By Marilyn Miller
The offices of McInnis Insurance Agency, Inc. and McInnis Bros. Construction, Inc. on Pearl Street in Minden, Louisiana are what one would describe as “meandering.” In Roget’s Thesaurus, “meandering” is described as snaking, winding, wandering, and roving.
Ask for a brief history of the McInnis enterprises, and Philip McInnis will soon have you “meandering” through office space, a board room, cubicles, the plan room, individual offices, computer rooms, accounting offices, bid space…up a few steps, down a few steps…through hallways and down sidewalks…looking at photos…peeking at artifacts…and meeting the staff.
However, the “real” history lesson takes place in the boardroom.
At one time, there was an abundance of offices lining Pearl Street that shared contiguous wall space with McInnis Insurance Agency, McInnis Bros. Construction, and a number of other small interior businesses. One-by-one, they were “absorbed,” leaving the two McInnis businesses occupying nearly a block of meandering office space. All of this space continued to grow south along Pearl Street as the McInnis companies grew.
Today, Harry, George and Philip McInnis are officers and members of the Board of Directors of McInnis Bros. Construction. However, under an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), the company is owned by the employees. An ESOP is an employee benefit plan that enables employees to own part or all of the company they work for at fair market value. McInnis Bros. Construction, Inc. marked its 75th anniversary in 2022.
Harry, George and Philip own McInnis Insurance Agency, Inc., which Philip serves as President. The company will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024.
PHILIP AND HIS PLAN
When Philip McInnis graduated from Minden High School in 1967, he already had a plan. He enrolled at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and was awarded his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting in 1971.
But the Vietnam War was still out there, so he enlisted in the National Guard, which took him to Fort Polk in Leesville, Louisiana for Basic Training, plus AIT (Advanced Individual Training). To Tigerland, a manmade hell hole designed to acclimate potential soldiers to the climate and topography of Vietnam… He was there for six months. Not Vietnam, but Ft. Polk.
God blessed Philip McInnis. Vietnam was not in his future. He remained with the 1087th Transportation Company based in Minden until his Honorable Discharge in 1977.
Philip enrolled in the master’s program at LSU in 1972 and graduated with an MBA (Master of Business Administration) in May of 1973.
“Then I came straight on back here,” he said.
“Here” being Minden, where his father, Harry E. McInnis, Sr. and uncle, John D. McInnis, Jr., had been owners and operators of the insurance company started by John D. McInnis, Sr. in 1924. The construction business was organized in 1947.
Okay, why back to Minden, a town of 15,000, in the 1970’s?? Why small-town America?
“Because I was close to my family…because we had two successful businesses here…and because I was just very close to my dad, who had been such a major influence in my life,” McInnis explained.
Philip has only good things to say about his “Pop” and his Uncle John, two brothers who hit it big on Pearl Street in Minden. Throughout the build-out of both companies, all the McInnis family lived in Minden, but they never forgot that their roots were in Castor, a village of 244 citizens in nearby Bienville Parish. A lot of Minden’s Campbell family started there, too.
“Every time Foster Campbell (Louisiana Public Service Commissioner) and I see each other, we have to proudly remind each other that our families are from Castor,” Philip said.
“Pop and Uncle John made their reputations on quality. But I think the McInnis brothers made their reputation in the Construction business in two ways in particular. They were extremely prompt paying their bills. Pop was obsessive about getting bills paid and they would often pay subcontractors before they had been paid by the owner. Also, they did not ‘shop’ subcontractors’ bids. If you were the low bidder at bid time, they honored that, even if some other subcontractor called up and said he’d cut his bid to get the job. This fairness earned them much respect.”
“At LSU, I knew other guys who had family businesses that they could have gone back to…but they chose not to,” McInnis recalled. “But I felt very fortunate to come back and go into business with them (Pop and Uncle John).”
Prior to Philip’s joining McInnis Insurance Agency, his older brother, Harry McInnis, Jr., joined McInnis Construction, as did his older cousin, George McInnis (John’s son). John headed up the Construction company and “Pop” managed the Insurance Agency and the Financial/Accounting end of both companies.
“I loved both Minden and my family. I was very blessed to grow up in the Bay Creek Road neighborhood. We stayed outside all the time…we played games…sandlot baseball…basketball…touch football.”
When Philip was in the fourth grade, Minden High School won the State Championship in basketball. “That was in 1958-59. It inspired me to concentrate on basketball. Pop, Harry and I went to a lot of athletic events, here and in Shreveport. I have great memories of that.”
Philip stayed close to his parents instead of rebelling like so many teenagers did. He still remembers attending those athletic events with his Pop throughout high school and college. He saw the time together as bonding experiences. This continued throughout his career as well.
“On the most important things – ethics, how you treat people – we were the same,” he said of his father, uncle, brother and cousin.
“I came back to Minden from LSU to follow in their footsteps. I felt blessed.”
See Pt. 2 on Thursday.