By Julie Kerns Garmendia – Correspondent
Jul 19, 2004, 12:00am EDT Updated Jul 14, 2004, 10:12pm
MANDARIN — David Hutson, owner of The Hutson Cos., is not known for hanging around the office.
“I am not known for meetings and I spend very little time in the office,” he said. “The majority of my time is taken up by determining and analyzing the strategic vision for this company — I enjoy visiting the project sites and simply looking for locations where people want to live.”
Judging from the company’s performance for the past 30 years, Hutson’s time away from his desk has been well spent. He formed the com-
pany in 1973 and has since developed dozens of residential communities, with more than 14,000 single-family home sites in Northeast Florida. The company is developing projects in Clay, Duval and St. Johns counties with total developmental rights to more than 12,000 single- and multi-family units, including more than seven million square feet of commercial, office and industrial space.
Hutson’s story of business success is impressive, considering he had “no degrees or training other than on-the-job experience,” he said. “I received a GED from Andrew Jackson High School [in Jacksonville] and never had the luxury of attending college.”
Hutson grew up in South Carolina, the son of a poor sharecropper and his homemaker wife. One of eight children, he remembers a childhood of hard work that fueled his strong drive to build a different life, and a lifelong dream of owning his own business.
The family moved to Tampa when he was 7 years old and then to Jacksonville when he became a teenager, but at 16 he left for New Orleans, where he worked his way up from dishwasher to manager at a restaurant.
“After returning from New Orleans, I joined the Reserves and found the first real structure in my life,” Hutson said. “After that experience came many jobs, including car detailing, roofing, sheetrock and landscaping.”
Hutson’s company manifests similarly diverse interests: it owns a 10,000-acre timber and cattle ranch; a marble, cabinet and trim company; a rental properties company; and an earthworks company.
The company is based on Hartley Road near Hutson’s home. It has 10 employees in the office and 10 to 15 more in the field.
Hutson, 60, says his life on Mandarin’s riverfront is a happy one, and he cherishes his wife and their six children. They spend summers at their Crescent Beach residence and go horseback riding at their Elkton ranch.
He and his wife, Nancy, have been actively involved in thoroughbred horse-racing and breeding at their Silverleaf Farms Stable, which gained international attention for its stallion Silver Buck, sire of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm. The couple have since scaled back to about 10 racehorses at various tracks.
Hutson has high hopes for his company, though he acknowledges that achieving his goals will be challenging.
“I hope that we continue to be relentless in pursuit of our goals and continue to strive to exceed the expectations of those we work with,” Hutson said. “Though I believe our industry has a great future in Florida, it is becoming increasingly difficult to acquire land and comply with various regulations and still provide an economically viable project. It is more difficult and expensive to navigate through the approval process.
“My biggest hope is that we can provide the opportunity for everyone to own their own home, especially first-time, entry-level homebuyers,” he said. “I have always believed throughout my career that giving up on anything you care about is not an option and you should never go back on your word.”
Though he keeps business and family separate, Hutson is proud to have received help from his wife and children.
“My wife and I have worked closely together for more than 20 years, first as a team in the homebuilding business, combining her advertising, marketing and office management skills with my construction and field knowledge,” he said. “Though she still helps me, she tries to keep her involvement to a minimum.
“My two teenage sons are working for my company this summer, and though I would love for my children to join me, I want them to be happy and pursue their own dreams,” he said. “If that happens to be with the company, all the better.”
“Having grown up without a true sense of family, I have come to cherish mine and the relationship we share,” he said. “Remembering, sharing, caring and love are life’s greatest rewards. Business success only adds to this.”