The story of Trehel Corporation is one of a family business that became one of the greatest privately-held general contractors serving the Carolinas and Georgia. Spanning more than three decades, Trehel has held a proud tradition of public service and community activism.
In 1982, Neal Workman was vice president with Vector Corporation, a general contractor located in Oconee County. When a large northern firm acquired Vector, Neal decided it was time to take a risk and start a new company.
His primary motivation was to provide for his young family. Neal loved his community and had no desire to relocate. To start his new venture, he borrowed $4,000 and purchased a used Ford F250 truck with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer.
Neal has two children – a son, Tres, and a daughter, Helen. Taking the first three letters of each of their names, Neal created “Trehel,” the name for his new company.
Trehel founder Neal Workman was instrumental in bringing the design-build method to Upstate South Carolina. Challenging the traditional sequence of work, Trehel would bring the designer and the contractor together. Trehel would become the single point of responsibility, reducing risk and overall costs for clients.
Seeking to attract top talent, Trehel moved its headquarters to the current Clemson office in 1993. That office would later expand four times. As the projects grew in size and complexity, Trehel opened an office in Greenville and began pursuing projects throughout South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.
In the early part of the 21st century, Trehel’s continued growth and sales volume increased to more than $100 million and 175 talented employees. Projects ranged from $3,000 to $35 million.
Trehel celebrated 20 years with bluegrass music and a barbeque at the Biggerstaff Retreat on Lake Keowee. Those who worked 20, 15, 10 and five years were given special honors. The celebration came on the heels of the recently completed Dorman Stadium, the largest high school stadium in South Carolina.
Trehel completed its 400th project and began to make a name for itself within the ministry and multifamily market segments. During this time period, Trehel completed projects for Temple Baptist Church, Lyman United Methodist Church, Clemson United Methodist Church, and NewSpring Church in Anderson. On the multifamily side, from high-end condos to student housing, from lakefront townhomes to sports and entertainment suites, Trehel was very active in Charleston, Clemson, Greenville, Seneca and Spartanburg communities.
In 2007, Will Huss, who had been with Trehel since 1997, was named president and CEO.
“We’re client advocates,” founder Neal Workman said. “Will has a heart for our employees and a heart for our clients, and those are the ingredients that the successor needed to have in order for the culture to stay similar or very close to what I built.”
Trehel reaches a growth milestone by exceeding a $100 million in gross revenues.
Despite the recession, Trehel powered through, diversified in industrial, municipal, commercial, education, banking, medical, multifamily and church construction. Education projects dominated the landscape, including student housing at Southern Wesleyan University and Wofford College and the new Pickens High School.
The Duke Energy Citizenship & Service award was presented to Trehel’s Chief Financial Officer Linda Cowart. The award honors leadership and involvement in volunteerism and community service – given to those who strive to improve a community’s quality of life.
Trehel Chairman Neal Workman was named chairman of Ten at the Top, a 10-county coalition of public, private and nonprofit leaders that work together to encourage quality growth and economic vitality of the region. The TATT officers and executive committee is comprised of 60 members.
After maintaining an office in Greenville for 14 years, Trehel relocated its corporate operation to the Field House at the West End – a 15,000-square-foot suite. The Clemson office moved to a new space within the same complex on Tiger Boulevard, where the company was headquartered for more than 20 years.
Trehel completes the new $47.8 million Walhalla High School and athletic facilities, its largest single construction project to date.
2016 and beyond
Led by a diverse and talented leadership team, Trehel is highly focused on its clients, employees and their communities. Moving forward, Trehel will concentrate on a broad range of market segments within the Upstate region of South Carolina and beyond.