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Doyne Construction Leaves Lasting Imprint

Dexter Doyne, president

In the modest conference room at Doyne Construction’s North Little Rock headquarters, citations and awards cram one wall while accolades spill from a credenza onto the conference table. On another wall hang huge framed photographs of the firm’s most iconic projects, including the Clinton School of Public Service and the bronze statues of the Little Rock Nine Memorial.

Not bad for a company that was formed as close to accidentally as it gets.

“I started off in a farming family,” said Dexter Doyne, president. “After working on a farm for 18 years, my plan was to never, ever, ever move back to Arkansas to live. I graduated on a Wednesday night from Parkview; by Thursday morning I was on the road with Arkansas in the rear view mirror. That’s just how far removed I was from coming back and starting a construction company.”

Doyne had just graduated from film school in San Francisco when his father took ill. He decided to come back for a year but when his father passed away, Doyne was left with a gut-wrenching decision.

“After coming back and facing the reality of the situation, I reluctantly began to adapt to reality,” he said. “Over time I started taking pride at the end of a project, being able to step back and say ‘Hey, I built that.’ The rewards of construction, of successful projects, started to grab hold.”

He learned the business one day and one project at a time, first through maintenance of his father’s rental properties then with handyman jobs that led to a small remodeling business. He incorporated as a commercial construction firm in 1983; his first big job was a community clinic in Little Rock’s College Station neighborhood.

“It was a $40,000 project,” he said. “Man, that was gigantic for me in 1986.”

Jobs got larger, including government contracts at Little Rock Air Force Base and Pine Bluff Arsenal to name just two. Downtown office complexes and college buildings at UALR and Arkansas Baptist College followed as did the Clinton Presidential Library’s landscaping, fountain and Choctaw Building which solidified the firm’s reputation.

The company also grew, to more than 100 employees by 2004. Doyne began to feel the stress of keeping so many oars in the water and decided to downsize. It would prove a masterstroke.

“Remember what happened in 2008? The bottom fell out,” he said. “We’d cut our overhead in half and we had a good pipeline of work to carry us through. Thank God, man.”

Doyne’s business strategy shifted to construction management which regularly partners today’s 20-employee firm with some of the largest builders in the state. It’s still enough to keep him hopping, yet affords him opportunities to choose projects close to his heart.

“That Little Rock Nine project was a relatively small project but boy, what does it represent,” he said. “Oh my goodness, that’s something I’ll take to my grave.”