By Edwin Smith, Communications Specialist
William G. Yates III (BBA 93), president and CEO of W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co., is the recipient of the 2016 Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneurship award, presented by the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration.
The award, named for Ole Miss alumni Jan (BAEd 65) and Lawrence Farrington (BBA 58), is given annually to a graduate who exemplifies the best of entrepreneurship.
Yates, a Philadelphia native who graduated summa cum laude in business administration from UM, calls the recognition “truly an honor.”
“This selection is really a reflection of the wonderful people that I work with at Yates Construction and I share this award with them and accept it on their behalf,” Yates said. “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an amazing and committed team.”
The Farrington Distinguished Award was created to honor successful entrepreneurs who carry on the tradition of the Farringtons in creating businesses that make a difference.
“Jan and Lawrence Farrington have been involved in innovation and entrepreneurship in the state of Mississippi for many years and have been an integral part in funding a number of businesses,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the UM business school.
“They are keen business people who help other entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition, thereby providing valuable goods and services, as well as creating employment for Mississippi citizens. They give back their time as well to the university and are great ambassadors for the business school and the university.”
Yates said that this award differs from others he’s received because it recognizes entrepreneurship.
“To me, entrepreneurship means how you identify and manage risk and then how you can do that while still providing true value to your customers,” he said. “That is what we do every day at Yates: we work hard to understand what is important to our clients, provide value to them and do it in way that equitably shares risk.”
Yates’ father, William G. “Bill” Yates Jr. (BSCVE 63, JD 65), and grandfather, Gully Yates Sr., started the family-owned company in 1964. In its 52nd year, the firm has offices in eight states and Mexico. Its portfolio includes projects from arts and culture, civil, commercial, education, entertainment and gaming, federal, health care, hospitality, manufacturing, municipal, retail and technology.
“Ole Miss was truly a great experience for me,” Yates said. “It helped prepare me for my professional life in many ways, both technically from a business perspective but, just as importantly, it introduced me to people that have been lifelong business associates and friends.”
Before becoming president, Yates served several years as executive vice president of the Gulf Coast division of Yates Construction. He is the incoming 2017-2018 chairman of the Mississippi Economic Council.
Yates, who also earned a master’s degree from Arizona State University, has served on the board of directors for Trustmark National Bank and Trustmark Corp., where he is chairman of the Wealth Management Committee. He is immediate past chairman of the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development and is also on the board of directors for the Gulf Coast Business Council. He is the immediate past president of the Board for the United Way of South Mississippi and was the 2013-14 co-chairman of the Southeast U.S.-Japan Association annual meetings.
He also has served on the Millsaps College board of trustees, the Blueprint Mississippi advisory council and the MEC’s board of directors. He is also on the UM Foundation’s board of directors and has been a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization since 2004.
He is a past chairman of Mississippi Associated Builders and Contractors and served as a member of the Associated Builders & Contractors national board of directors. He has served as co-chairman of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Pacesetter Campaign, and was the 2011 chairman for the American Heart Walk for the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
In 2016, Yates received the United Way’s President’s Award and was recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal as a Mississippi Top CEO. He has also been featured in the Mississippi Business Journal and the Sun Herald as a Top Businessmen Under Forty and was inducted into the Roland Weeks Hall of Fame Outstanding Community Leaders Class of 2010. He was also a recipient of the Coast Young Professionals 4 Ever Young award in 2011.
In 2009, Yates was named the Construction Person of the Year by the Mississippi chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors. He has served on the advisory council of the Mississippi State University School of Architecture and on the advisory committee of the University of Southern Mississippi School of Engineering Technology.
Yates is married to Tara Duett Yates (BAEd 95), a former teacher. They reside in Biloxi with their daughter, Abby, and their son, Gully.
For the Farringtons, lending a helping hand is all part of their desire to give back.
“Lawrence and I want to do everything we can to encourage entrepreneurs in Mississippi,” Jan Farrington said. “We have so many bright, talented entrepreneurs in our state who have had the vision and tenacity to start their own companies. These businesses can and will make a difference in the future of our state if we can keep them here in Mississippi.
“Encouragement from the government, universities, organizations such as Innovate Mississippi, investors and individuals can help make this happen. This award was just a small way that we thought we could contribute.”