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CEO Profiles

CEO PROFILE: Mark Hall, a Man with a Mission

Mark Hall once ran a key portion of his father, Glenn Hall’s, very successful real estate development business. Then, in 2006, the bottom fell out.

By Clark Byron

May 10, 2013 – Many in the Savannah business community have known Mark Hall for years, usually in the context of both running and being a key player with his father, Glenn Hall’s, very successful real estate development business. With companies in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, C.E Hall Construction of Savannah has built some of the region's most prestigious luxury developments including Southbridge and Savannah Quarters. The Halls were riding a wave of real estate fortune.

The family owned multiple companies, and after graduating from college, Mark spent five years in one of his father’s companies in South Carolina learning the construction and sales portions of the business. He then came to Savannah to help his father develop a large piece of property he had optioned in the four-corners at the intersection I-16 and I-95 and Southbridge and Savannah Quarters were born. Both are luxury planned communities centered around award winning golf courses developed in cooperation with such notables as Greg Norman and Robert Cupp. Savannah Quarters has Westbrook and Southbridge, Wood Yard.

“I had the good fortune to help build a really great team of planners, engineers, contractors and sales and marketing people,” recalls Hall. “And during that time I got to work with a lot of great people. I learned a lot.” For ten years, Hall had what he refers to as his “apprenticeship in the business.” For 15 years, he enjoyed the ride. From about 1988 on, the real estate market was booming.

Then, in 2006, the bottom fell out. “To be honest with you, I’m still working my way through a part of that,” he said. The family closed down most of the companies. It is still negotiating with a few lenders on finalizing some of our last pieces of business in the others. “Almost all of our operating companies have become nonoperational,” he said.

In 2005, some friends from Savannah Christian Church where Mark, wife Jena, and their four children attend invited Mark on a mission trip to India. “The places we went and things we saw; in a lot of ways it was a very moving experience, said Hall. “The people we met are so different in so many ways from our context in the U.S.” Hall returned several more times.

Central India Christian Mission provided the trip. The mission is a U.S.-based charity with its headquarters divided into two locations, Indianapolis and Savannah.

“The interesting thing about India is that it is a national superpower. They have nuclear arms and big buildings,” he said. “They have the world’s second-largest population in the work, second only to China, and will likely surpass China over the next 20 years.”

Hall said that the political system over there would be almost the opposite of what we experience in the United States in so many ways. “It is a nation established on the religion of Hinduism. India’s original colonial name under the control of Great Britain was Hundustan until 1957,” said Hall. Great Britain divided Hundustan into two countries, India for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims.”

India has the highest concentration of poverty on the planet, according to Hall. “It has the highest concentration of illiteracy and the infant mortality rate is among the highest in the world,” he said. “You stack all this up and in my mind it is a direct correlation to the issue of a lack of compassion.”

Most people who witness the suffering of children in India, it is intolerable. One of the things the Mission has been addressing for 30 years now is serving children. The marginalized and abandoned are taken in and cared for by the Mission. The Mission has four children’s homes serving approximately 5,000 children in India. That’s just one of the major initiatives there, according to Hall. They also do medical work in a hospital, church planting, operate two Bible colleges, and provide disaster relief. “A lot of what the people in that region see from us is compassion,” he said. “They see the love of Christ in action.”

Dr. Ajai Lall is cofounder and executive director of the Mission. Speaking of how he views his own ministry, Lall has always said, “They have to see a sermon in my life.”

Then, in 2006, the bottom fell out. “The interesting part of this whole transition from real estate to mission work wasn’t something I set out to do or one day made that conscious decision that I was going to leave this great opportunity I have in business and real estate, and make this huge sacrifice,” said Hall. “That’s not what happened. I enjoyed the [real estate] ride. Everybody else was going up, and when it came apart, I was wondering what I was going to do next.”

The opportunity to work for the mission full-time was presented to him. “I don’t think I’m the guy, and also, I’m really trying to unwind the businesses.” That’s what he told the leadership at the mission. The opportunity presented itself again, and for past two-and-a-half years, Hall has been in a full-time leadership position there.

Why did they offer him the job?  “I don’t know, maybe because they thought I would probably say yes,” he said. “I think there are other people that are as qualified, maybe in some areas more qualified.”  But, Hall is glad the offer came around again, and that he accepted it. “I love the work. It’s a great cause. I really don’t think there’s anything I could do of more significance with my time.”

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