Business Spotlight: Cory Rushing’s PLS Group continues to grow

Published 12:50 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

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Troy resident Cory Rushing’s PLS Group, Inc. has grown from a two-person land surveying company to a business with five offices in two different states.

Rushing grew up in Brundidge and graduated from Ariton High School. During his high school days, Rushing began working for an engineering company, drafting and drawing plans. That led him to accept a scholarship to Wallace Community College, where he earned a certificate in drafting.

“I enjoyed doing it and it helped me get ahead in my career because I was able to learn how to use the CAD (computer-aided design) system,” Rushing said. “Everything is computerized now. I was able to go and learn how to do it manually with a pen and then learned how to do it with the computer and that really gave me a leg up in this industry, being able to already efficiently run these CAD programs.”

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During that time, Rushing’s career path also changed, however.

“There was someone on a survey crew that was out sick and they said, ‘Hey, go help these guys’ and I just really took to it like a duck to water,” Rushing recalled. “I started doing surveying and went from there. Working at a desk for eight hours (drafting) really wasn’t what I thought it would be. I had the opportunity to get outside and work outside and, like I said, I took to it like a duck to water.

“I grew up in the country and stayed in the woods constantly. So, when I wanted to do drafting and realized I would be chained to a desk for eight hours a day it just didn’t work for me. I had the opportunity to go outside and it really changed my career path.”

Getting to see different parts of the area is one appeal to Rushing but the history of surveying is also a strong draw.

“I’ve seen some extraordinary scenes out in the wilderness walking around. It’s a lot of history that goes into our profession, too,” he emphasized. “In 1820, when the survey generals came through here and did the public land system in Alabama, John Coffee was the survey general of Alabama. They mapped out all the property, all the sections, and set wooden pine knots as property corners. To be able to come behind that and recreate history is rewarding and we still come across – and find – what our forefathers originally did. That’s a lot of the intrigue of it, too.”

Rushing and his PLS Group still find the original pine knots surveyors used in the 1820s to set property lines. This pine knot was found in Geneva County.

Land surveying allows the public, businesses and governments understands land boundaries. A survey is performed in order to locate, describe, monument and map the boundaries and corners of a parcel of land. Land surveys are done when one looks to purchase a house or plot of land and when a business plans to build on a property.

After deciding his career path change, Rushing eventually decided to pursue his degree at Troy University.

“In the late 1990s, Troy University was the first college in the state to start a geomatics program and the State of Alabama passed a law that you had to have a four-year degree to get licensed in the state,” Rushing said. “Before that you just had to work under a licensed surveyor for eight years to get your license. While they passed that law there was still a grandfathered period there and I could have fell into that grandfathered period but I felt like because of how strenuous the test to get licensed was that getting my four-year degree would probably benefit me in being able to pass the test.

“In 1999, I started at Troy and enrolled in the program there and graduated in the summer of 2001. I was taking 20-25 hours a semester. I was maxing it out and one of my last summers there I remember, I would wake up and go to a class at Troy and then leave and drive to Enterprise to the junior college and take a trigonometry class and a computer class there and then drive back to Troy for labs, so I would be able to graduate in that timeframe. I was trying to get through school as quickly as I could to achieve that goal I had to be licensed and in 2004, I was able to get licensed.”

Over the years, Rushing worked for a number of firms and says that he took something from each one of his stops.

“I started at Polly Engineering and their main focus was engineering and utility surveying. After I left there, I went with a company down in Florida that was primarily subdivisions,” Rushing said. “After I went back to school, I worked with a company that focused on aeronautics and did airports. I worked with Charlie Botts in 2004 and he was probably the single best boundary surveyor I’ve ever met and I learned a lot of good practices from him. Then, I worked with a company in Montgomery, Sanford-Bell and Associates, and Mr. Bell was an extremely good businessman.

“Each stop that I’ve made in my career I tried to take all of the good characteristics from every person I worked with and apply it into my practice and how we run our business here.”

In 2015, Rushing launched Pike Land Services (PLS) and in 2019 he officially changed the name to PLS Group, Inc., after further growth and acquisitions. PLS went from two employees – including Rushing himself – and now has more than 20 employees with five different offices in two states.

“In 2015, it was just me and one other guy doing what we could, where we could and when we could,” said Rushing. “Each year we’ve been blessed with growth and opportunity.”

PLS has offices in Troy, Enterprise, Dothan, Baldwin County and Panama City Beach, Fla. and the company is able to – and does – work in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Recently, Rushing was able to purchase Walt Stell’s Environmental Precision Associates after his passing, as well.

“He leaves a hole in the community and this industry with the work he did and I just hope to be able to try and fill his shoes and that hole that he leaves,” Rushing said.

Rushing believes his company’s embracing of technology has helped the company grow.

“We’ve invested a lot into technology,” he emphasized. “We have a huge LiDAR (light detection and ranging system) that is as big of a hood of a truck. We can survey 40 acres of land in a matter of an hour as opposed to a week like it used to. We invest into technology to be more efficient and provide our clients with a quicker turnaround and better product.”

Rushing says that he still has goals he wants to achieve, as well.

“I’m not a very content person,” he flatly said. “I’m always looking for an opportunity to grow. We do a lot of work in the Auburn area and I’ve been trying for the last two years to open an office in that area.

“The last two years it has been at the top of my goals. Each year I set company goals and I leave it next to my computer every day. The last two years, that one in Auburn is the only goal that doesn’t get crossed off and I’m going to work to get that one accomplished.”