Highground Services in Franklin creates 35 jobs in less than four years

Published 10:22 am Tuesday, March 8, 2011

FRANKLIN—A Franklin company that’s grown from four to 35 employees in four years was named Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 Business of the Year.

Highground Services created 20 jobs last year alone when International Paper contracted with the engineering and facilities management company to maintain the closed paper mill. Highground Services founders and former Union Camp/IP workers James Strozier and John Warren hired all former IP employees for the positions, which pay more than $20 an hour.

“Obviously we are overjoyed,” Warren, the chief financial officer, said about receiving the award. “It’s good to be recognized for our accomplishments.”

He also credited the Franklin Business Incubator, where Highground Services is located, for playing a tremendous role.

“They offer guidance and have been somewhat of a mentor to us,” Warren said.

He and his wife, Rose Warren, chief executive officer; Strozier, the chief operating officer; and his wife, Lisa Strozier, president, will be recognized during the Chamber’s 57th Annual Dinner at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 24, at Cypress Cove Country Club. Chamber members will receive invitations in the mail; anyone else wishing to attend can buy the $30 tickets by calling the Chamber at 562-4900.

This is the 20th year for the award; the first went to Blake Ford Mercury in 1991, said Teresa Beale, executive director for the Chamber.

Nancy Parrish, small business development manager for Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc., nominated Highground Services for the award. Parrish oversees Franklin Business Incubator at 601 N. Mechanic St.

“They are so phenomenal,” she said. “They’re really a poster child for what all small businesses should be if they want to become successful. They work hard, they’re dedicated to their business and they appreciate their employees.”

“John and Jim are two of the finest people,” she continued. “I call them ‘the two little engineers that could.’”

Highground Services was founded in late 2006. The company does electrical engineering and process controls in addition to facilities management.

Some of Highground Services’ other contracts include the electrical work for the Sussex Water Treatment Plant in Waverly; serving as electrical engineering consultant for YUPO Corp., a producer of synthetic paper in Chesapeake; and an electrical engineering project for the Jordan Bridge, which connects Chesapeake with Portsmouth.

“That should be about an 18-month project,” John Warren said about the latter.

The company hopes to take advantage of some of the federal government opportunities in Hampton Roads, particularly with the military.

Warren said he expects to create more jobs in 2011, but couldn’t say how many as of yet.