“It had a six-by-eight-foot dirt floor, frame walls and a ceiling,” he remembered. “I was in town Saturday morning and saw some three-by-eight plywood sheets where a store had uncrated a package.”
After picking up the plywood for free and buying some insulation, he stuffed the walls and ceilings. Then he mixed up some Quikcrete, poured his floor and topped it off with some kitchen linoleum. A used $30 oak desk rounded it all out.
That simple pump house office soon gave way to a 12X60 mobile home office on Kingsbridge Road in Carrollton. A few years later, the current Parkwood Circle headquarters was built.
Fulford came to Carrollton in 1965 to work as contractor manager for Richards and Associates. He left Richards in the early 70s to form a partnership with W.O. Kilgore before deciding to go out on his own.
“Our very first project was a $13,000 job for a clothing manufacturer in Burwell,” he said.
The next job was somewhat larger, a $1 million project to build 56 vacation cottages on a Lake Lanier island.
From those humble beginnings, the company has grown to an annual construction budget of $94 million, employing about 150 people and ranking as one of the top 25 construction companies in Georgia. It is licensed in eight states and has built more than 600 projects, totaling more than $1 billion.
RA-LIN (named for Ray and his wife, Linda) celebrated its 40th birthday last Saturday with a tailgate party at the University of West Georgia athletic complex, a RA-LIN project built in 2009. About 200 people were treated to homecoming football game tickets, a barbeque lunch and family fun in the afternoon. RA-LIN was recognized on the stadium’s large video screen as the game sponsor.
“We thought that would be a good venue to hold our celebration since we built the stadium.” said Ben Garrett, RA-LIN president. “We sent out invitations to all our present and former employees and customers.”
RA-LIN has also built several other UWG projects, including the athletic office building and several student housing projects. It was recently awarded the bids for the new East Village dining facility and The Oaks residence hall, which are now under construction.
One of RA-LIN’s early projects in the 1970s was the Austell City Hall. That was followed by building the Rockmart Community Center and the Peachtree State Federal Credit Union building. In 1981, the company got the contract for the $2.9 million Douglas County Jail, and parlayed that experience to working with Turner Construction in the $15.4 million Carroll County Jail in 1999.
RA-LIN has been active in school construction throughout its history, and Mt. Zion High School in Carroll County was one of its early milestone jobs.
“Through the years, we have completed more school buildings in Georgia than any other contractor in the state,” Garrett said. “Since the 1990s, RA-LIN has completed more than 120 educational and institutional projects in the the Southeast and has worked in 35 Georgia counties.”
Garrett began his career at RA-LIN in the summer of 1984 as a part-time worker. After high school, he attended Auburn University on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and earned a civil engineering degree. He returned to RA-LIN in 1991 as an assistant project manager and held positions with increasing responsibility until his appointment as president in 2005.
RA-LIN has done much to change the face of Carroll County over the years. Some of the buildings it has constructed include The Times-Georgian building in the mid-1980s, the downtown Carrollton Cultural Arts Center in 2002, the Carrollton parking decks and Sunset Hills Country Club.
The company built the original Greenway Medical headquarters off Hay’s Mill Road and is nearing the completion of a new 67,127-square-foot Greenway corporate headquarters and employee resource center.
RA-LIN also built two of Carrollton’s largest shopping centers, Macintosh Plaza, anchored by Publix; and Riverbend, anchored by Ingles. RA-LIN was contractor for Carrollton’s newest hotels, Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn Express.
The company has built numerous buildings in the Tanner Health System complex, both in Carrollton and Villa Rica. They include the Tanner-Carrollton ICU unit, Carrollton parking deck, Tanner Medical Center-Villa Rica and Willowbrooke at Tanner in Villa Rica.
RA-LIN has weathered four economic downturns since its beginning, with the worst being in the early 1990s.
“We had contractors and construction companies everywhere going bankrupt,” Fulford said. “People weren’t paying us, and legal claims were rampant.”
Fulford said the company had fortunately retained enough earnings from the good years to bridge the gap. He credited Garrett joining the firm in 1991 as a decisive moment.
“If not for that, we would have probably closed,” he said.
Garrett said the company’s “moral center” is what has kept it going for four decades.
“We treat people who work for us, and our suppliers and subcontractors, with respect,” Garrett said. “That has been the tone that has been here for the past 40 years.”
Fulford said the company also believes in giving back to the community, and regularly supports schools, charities and civic clubs that benefit the local area.
“Our moral compass has always been in the right direction,” he said. “We’ve been blessed with good, sober, solid men and women working for us.”