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Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024

Business Person of the Year


Brown Builders’ Board Chairman Wayne Brown, pictured with daughter Kristen, who now runs the esteemed company.

B. Wayne Brown builds community, literally and figuratively

In 1971, B. Wayne Brown’s father and brother were doing well in the home construction business. Really well. But they had to say no when offered opportunities to build commercial projects.

“They had relationships here, but they didn’t have the offering to build clinics, banks and commercial buildings because they were primarily homebuilders,” Brown said. “There was an opportunity for me to join them and start a commercial building company because of the relationships they had. The area was, I thought, underserved in commercial building.”

So Brown, 24 years old and working on commercial buildings and multi-story projects in California, returned home. The three family members started Brown Builders Inc., a commercial construction company. It is now one of the largest general contractors in Louisiana.

Brown is now the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year, an award the Chamber has given since 1978.

“I was surprised. I was humbled about receiving it, knowing personally some of the past recipients that I would be considered for this. I guess I’ve just been around a long time and have been involved in a lot of different things, and my name came up.”

It was a lot more than that. “Mr. Brown has been a tremendous leader in our community,” Chamber President Tim Magner said. “Whether it’s in his business leadership through Brown Builders and all the work he has done to literally build the community, to all his service with LSU, his service with Committee of 100 both locally and at the state level, as well as all of the associations he’s been involved with, both regionally and nationally, in his chosen field. Wayne is a true leader in his business life, in his philanthropy and in his civic engagement.”

The Chamber’s is chosen by the organization’s Senior Council, which comprises the Chamber’s past chairman, the five immediate past chairmen and two past chairmen selected from all of the past chairpersons.

“That group gets together a couple of times a year and identifies individuals for this and a couple of other awards and activities,” Magner said. “They really look across the landscape of individuals and organizations in the community and are able to (with certain criteria) filter that down to a single individual. It’s a robust process.”

Brown graduated from LSU in civil engineering and earned his master’s degree in civil engineering with a specialty in construction management from Purdue University.

While his father and brother were homebuilders, Brown wasn’t much interested in the monotony of building the same style house after house after house.

“Just about every commercial project is different. They require a more technical background, both engineering and architectural. Homebuilding is more repetition of the same construction, means and methods.”

Then, there were personal differences in homebuilding and commercial construction.

“Frankly, I wasn’t real interested in working for homeowners. I wanted to work for people in business. People act differently in business than they do when you’re building their home. A home is so personal. You’ve got a husband and wife involved. In business, people look at it differently. You’re limited in size on homebuilding. Commercial building is all sizes – commercial and industrial.”

Longevity has played a large part in Brown Builders’ growth. At the company’s 2023 Christmas party, one employee was recognized for 42 years of service, several were recognized for more than 30 years of service, and some were recognized for between 10 and 30 years of service.

“Having the people who are committed to the company’s success,” Brown said when asked why Brown Builders has been successful for so long. “Wanting to make it their livelihood. The subcontractors and professionals with whom we have had good relationships over the years have really been important to our success. We’re only as good as the people working for us and the sub-contractors working for us. It takes teamwork. Having been able to put together very good teams has been real important to our success in this community.”

The company’s former president, the recently turned 77-year-old Brown, is now Brown Builders’ board chairman. In 2012, he turned over the company to his daughter, Kristen. According to its website, Brown Builders is now Louisiana’s largest certified woman-owned general contractor.

It seemed appropriate that the company’s leadership remain all in the family.

“She has a law degree. She can do lots of things. But growing up in construction, that’s what she wanted to do. I’m real proud of her, and proud I can help her in continuing Brown Builders in an advisory way, as my father did for me. I was very happy to pass it on to her. Her son is in construction management at Louisiana Tech, so hopefully we will have this company carry on with Kristen’s family, too, and other fine people who have made a career out of it.”


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