Bad economy claims Malphrus Construction after 70-year run

Malphrus Construction, the 70-year-old Lowcountry contractor that became one of the Southeast's largest, is suspending operations indefinitely, company officials announced Tuesday.

In a four-sentence statement, Malphrus attributed the suspension to "the current prolonged economic downturn, liquidity shortfall in the banking markets, state of the existing construction industry, lack of profitable projected projects and anticipated decline in federal infrastructure funding."

The company is finishing its ongoing contracts and trying to minimize the impact to employees and the community, according to the statement. "If and when economic conditions improve, we will reassess our desire to resume operations and continue providing the quality and service we have been recognized for over the past 70 years," it stated.

The company once employed about 1,000 people, but that number has declined sharply over the past two years and is now less than 50, said director of estimating and business development Andy Smith.

When asked what the suspension means for the company's remaining employees, Smith declined to elaborate.

Malphrus has operations in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, Smith said. It helped build the Bluffton Parkway and many of the area's residential communities since its founding in 1940, when O.J. Malphrus began hauling dirt in Ridgeland. The company's website says it is the fourth-largest construction company in South Carolina and the 24th largest in the Southeast.

A separate company, Malphrus International, will continue operations and focus on expansion, according to the statement. That company was formed in 2004 and excavates marinas, builds airports, installs utilities and builds roads for The Turks and Caicos Sporting Club on Ambergris Cay in the Caribbean, according to Malphrus' website.