These are just a handful of many titles you could use to describe the late F. Browne Gregg, founder of Consolidated Minerals Inc. Mr. Gregg, one of Leesburg’s most distinguished citizens, passed away on October 10, 2014. He was a military decorated and renowned businessman, a faithful community member, and a devoted family man.
Mr. Gregg was dedicated to his country. He signed up to serve in World War II immediately, knowing he should do everything he could to protect his home. He became a stellar bomber pilot with great instincts and immense courage. He earned the Silver Star – – the military’s third highest combat award that recognizes those who display exceptional valor while engaged in combat – – after directly engaging in air combat with the world’s first jet fighter plane. He was shot down twice, survived, and completed many more missions.
After the war, he attended the Citadel and then came home to Leesburg and immediately invested his meager life savings into self-made businesses, one of which was building outdoor furniture. He quickly grew from a small-town business owner into an internationally recognized businessman. He brought hundreds of jobs to Central Florida and literally helped shape the way the area looks and runs.
Progress Through Innovation
From the beginning, Progress Through Innovation was always the byword of his companies and he truly embodied the American entrepreneurial spirit. Soon after the war ended, Mr. Gregg, his brother Bill, and friend Brunson Gibson started the company Gregg, Gibson, & Gregg Inc. which grew to produce sand and concrete products and provided trucking, dredging, and construction services. In 1966 he patented and constructed the Crawler-Crusher, a swamp clearing machine which was used to clear the flood basin for the Florida Cross-State Barge Canal. In 1968 he built the worlds largest dredge. The engine was cut from a surplus WWII destroyer and the dredge was built around it. The company was then awarded the largest earth moving contract ever by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The company was sold in 1969.
Mr Gregg is perhaps most widely known for Florida Crushed Stone Company. The company was founded in 1971 when Mr. Gregg purchased Camp Concrete Rock Co., a small family run business. Over the next 30 years it grew to be Central Florida’s leading producer of aggregates. It grew well beyond most peoples expectations, but not his own. In the 1980’s the company designed the world’s first integrated facility combining a cement plant, a power plant, and a lime plant. The $250 million co-generation facility operated substantially on what otherwise would be waste materials, waste steam, and waste heat. This innovative plan included major components of a moth-balled coal fired electric power plant in Illinois which was relocated, rehabilitated, and constructed in Brooksville. During its construction it was recognized as the largest co-generation industrial construction project in the Southeast. In 2000 Mr. Gregg sold most of the operations of Florida Crushed Stone to CSR America.
Despite being 78 years old by this time, Mr. Gregg retained ownership of several operations of FCS and combined them with his other business ventures, operating under the name Consolidated Minerals, Inc. As he told a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel at the time, “I’m not stopping now.” The company, whose businesses include CL Industries, the largest manufacturer in the U.S. of exposed aggregate pool finishes, deck coatings, and building materials for the commercial and residential pool industry, continues to operate to this day.
While quite modest about his work and his accomplishments, Mr. Gregg could not avoid outside recognition for his leadership. He was named the 1995 Florida Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in recognition of being the most environmentally conscious businessman in Florida. He was also inducted into the Junior Achievement of Central Florida Hall of Fame in 1998. His companies and their internal practices also garnered national attention, including Power Magazine’s 1992 Power Plant Award and several Sentinel of Safety Awards from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. His commitment to serve our country and our community earned him induction into the Texas Panhandle Veterans Hall of honor. Mr. Gregg was also appointed to the Florida Council of 100 for several years.
Perhaps more importantly, Mr. Gregg was committed to giving back to his community. His companies supported various charities, including those that target issues involving children, health, and education. Mr. Gregg was personally involved in both the Green Isle Children’s Ranch and Camp Boggy Creek for Children.
Mr. Gregg was a man of principles. Honesty and integrity were key players in everything he did. He treated his employees like family and took every business decision he made personally. He never shied away from taking risks and always embraced the positive. His book, “Progress Through Innovation,” was written to inspire young people that any disability can be overcome. Gregg struggled with Dyslexia during his childhood forcing him to work through problems differently than others.
In his personal life, Mr. Gregg was know for being a man of gifts. He gave his heart and his time to those he loved, including his wife, his brothers, his three children, and his many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
While we can no longer learn directly from him, we can aim to emulate Mr. Gregg’s entrepreneurial spirit and the dedication to the people and issues he cared most about.