customers, of course, want their food served in prompt fashion. Apparently there was a time when that didn’t always happen. In 1999 Fast Food Nation pointed out that one out of every eight Americans had worked at a McDonald’s restaurant and apparently, according to Krampe, some of them weren’t very good at it.

“Our biggest challenge for a while was the ability to find good quality people,” he says. “Overall we’ve been really blessed in Acadiana, but it was very difficult. After [Hurricane] Katrina, we went through some very trying times, and we heard the same thing from other [competitors].

“Our biggest concern now is how to maintain our top spot in the marketplace, and I think it’ll probably come down to a combination of things including product and service.”

Don Hargroder and Paul Stroderd

Photo by Robin May

Courtesy Automotive Group

Courtesy Automotive Group’s Don Hargroder likes to fly under the radar. He’s so low key that most people wouldn’t recognize him if they ran across him in one of his dealerships. When it comes to doing deals, however, Hargroder likes stepping up the plate, and in the past three decades he’s been in the batter’s box more times than he can count — and he’s still got a few at-bats. “We’re always looking,” says Hargroder, who consistently ranks among the top dealers in the country for GMC truck sales. “We may see Acura come to Lafayette; we may see a new Lexus dealership, Jaguar, Hummer,” he continues. “We’ll definitely put our hand up.”

While uncertainty looms for car dealers across the country — and even some locally — Courtesy’s Hargroder is taking advantage of just about every opportunity that presents itself. Within a matter of months, he struck two deals with Lafayette’s Mann family to buy the Saturn dealership on Ambassador Caffery Parkway and the family’s Cadillac and GMC dealership in New Iberia. Shortly after, he took over Lafayette’s Schoeffler Cadillac. It’s a fast-paced business, he admits, but it’s the way he’s always operated. “It’s been one buy-sell after another,” Hargroder says. “I like challenges, and believe me, right now we’re being challenged.”

Not all of Hargroder’s moves have turned out quite as planned, but he’s shown more than once — and may soon prove again — that he’s flexible and resilient enough to regroup. When GM announced that it wanted to sell Saturn shortly after he purchased it, he immediately chose to sell the inventory back to the company. “I can’t build a business on a ‘maybe,’” Hargroder notes. “I believe to this day I could have turned it around but not without GM’s commitment to the brand.” Dropping the Saturn line cleared the way for relocating Mazda, which was on property Courtesy leased at 5001 Johnston St., to the Ambassador Caffery Parkway site. Courtesy had been planning to build a new Mazda dealership next to Saturn anyway. “The property there was well worth it for me,” he maintains.

Now GM wants to close Courtesy’s New Iberia Cadillac dealership, a move that could actually turn out to be very good for the company. For one, Hargroder already has a tentative plan for what to put there, though he isn’t talking specifics just yet, and it seems GM has an even better offer in mind. “Their intent is to have [Johnston Street Cadillac] the only Cadillac store in about a 60-mile radius,” Hargroder says.

Several years ago Courtesy took a Lafayette eyesore on Johnston Street, the vacant Service Merchandise building, and converted it into the company’s headquarters where it sells GMC, Pontiac, Buick and now Cadillac. There is also a Courtesy Lincoln Mercury in Lafayette and Courtesy dealerships in Morgan City and Franklin, where Toyota, GMC and Chevrolet are sold.

Inexplicably, Courtesy’s sales took a slight jump during GM’s record-breaking six-week trip through bankruptcy reorganization, and Hargroder is more than optimistic about the new company that is emerging.

“The message is, ‘This won’t be your father’s General Motors,’” Hargroder notes. And while more efficient cars will be coming, don’t look for the company to turn its back on trucks and SUVs. “It’s going to be kind of hard to pull that boat to the landing in a little electric car,” he says.

Hargroder started his career at Dependable Dodge as a UL student before opening his first used car lot on Johnston Street in 1981. Now 53, he has no plans to slow down. Only one of his four children, 27-year-old Michelle Hargroder Simon, is in the family business, serving as general manager of the Abbeville dealership. “They’ll have to take me out in a box,” he says.

Lenny Lemoine

Photo by Robin May

The Lemoine Company

The economy hasn’t gotten Lafayette’s The Lemoine Company down. In 2008 the general contractor generated more than $150 million in revenue, an increase of $47 million from the previous year.

With a number of projects already under way in 2009, the immediate forecast looks pretty good, but Lenny Lemoine, president and CEO of the firm, says it could get a little dicey after that.

“There’s just not much liquidity out there,” says Lemoine. “We have a really good backlog for the remainder of the year, but I’m worried about 2010. I’m just afraid the oil and gas industry is in for a longer haul than a lot of people thought.”

While Acadiana has diversified in recent years, there is still a huge area dependence on the oil industry. And the trickle-down effect of a slow economy will impact most walks of life, which certainly includes the construction field.

“One of our major goals is finding the backlog to support our infrastructure,” he says. “We’ve already built the engine for growth at our company, and now we have to make sure to create the opportunities for our people. Also are we good enough to go wherever we have to go in order to continue that growth?”

The craft workforce is another major concern. “The pool has diminished, and we absolutely have to develop good training programs,” Lemoine says. “It’s important to bring youth into our organization and get them in the right leadership programs.”

Lemoine understands what it takes to build a company. What began as a small construction group in 1975 is now a major force in the industry throughout the state and has expanded to other parts of the South. The Lemoine Company has grown to a workforce of 150 full-time employees and at any given moment could have another 500-1,000 subcontracted employees toiling on its projects. The firm recently completed jobs in Alabama and has also done work in San Antonio and Atlanta.

Lemoine, the only sibling still in the family-owned company, says most of the larger projects his company has completed are located in Baton Rouge. The downtown Shaw Center, for example, took 27 months to complete. “It had such incredible detail,” he says. The largest two, however, are located in Lafayette. Our Lady of Lourdes’ campus relocation project on Ambassador Caffery Parkway should be completed in the spring of 2011, while major renovations to Lafayette General Medical Center are just beginning.

To see the Top 50 private businesses in pdf form click here .