By CRAIG GARRETT
Former U.S. presidents, astronauts, Kentucky Derby trainers, even former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, these very successful people and more are alums of the 4-H agricultural program for kids.
But here in DeSoto County, commissioner and businessman J.C. Deriso is an accomplished 4-H’er of note. The co-owner of one of DeSoto’s largest private employers with nearly 200 workers, Deriso credits 4-H, a sense for choosing good people to build with, and other things pushing him to achieve so much by age 35.
He gleefully flashes a bank card dated to his seventh birthday that was partly achieved due to raising steers as a 4-H youngster, for example.
But family, faith and the power of positive thinking also drive him, Deriso said on a tour of A+Environmental Restoration, the firm he co-owns with a brother, Jordan Deriso. Finding what’s right about workers and life is a common theme at company offices along U.S. Highway 17.
“Setting people up to succeed, that’s the key,” he said. “You have to know what they’re looking to get out of it, providing an opportunity to shine.”
Shining, as history shows, happens out of the starting blocks for select people. J.C. (Joel) Deriso is such a person, perhaps graced, but also born into an entrepreneurial family that moves at opportunity, not away from it. Deriso and five siblings, for example, were home-schooled, but also schooled in business, he and others will tell a listener. Parents Joel and Suzanne operated businesses or brought their children into opportunities to learn and to earn. Joel Sr., for instance, operated a sod farm, where his children worked. Their mother worked in sales. And 4-H was part of their childhood. J.C. Deriso also mentored under other entrepreneurs, DeSoto ranchers laboring as hard as their workers, he said, one man using a Rolls-Royce to haul fencing.
But 4-H was important, he said, teaching budgeting, food costs and other lessons.
“Came out of it knowing how to plan,” Deriso said. “How to price a job.”
After selling an interest in sod farming at age 18, J.C. Deriso started a grounds maintenance company. That has morphed into nearly 30,000 acres of property conservation his company maintains for state utility providers. The DeSoto company uses 2,000 or so sheep to mow vegetation, for example (check Tampa Electric’s live stream lamb cam). Deriso’s firm also fabricated mower equipment to reach grasses the animals couldn’t munch. That business growth since 2009 created seven divisions of A+Environmental Restoration, each unit an outgrowth as opportunities arose. The company today operates in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, each new opportunity raced at on a company airplane piloted by Jordan Deriso.
The Deriso brothers’ firm on SW Hull off Highway 17 in DeSoto County is like a commercial airport, eight acres of vehicles streaming in and out nearly all day, lights flashing before dawn/after sunset, drivers roaring away in new or refurbished trucks. There is road piping and other boxes on pallets over here, water and fuel tanks over there, a welder amid sparks, piles of broken concrete, men working on vehicles in a garage that is soon moving to a recently acquired new location closer to Arcadia.
Amid the buzzing of worker bees are company offices in a quiet gray building. The place feels energized, plugged into a wall socket, if that’s possible, staff bright-eyed in company shirts and polite with visitors. J.C. Deriso is in a conference room accented with exotic wood sidetables that his mother has built. Deriso between texting, checking his watch and phone calls shares his company’s history, his vision for survival in an always-changing world that includes moving at every business opportunity presented. He bases some of that thinking on other successful men like Lee Iacocca and Henry Ford, has read a great number of biographies on such people.
But understanding that he and his brother have built a multimillion-dollar company, Deriso isn’t close to comforted by their rare achievement.
Sound business practices, honesty, treating others as equals and fairly, and trend-watching should carry A+Environmental Restoration forward for future generations that include small children and an adopted teen that J.C. Deriso and wife Kayla bring home soon.
“You build a brick house,” he said, “with talent from all over the state. You meet payroll. And if it blows down, that’s divine intervention, the way it goes.”
But from this visit you feel that random wind is aimed in another direction.