R. Joel McAlexander
does the groundwork for Jackson, TN residential real estate.
Shortly after Jackson developer Joel McAlexander began his career as an engineer, he discovered the hidden value of what he was doing.
had a knack for designing subdivisions and getting the most out of the land.
The Timbers was a subdivision he
helped create in the mid-1970s that pioneered the now heavily populated north side of Jackson.
task was re-working the layout of streets and utilities to see if more lots could be created.
hit upon a design that added lots and allowed the subdivision's developer to secure an extra $250,000 in financing for the project.
"I realized then I was on the wrong end of things," says McAlexander, who graduated from U.T.-Knoxville in 1972.
"It's tough for civil engineers to make a living.
If you do a good job it all works fine.
People only notice your work when you see water pooling somewhere."
After several years with a two-man Jackson firm, he
started out small in land development, partnering with established land dealers like Jimmy and Hal Wallace.
Slowly, through other partnerships or financing deals with helpful bankers, McAlexander
has completed roughly 30 subdivision projects in the past 20 years.
Other than a few ill-fated forays into health clubs and restaurants, McAlexander Engineering
, a company he
runs with his
son Shane, has led the area in successfully creating and selling subdivision lots.
Of the 341 residential building permits issued in Jackson between June 2004 and June 2005, 66% have been on lots developed by the McAlexanders.
subdivisions are so popular with builders that he
often has to hold lotteries to sell the lots.
For the 2005 calendar year, McAlexander
will sell around 300 lots.
has been grossing $1,000,000 a month selling lots to the builders who are feeding Jackson's never-ending appetite for high-end residential housing in the burgeoning north side of the city.
In terms of economic impact, McAlexander figures that his
land deals annually pump as much as $60 million into the community.
arrives at this figure by taking the number of lots he
sells a year (200 to 300) and multiplying it by the average sales price of his
neighborhood's homes ($200,000).
"That's the equivalent of an industry that employs 2,000 people and pays about $30,000 a year," McAlexander
McAlexander's keen civil engineering eye-particularly in designing a subdivision's utilities and sewer lines-has been crucial to his success, says Truman Murray, senior vice president of Jackson Energy Authority's wastewater division.
, typically low-key, is having an outsized effect on Jackson.
But this subdivision king almost wasn't.
When asked how he
got into engineering, McAlexander
says it started out as a fluke.
In high school, he
and a friend were talking to a guidance counselor about college plans.
friend answered first and said he
was going to nearby Martin and the University of Tennessee branch campus.
"That sounded good, so I said the same thing," McAlexander