Local Family-Owned Construction Company Expands Rapidly

Working Together Strengthens Family Ties


MARIETTA, Ga. — In the last four years, Marietta-based and family-owned company, OxBuilt Construction, has seen a large amount of growth and has no intentions of slowing down.

OxBuilt Construction doubled its profits in 2016 and already has more than $2 million worth of work scheduled for 2017.

“We have no intentions of selling the business, but if we did we wouldn’t take less than $1 million at this point,” said Richard Barrett, president of OxBuilt Construction. “Our business is still growing in the Southeast.”

OxBuilt Construction has been thriving in the metro Atlanta apartment market.

“We have done some jobs for hotels and other businesses, but the majority of our contracts are for the building or renovation of apartment complexes,” office manager Nichole Barrett said.

OxBuilt Construction frequently attends charity events for both the Atlanta Apartment Association and the National Apartment Association, and is a member with both organizations.

In the past two years, OxBuilt Construction has been tackling more and more projects outside of Georgia. They have built and renovated buildings in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida.

A second office recently opened in Jacksonville, Florida, to help manage the demand of hotel restoration and apartment complex contracts the company has received.

Humble Beginnings

Expansion was not always on the mind of 27-year-old CEO R.J. Barrett. Prior to forming OxBuilt Construction in 2012, Barrett was a foreman for another construction company until the day they, abruptly, went out of business.

“I was tired of working for other people,” R.J. Barrett said. “I wanted to be my own boss. I saved as much money as I could after losing my job and just started making plans.”

Barrett, initially, partnered with his family on his new business venture instead of seeking outside investors. Both Barrett and his father, Richard Barrett, used their prior knowledge and construction experience to launch the business.

“We went to a lot of trade shows to network and took on smaller projects just to get income flowing in,” R.J. Barrett said. “We invested most of our profits back into the business.”

OxBuilt Construction Looks Toward Future

As OxBuilt Construction’s presence increases throughout the Southeast, so do their aspirations.

“My hope for OxBuilt Construction is that the company will eventually grow to the point that regular people will start to notice us and recognize our brand as they sit in traffic and see our job sites,” Nichole Barrett said.


Nichole Barrett at Marietta office (Photo by Becky Beaver)

Nichole Barrett and other members of the sales team make regular appearances in the community by setting up information booths at festivals and handing out information on the business along with stress balls shaped like oxen. The company also invested in an ox mascot suit worn by various employees out in public.

OxBuilt Construction said they are interested in more expansion, but only time will tell how much the company will evolve.

“We’ve considered moving into neighborhood development and we’re looking into more government contracts to work on official buildings and schools,” Nichole Barrett said. “We’re not ruling anything out for 2017.”


Working Together Strengthens Family Ties


MARIETTA, Ga. – OxBuilt Construction has built countless homes for families, but their office, located in Marietta, has become much like a home to CEO R. J. Barrett and his family.

OxBuilt Construction currently has 11 employees, two of whom are directly related to Barrett himself. While Barrett serves as CEO and owner, his younger sister, Nichole Barrett, is the office manager and his father, Richard Barrett, is the president of his company. Along with OxBuilt’s permanent staff, Barrett also frequently hires extended family members as subcontractors for various construction projects.

The original OxBuilt Construction office is located in Marietta where the Barrett family have been long time residents. Fittingly, the office where Barrett and his family work used to be an old home, now re-purposed into an office space.

“It’s nice to come to work and see your family,” said Barrett. “Many people only get to see their families for a few hours after work, and even less if you don’t all live in the same house. Here at OxBuilt, we make decisions about business every day that have benefited my family greatly.”

While many families shy away from going into business with one another, the Barretts said they have no hesitation on their decision to work together.

”We have a really good work environment here,” said Nichole Barrett. “We all have similar personalities and get along well. At the end of the day, we don’t talk about work after hours unless it’s something really important, or one of us has a really funny story about something that happened.”

Bodybuilding, a woman’s business


ROSWELL, Ga. – Professional body-builder and trainer, Gina Shabazz, improves both women’s physical physique and their self-esteem by helping them to achieve their fitness goals.

