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Mar. 12 - UPDATED 8:00 p.m. J. T. Turner Construction Company closing, with rumors of plans to file for bankruptcy protection

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

March 12, 2015 - According to a number of leading local construction sub-contracting companies, J.T. Turner Construction Co., Inc.  is out of business in Savannah, and rumored to be about to file for bankruptcy protection.  A number of local subcontractors and suppliers could be seriously affected, and are scrambling to salvage whatever payments are available.  

Local customers are now  beginning to receive liens on their property from subcontractors for unpaid bills.  Under Georgia law, unless a customer has a "Contractor's Affidavit" from the General Contractor that a subcontractor has been paid, they can be held legally responsible for paying subcontractors - in effect, paying for work twice.  

After calls from the Savannah Business Journal Thursday morning, J.T. “Jim” Turner issued a public statement today to the local media, through his long-time publicist Neilie Dunn.

“Unfortunately, J.T. Turner Construction Co., Inc. is another victim of the recent recession. When development and construction came to a standstill during the recession many construction companies laid off most of their employees to survive. J.T. Turner Construction Co., Inc. made minor personnel reductions but forged ahead. It continued to bid for jobs at reduced profit margins in an ever more competitive environment. Many subcontractors and suppliers were able to keep working and stay in business because of the work J.T. Turner Construction Co., Inc. generated during those difficult times. It also invested in developments that failed. This left the company with large monetary obligations. J.T. Turner Construction Co., Inc. has attempted to honor all of its obligations but is unable to continue. Therefore, after 40 years of service to Savannah and the surrounding communities, the company is in the process of winding down its operations. Jim Turner would like to thank J.T. Turner Construction Co., Inc.’s loyal employees, subcontractors, suppliers, and clients and sincerely apologizes for any difficulties these events caused or will cause. J.T. Turner Construction Company of Savannah, Inc., a general contracting company owned by Tripp Turner, will continue to operate in the Carolinas.” 

The company, with offices on E. Victory Drive, has been one of the Savannah and Lowcountry’s leading residential and commercial construction firms for many years, and has completed a long list of mid-sized commercial projects in the Savannah area over the past three decades. All Savannah area projects are at a standstill, according to a subcontracting firm affected by the company’s financial collapse. 

J.T. Turner Construction has been an award winning general contractor, led by a philanthropic family that has supported a number of the city’s leading non-profit organizations.

The company also has offices in Highlands, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina, and Bluffton, South Carolina, in addition to Savannah.  All Savannah employees have been laid off, according to a former supervisor, but specific information on the number of employees affected is not yet available.

The company has specialized in custom residential, commercial construction, historic preservation, and renovation and remodeling, since J.T. Turner founded the company in 1976.

His son Tripp Turner, is the president and CEO of the Savannah-based construction company that is closing, is a partner in Turner Ansley Development, Inc.,  and is the owner of J.T. Turner Construction Company of Savannah, Inc., which is currently building in Beaufort County at Palmetto Bluff.  The latter company will continue to operate, Tripp Turner has told subcontractors. 

Several subcontractors stated that they have been told by Tripp Turner that he plans to keep that company in tack, and projects on track.

But the collapse of J.T. “Jim” Turner;s historic company has caught many by surprise.  Jim Turner was a founding member of the banking holding company FCB Financial Corp. of First Chatham Bank, and served as a member of the bank’s board of directors for several years.  He has also served the community as Board Chairman and Vice Chair of Memorial Health University Medical Center, joining that board in 2009. He has also been Chairman of the Memorial Hospital Foundation; and Chairman of Historic Savannah Foundation Inc.  He has held board positions with the YMCA of the Coastal Empire, and until recently was a member of the Mercer University Board of Trustees.

The company has been an advocate of sustainability and community awareness, and is recognized by the United States Green Building Council as a sustainable builder. 

The company’s difficulties are affecting people in multiple quarters.  J.T. Turner Construction is the general contractor for a renovation project underway at the historic Wesley Monumental Church, for example where Jim Turner is a member.   Efforts to reach Steve Drinkwater, Church Administrator, who is overseeing that project which has not been completed, have been unsuccessful.

Guerry Lumber has been Turner’s leading lumber supplier for many years, doing business in excess of $300,000 a month, according to sources close to the firm.  The long-term impact on Guerry’s operations is not known, but local contractors working jointing on construction projects, have expressed concern.   Attempts to reach Steve Chick, who oversees operations, were unsuccessful. 

Jim Turner, who is from Thomasville, GA., has also been active in the construction business in that area, as well as in Albany, GA, according to sources close to the situation. 

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