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Cooper Hill’s First Million-Dollar Project

Cooper Hill, right, and Irwin Bailey started their business with one D6 doing farm work.

In the spring of 1964, the Yancey Bros. Co. magazine, Track Tales, told Cooper Hill’s story. Later, his son Allen, who was eighteen months old when he first sat on his dad’s tractor, operated the family business out of the same location with a fleet of more than fifty Caterpillar machines.

On May 13, 1946, Cooper Hill, a few months out of the army, his major’s leaves tucked away in a dresser drawer, and lured by the revitalized post-war farming industry in south Georgia. Bought his first tractor. It was a D7 purchased from Yancey Bros. Co.

A Georgia Tech graduate, he had taught briefly at Tech before entering the infantry early in the war. He remembers the day well—it was the day Germany attacked Russia. Fifty-nine months later he was a civilian again and, like most recently discharged soldiers, was casting about, not sure what the future would hold for him.

The tractor opened up new doors for Cooper. Within a year he was working as a county engineer in Upson County, getting his first real taste of the road construction business. He liked what he saw and by 1954, less than eight years later, he had built a small construction business in Thomaston, the Hill Construction Company. His equipment was limited, two DW10s, two D7s, and some accessory equipment. But it was a start.

(Nine years later Hill and Irwin Bailey Jr., another World War II veteran, had created a business partnership.)

Last fall, based on their successful first venture, Irwin and Cooper decided to go after their first million-dollar job, the 3.872-mile federal bypass west of Barnesville, which would connect U.S. 341 south and U.S. 41 north. They took the bid for $1,017,000. They planned to pool their equipment, which was almost duplicated—each owned two 619C rubber-tired tractor scrapers, a DW21, a DW15, two D8s, two D7s, a D6, and two motor graders.

They started the job in January with the specter of bad weather hard upon them. “Bad weather has been the downfall of more than one good contractor,” comments Irwin. “Our secret is simple: work like the devil when the sun’s out, work on the equipment when it’s raining.”

Despite the poor weather, the two contractors remained on schedule. With the worst of winter about over, Cooper Hill leaned against the fender of his pickup truck and watched a sudden storm pass over and the sky begin to brighten.

“I figure I’ve got it made,” he said with a smile. “Spring’s right around the corner. In a couple more weeks we’ll have every piece of rolling stock we’ve got working. The bad days are behind us.”

The formula seems simple: hard work and optimism.

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