Shabazz is the owner of Roc Fit, in Roswell, Georgia, formally known as Fitness Pro Wellness Center.


Gina Shabazz lifting weights at Roc Fit in Roswell, Ga. (Photo by Le’Dor Phoenix)

Shabazz said that the beauty industry is tough, but the fitness industry is even tougher, particularly for women. She also said she believes that women going through bad break ups, divorce, job changes, or problems stemming from their youth can experience weight gain due to stress.

“Ninety percent of the time, women are crying in my consultation meetings,” Shabazz said.

Shabazz considers herself strong in both character and physical stature, but said she empathizes and relates to other women’s body images and fitness challenges.

After having two kids in her thirties, Shabazz weighed in at 165 pounds at just five feet tall, and said she decided to make a lifestyle change.

“I was fed up with my body, so I took off running for miles, everyday, to find my balance,” Shabazz said.

Later, Shabazz met her current husband, Roc Shabazz, and gained much of her training experience by helping him to begin, and sustain, a winning streak of prestigious body building competitions, ranging from the popular NPC Nationals to Olympia.

Roc Shabazz, an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Professional (IFBB) calls Gina Shabazz his “rock.”

“It takes so much out of you to be so consistent when you prep for such a prestigious show,” Gina Shabazz said. “The best looking bodies in the entire world do this show.”

Their hard work proved not be in vain when the duo placed sixth in world at the 2008 Olympia.

Shabazz, as the operations manager, support trainer and a certified National Physique Committee judge (NPC), said she understands that women are obsessed with the images portrayed in media and fashion magazines.

“Young women in their 20s are doing liposuction, butt injections and breast augmentations, but are not working out,” Shabazz said. “They’re skipping the training part. Squats build your butt and bringing down your waistline will improve the look of your butt.”


Shabazz (center) with clients (Photo by Le’Dor Phoenix)

Now that Roc Shabazz has retired from competing, the couple focuses entirely on their by-referral-only business.

Roc Fit is home to many NFL, NBA and IFBB professionals such as Shaquille O’Neal, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice and Simona Douglas, to name a few. Day-to-day, Roc Fit has more than 75 people training between the hours of 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.

“You come with a plan and I will give you the blueprint to achieve it,” Shabazz said. “This is where change happens.”

For more information on Roc Fit, you can visit their website, here.

Suicide rates increase as depression climbs


ATLANTA – Discussions about the rapidly growing suicide rates in the United States are ongoing, but there is much to know and learn before it can be fully understood.

In the last 18 years, suicide rates have increased by twenty four percent in the Unites States, alone, according to this article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Foreseeing the signs of depression and suicide in a friend or family member may help to decrease these statistics, but it’s up to the public to stay educated.

A federal analysis states that suicide rates in the United States rose to the highest levels in 30 years with increases in almost every age group, except for the elderly, according to a New York Times article.

Katherine Hempstead, senior adviser for healthcare at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found an increase in suicide for those in the 45-64 age bracket, partially due to stress over work and personal finances.

An increase in the suicide rates for young girls ranging from 10-14 years of age has been attributed to factors like bullying, which is becoming more prevalent, and the pursuit for a perfect body, often pushed onto girls from a young age.

graph                     Graph on increasing suicide rates (photo courtesy of nytimes.com)

The graph above shows an increase in suicides, by age margin, over a period of 15 years. The researchers who put the chart together chose to start the graph in 1999 because their research showed them it was a low point in society for suicide rates.

Most people contemplating suicide look to it as a solution to a deep, underlying pain. According to an article in the British Journal of Psychiatry, understanding the suicidal brain is not to study the brain itself, but to study human emotions and the impulses that drive people to commit these actions.

Detecting signs of suicide is becoming more and more relevant in a society where people are ostracized for their body type, sexuality, race and religion.

Three important characteristics differentiate people with depression accompanied with thoughts of suicide from people with depression alone. These include a sense of feeling trapped, the absence of rescue factors and a sensitivity to life events that show signs of defeat.

