Local land developer Joe Todd’s first job out of college involved a TV camera, not a bulldozer.
Before he began his career in the Augusta area as a home builder and real estate developer, the Perry, Ga., native returned home after graduating from the University of Georgia in 2002 to start an outdoors show with his father.
For two years, Todd traveled across the country hosting the hunting and fishing show, Southern Woods n’ Water. The show, now with different owners, is stilled aired on cable TV throughout the Southeast.
“I quickly learned that I kind of needed just to go try to make money and do something else that I enjoyed, so those could remain hobbies,” Todd said.
So that’s what Todd did.
In 2004, Todd and wife Amanda moved to Augusta where he joined forces with his retired father-in-law, Aubrey Wallace, in the residential building business.
“I put him immediately in charge of running the sites,” said Wallace, then president of ABW Builders Inc. “He did very well. He picked it up quick.”
Todd said he always had a knack for the outdoors and hard work growing up. He got his feet wet in the construction industry as a high school student working for his uncle. Todd recalled helping his uncle as a young teen rebuild a dam near his house that had been wiped out from a 1994 flood.
When Todd started his collegiate education at Georgia College, he wanted to pursue a career playing golf but soon realized it wasn’t for him. After transferring to UGA, Todd also discovered that he would be more productive as his own boss.
He reached that conclusion after taking a personality profile test for a promising job with a profitable company. Todd deemed himself “psychologically unemployable.”
“It was a little bit of motivation to get up early and get to work,” the 32-year-old said. “This is a business that nobody can teach you. You can’t take the class at college. The only way to learn this business is to jump in the water all the way up to your chest and figure it out.”
Todd began his company, JHT Construction, in late 2006 in an upstairs office of their first home. And then the recession hit.
“It was really arguably one of the worst times to start a construction business,” Todd said. “It did allow us to look at the market and analyze what was going on and find some areas that people still wanted to buy houses. We grew a business through some pretty hard times the past six years.”
In the eyes of Richard Harmon, Columbia County Development Services’ director, Todd is talented in redeveloping “infill” properties, and thus creating better uses of sites.
“That’s something that Joe is good at,” Harmon said. “He can take a piece of property like that and make it viable. I think it takes youth.”
Wallace credits his son-in-law’s success to his likeable personality.
“I think Joe is a people person,” Wallace said. “He’s real down to Earth. He’s very easy to approach.”
Wallace also noted Todd’s emphasis on balancing work with his family life. Todd and his wife have three children, a daughter and twin boys, under the age of 4.
“When he comes in the door, they’re all running to him,” Wallace said. “With everything he has going on, he still carves out time to be with them. That’s to be commended too.”
Recently, Todd’s business focus has shifted more to developing land parcels, which requires him to continue building relationships with local residents and planning and development staff. He often takes his partner, Casey, the family’s 8-year-old Chocolate Lab, with him to work sites.
“My dad always taught me that your net worth will never exceed your network,” Todd said. “If I never made a dollar, but I had a lot of good relationships over the course of a career, that’d be a success too.”