With over 30 years of experience in economic development, public administration, and infrastructure, Odis Jones of Hutto, Texas, has built a legacy that will last for years to come.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Jones attended Central Michigan University on a football scholarship. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and went on to Western Michigan University to obtain his Master’s Degree in Public Administration.
From 2000 to 2004, Odis served as the city manager of Obetz, Ohio, and transformed it into the logistics hub of the Midwest. He moved on to serve as CEO of the Columbus Urban Growth Corporation in Ohio and worked to redevelop the Gowdy Field into a business park. From 2008 through 2012, Odis helped rebuild Paterson City, New Jersey’s skyline. In 2012, he helped redevelop Cincinnati’s waterfront.
Mr. Jones went on to the Public Lighting Authority of Detroit in 2013 to serve as CEO and let the effort to rebuild the city streetlights and electrical grid of Detroit. Odis also served as the city manager and CEO of Hutto, Texas, leading an economic boom which in turn led to over $4 billion of private investment in the community to obtain a new water system.
Odis currently serves as the president and CEO of Cobblestone Development, which provides services to cities and developers who are looking to execute the value-add capability provided for through the establishment and financing of special districts. In his free time, he spends time with his wife and five children and is an active boater.
What inspired you to start this business?
Throughout my career in public administration, I have enjoyed being able to develop communities and create an economic impact. Owning my own business that adds value to communities seemed like the best next step. I look at our business model as using stones to build a mosaic of the components that are needed for business deals to create growth in communities.
How do you make money?
Cobblestone Development works with cities, state agencies, and private sector leaders and helps finance opportunities within their communities. These are our clients that hire us. We make money through acquiring and repositioning physical assets and land to yield a targeted value add return of 18-20%.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
Because I have a proven track record of developing communities and cities that spans over several years through multiple different projects, it didn’t take too long. I started the company with a lot of contacts and people were aware of my work previously.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
It was a bit jarring to start something new and go into the unknown. I wouldn’t say that I ever doubted it would work. We were well-positioned for growth from the beginning. I just worked to leverage the connections I had and we have successfully managed over 30 projects and have over 200 customers to date. I only expect that growth trajectory to continue.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
As stated, it’s about leveraging your existing connections. It’s also important to network in order to build more strategic relationships because ultimately, they will be vital to growing your business.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Changing the course or deadline of a project that wasn’t going according to plan was a tough decision. You want to get the job done within the specified timeline, but sometimes situations arise that are outside of your control and if you’re going to get a job done, you don’t want to rush it. You want it done right.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Ultimately, I think it comes down to my ability to focus on my habits that I believe I possess that yield the desired results. I am a hard worker and have always used strategic and creative thinking to solve problems. I also believe I am a good listener and when you work with so many different customers and partners, listening is an important quality to have.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
From one of my previous roles, I was very happy to close the bonds I needed in order to acquire the water system for Hutto in Texas. By obtaining the new water system, at the end of the day we helped the community live and breathe healthier for the next 100 years to come. I was happy to be able to help my town with something that will last.
I am also proud that to date, Cobblestone Development has obtained five awards for its projects.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I am excited for our company to continue forming a mosaic of infrastructure and development. The projects we work on support the economic development of communities for many years to come and that is very exciting. Being able to walk past something and be able to say, ‘I helped create that,’ is a wonderful feeling.
What business books have inspired you?
The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson teaches readers three techniques for being an effective manager and leader. I like this book because I think it helps you focus on building a positive culture for your company and in turn helps you become a better leader.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
I think purchasing Adobe software was an important investment. It allows me and my team to prepare documents in a secure fashion.
What do you do in your free time?
I spend most of my free time with my family. My children and my family bring value to my life, so I spend as much time with them as I can. I try to take advantage of the opportunities I have to spend time with my family and see what I can do to improve my children’s lives. I also strive to live long and enjoy life, which was advice from my grandfather. I make sure I prepare and eat healthy meals and sleep well. It’s important to take the time to do these things.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
I am afraid my plate is full right now.