Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, 1968
CEO, Halfacre Construction
Starting Out | After graduation, Cox landed a job as a financial analyst trainee. “My first job was with NCR, and I got it out of the recruiting office. I was only there a year. They kept on promoting me but told me that I would have to wait two years for my next promotion. I said, ‘I’m not waiting that long.’ ”
Switching It Up | He eventually found himself developing commercial property in Columbus, Ohio. “The market was so horrible in Columbus. That’s when the interest rates were sky high, so I decided to try a new approach, and I decided to come to Florida.”
Buying a Company | In 1984, Cox bought Halfacre Construction, a regional general contractor headquartered in Sarasota. Cox grew the business from $4 million in sales to more than $40 million. “Halfacre became a household name. We’ve built a number of shopping centers, industrial buildings—large ones, small ones—and done work at the Port of Tampa and the Port of Manatee.” One of the company’s largest projects was a 420,000-square-foot, $10-million manufacturing facility for PGT Industries.
Outside Interests | After arriving in Florida, Cox took an active interest in the Sarasota community and raised money for a number of organizations, including the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides free education to children of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Special Operations personnel who are killed in a mission or training accident.
Special Athletes | In 1996, Cox founded the Special Athletes Boosters to provide money for Sarasota County Special Olympics to run their programs. He raised $60,000 that first year. “We had a tennis tournament two years and we got the proceeds from a boat race for two years. We got a county grant and now we have a golf tournament.”
Building Dreams | Five years ago, Cox oversaw the building of the Gene Whipp Sports Center Complex for Special Athletes—a 5,000-square-foot fieldhouse with an outdoor eight-lane, all-weather track in nearby Venice. “It’s totally their facility. I got most of the work donated. Actually, we didn’t pay for anything except for the steel.” Today the facility is used by more than 400 athletes, a huge increase from the 50 athletes when Cox first got involved. Members of the Sarasota County Special Olympics dedicated a street to him, named John Cox Way, at a special unveiling ceremony last May.
Halfacre Future | As for the future of Halfacre, Cox began taking on an advisory role last year, allowing his son to run the day-to-day operations of the company. “Working with him is very good. He’s a very smart and intelligent person. And we get along very well because we both don’t have big egos.”
John Cox died of unknown causes the day before this magazine went to press.