Alvin Furr grew up in a rural area near Charlotte, North Carolina. At night during high school, he worked second shift at the local cotton mill, operating the spinning machine while dreaming of bigger things.
After moving to Winston-Salem in the early 1980s, Furr began working as an interior finish carpenter for a contractor. “I found a small tract of land, so I approached him about developing it together. I guess he liked my work because he became the investor. We became friends and wound up business partners. Thirty years later here I am.”
LEAP OF FAITH
The first two projects Furr and his partner completed were four and 30 lots. The third: 300 lots. “By the third development, my investor had faith in what I was doing so he stuck his neck out a bit. We jumped in headfirst.”
When scouting new areas for development these days, Furr adheres to the old adage “location, location, location.” “I look for places that are growing. I like to see new businesses in the area, along with plenty of restaurants and places to shop, that sort of thing.”
After completing the 300-home development in Thomasville, Furr and his partner built a 165-home development in Winston-Salem. Then in 2008, the U.S. housing bubble burst and the economy went south. “We were just getting ready to start building houses on a 31-home development, but I held off.”
Furr bided his time, making ends meet through rental properties and a few other sound investments. Eight years later, T.A.F. (which stands for Thomas Alvin Furr) Building & Development got back into the game. Furr now builds four or five houses a year. He tries to do much of the work himself, subcontracting out the rest.
With experience digging and pouring footings, framing, siding, interior finishing, and landscaping, Furr says, “I enjoy running machinery more than anything else. You can get in, shut the world out, and focus on what you’re doing. You can accomplish a lot sitting by yourself in a machine.”
Furr started running construction equipment out of necessity. “I couldn’t find anyone to dig footings — I’d have to get on a three- or four-week waiting list. So I bought a backhoe and started digging my own footings.”
Furr has run John Deere machines since the beginning. In addition to buying the backhoe, he also acquired a Deere 455D Crawler Loader and 550B Dozer so he could do his own landscaping. “I’ve always been a fan of John Deere machines. I’ve had nothing but good service out of them.”
An important part of Furr’s equipment arsenal is a John Deere 333G Compact Track Loader (CTL) with a mulching head, which he uses to clear lots. The combination allows him to grind up brush and small trees, so he can get the land in shape to pass local inspections for erosion control and obtain a building permit. He also uses a grapple and bucket to clean up, and a tiller to prepare yards for seed.
“The 333G gives me the power I need to clear the land. It can do the work of much larger machines, yet it’s maneuverable so it won’t disturb bigger trees, which I want to preserve for the lot. I like the speed, smooth control, and the way it handles. It’s just an all-around good machine. I enjoy operating it a lot.”
The 333G came equipped from the dealer with a forestry package. Side and rear screens shield the operator against branches, and a Level II FOPS plate helps safeguard against falling debris and limbs. A rear bumper guards the back of the machine from trees and other objects. Additional guarding protects the lift cylinder hoses and hydraulic coupler.
Furr’s local John Deere dealer, James River Equipment, also helps keep the machine up and running. “I can usually get the parts I need, when I need them. And if the dealer doesn’t have them in stock, they can get them for me right away.
“John Deere and James River have been a big part of my success,” he adds. “The machines are easy to service and very reliable. The value and quality you get in a Deere machine can’t be beat. And the guys at James River, including my salesman David Smitherman, are tremendous to work with. They always try to meet all my needs.”