GENERATION NEXT: Construction Companies

Article from the Hendersonville Lightning.

Affectionately nicknamed "Tom Thumb" as a toddler, James Wallace "Tommy" Cooper started work in 1964 and founded his own construction company three years later.

Cooper Construction Company

Tom Cooper, Zach Cooper, Kelly Cooper Ford and Mike Cooper at one of the job sites, the new Boyd Chevrolet dealership.


Almost 50 years later, Cooper Construction Co. has completed more than 1,600 projects. After the downturn of 2008-11, Cooper saw an increase in construction last year that included industrial, commercial and public work. "May was the largest month we've had since the spring of 2009," Tom Cooper says. The company completed the Gorges State Park Visitors Center. It is in the process of finishing up a large project at Carolina Village that included a new kitchen and dining room and it is working on the Carolina Village "Main Street" development. It is currently working on Sierra Nevada's rail cargo facility in Fletcher, Fletcher Town Hall and the new Boyd Chevrolet dealership, and has won the contract for the new Hendersonville fire station and the new Hendersonville Co-Op.

Tom's son, Zach, a star quarterback at East Henderson High School (class of 2004), earned a degree in construction science and management from Clemson University. He is certified in energy-saving design and building practices known as LEED, a "green' designation that's in demand. "It comes with stress but the stress also comes with the blessing of growing up your entire life, you see your dad with a heavy weight on his shoulders and now I understand why," Zach says. "It's always with you and that's the burden you bear."

Family or not, says his daughter, Kelly Ford, business success requires commitment. "You've gotta have a passion for it," she says. A 2000 graduate of EHHS, she earned a degree in business management and accounting from Elon in three years. She's married to Roy Thomas "Trey" Ford III, (EHHS '99) an N.C. State University graduate and project manager for the family company. Cooper Construction currently has 14-15 projects under way. "It's kind of an indication that things might be back," Tom says.