Suicidal behaviors occur at the crossroads of the past, and the future, according to this British Journal of Psychiatry article. People that battle with suppressed feelings of a regret, past mistakes, or a loss that continuously haunts them, have a hard time overcoming the hump that keeps them out from under a “suffocating blanket,” metaphorically speaking.

Suicide in schools is also becoming a rising issue according to Trina Williamson, a teacher at Long Cane Middle School in Troup County.

“Our teachers are aware of it, our principal is aware of it, and we have put in place a suicide prevention plan to help raise awareness so our teachers are able to detect the signs when we see them,” Williamson said.

According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death within the 10-24 age bracket. In the hopes of helping to stop this epidemic, the Georgia General Assembly passed the Jason Flatt Act in 2015, which became the nation’s most inclusive and mandatory youth suicide awareness and prevention legislation. In Georgia, it requires that all educators complete a twoour in-service training process provided by the Department of Education.

There are several non-profit organizations that have vowed to try and reduce the suicide rate by 2050. These organizations fund research into scientific studies that are working to figure out why there is still a stigma surrounding the issue and to determine how to prevent the leading causes of suicide for the future.

Although we don’t yet know the exact cause of depression, research shows that it does show visible changes in the brain when it occurs. Depression can develop for a variety of reasons including a major life change, alcohol, drugs or medications, genetic factors, or completely out of the blue.

Some of the research that experts are providing say that depression is a physical disease. According to an article on yourhealthchoice.com, scientists believe that depressed people exhibit features of inflammation in their brains, which is the body’s response to infection or injury.

In the aforementioned article, Hilton Head therapist, Jocelyn Evans, said that two-thirds of people suffering from depression choose not to seek help.

“If they did seek help, 80 percent of people would experience an alleviation of symptoms,” Evans said.

South Carolina resident Heather Dodson, a worker in the healthcare industry, said she has a mother who suffers from suicidal thoughts.

“It’s a terrible to think that someone you love would want to end their own life,” Dodson said. “People need to be aware of the signs of depression and suicide, so they can catch it before anything happens.”

In the picture below, the blood flow and brain activity of a depressed brain has many gaps in it compared to a normal, functioning brain.


                          (Photo courtesy of yourlocalhealthchoice.com)

Through education, society can become aware of the mental and physical constraints that depression and suicide can have on a population. People of all ages are affected by depression. It does not have an age, race, or gender.

The demands, stresses and hardships of everyday life affect us all. With the statistics laid out before you, and the rising rates seen across the board, it’s up to you to decide whether to stay informed so that you can take action when you see the signs of depression or suicide in someone you know.

Musical engineers get lost in mix


KENNESAW, Ga. — A great song simply has the right sound to our human ear.

It is almost as if a part of the brain is being massaged when the right set of notes resonate our eardrums. Good song quality is determined by a couple of different elements: the right beat, correct vocals, tempo, frequency and so on.

The average fan might not take into consideration who cohesively pieces together these elements into musical art. That is because the general public is not exposed to the reality of what makes a song great.

That person is the engineer.

In the realm of hip-hop and rap, producers have elevated themselves into stardom — almost as popular as the artist. Hearing a producer’s tag or seeing their credit on a song can give the track a greater appeal than the artist itself.

The big dogs in the Atlanta hip-hop scene include Metro Boomin, MikeWillMadeIt, Southside, Zaytoven, London On Tha Track and many others.

It is a phenomenon unlike in any other genre. So if producers are getting noticed like this now, why not engineers?

Atlanta has one of the more relevant music scenes in the country, especially in hip-hop. Atlanta could be the so-called epicenter of the hip-hop or rap genre.

Countless acts claim Atlanta as their throne: Future, Gucci Mane, Young Thug, T.I., 2 Chainz and Young Jeezy.

Around Georgia Tech University, known as Homepark, there are countless studios known nationwide for their contribution to the rap scene: Patchwerk Recording Studios, Hot Beats Studio, Zac’s Recording Studio, Icon Studios and so on.

According to Webster Dictionary, “An engineer is a person who has scientific training and who designs and builds complicated machines, systems, or structures.”

An audio engineer is in charge of shaping and controlling the sound. This includes recording, mixing, reproduction, reinforcement and manipulation of the sound.

Kori Anders (Submitted photo)

“An engineer is like the liaison in the studio between the creatives and getting their work recorded, mixed and mastered,” said Kori Anders, a veteran engineer from Patchwerk Recording Studios. “We are creative, but we are technical, so we bridge that gap between the creators of the music and being able to actually get it into a form that we can distribute to the world.”

It can take days to make sure a song is correctly edited to perfection — or mixed.

Usually, it does take multiple days or multiple sessions to get the sound just perfect, making for very meticulous work.

The unsung heroes of the entire rap scene could be the engineers. They have the ability to take a song from mediocrity and turn it into a chart-topping hit single.

Yet, there seems to be an under appreciation for these musicals inventors. Engineers are considered to be part of the behind-the-scene crowd, the same grouping as a producer or songwriter.

“Well, I think it is by design because most engineers that I know do not crave the limelight,” Anders said. “And, just by the nature of what we do, we do not need to be the center of attention.”

“I honestly do not know why producers have ended up getting so popular and in the spotlight,” said Dillon Lawter, a freelance engineer in Atlanta. “But, you know, engineering I feel like is such a nerdy aspect. I do not even know if people would consider that cool. But production, they were able to create an image for themselves where people became more accepting of it.”

Their work helps them land clients on a day-to-day basis. In regards to royalties in the musical world, the individuals who receive money from music are known as creatives. This includes talents such as, the artist, a songwriter or producer.

Engineers do not fall into the same category. The only money an engineer earns is from the initial base price they charge for mixing the song, and if they happen to be working at a studio full-time, they might also receive hourly pay.

Glenn “GT” Thomas is an engineer from Las Vegas, Nevada, who came to Atlanta to start his music career. He worked out of multiple studios in the city and currently calls Patchwerk Recording Studios his home.

“Once we get paid for whatever fee we give, it is over,” Thomas said. “That song could go 50 times platinum, and we do not get anything. All we get is, ‘Oh, you were the guy that worked on that?’ and a pat on the back. But a pat on the back does not feed your kid and wife. But you’re in there longer than the artist, longer than the producer, your’re in the studio longer than anyone. You know the song better than everyone, but once you get your fee, it is over.”

“I think the people that are compensated well are the top 10, the Tony Maserati’s, the Manny Marroquin’s,” Lawter said. “I feel like we are scraping by just to get people to notice us.”

Engineers are in charge of structuring the entire song and making sure every aspect is in-line with how the artist wants the song to sound. They are able to bring the artist’s vision to fruition and get it ready for the masses.

They put in countless amount of hours to perfect a track. Some engineers can spend marathon stretches etching out every detail to a song.

“Believe it or not, I am one of the quicker engineers,” Anders said. “So it can take anywhere from four to six hours, but, obviously, every song is different.”

Engineers are the backbone to the music industry. They are the cogs who keep the machine going. They are the blue-collar workers of the musical world.

“It is going to be blurred lines here shortly: We are going to be producers, we are going to be the artist,” Thomas said. “I see engineers as becoming one full package. We see artists making hits, we see how producers make hits, and we have the sonic aspect as well. So now it is like we have all three, and we will start seeing more engineers becoming artists and producers and we will be a face now. We will not be in the background.”

Food truck park gives community environment


ATLANTA — Food trucks are popping up all around big cities, but if one is looking for a spin on food trucks, then hold on tight.

The Atlanta Food Truck Park, which was established in 2012 by Sweet Auburn BBQ food truck owner Howard Hsu, is open for business. Families, friends and couples line up along the food trucks to indulge in barbecue, jambalaya or whatever their hearts desire.

The park’s four-acre location was originally an old hotel site The park offers a place to gather with friends, family and significant others.

With the park in its fifth year, locals and non-locals gather to make connections over food.

Bringing the community together

Food trucks are necessary because they bring the community together, said Atlanta Food Truck Park owner Tan Bowers.

“The concept of the Atlanta Food Truck Park is to create a small platform where families and couples enjoy each other’s company,” Bowers said. “The park has a very laid-back feel and is a great location to bring a small or large gathering. Open air dining is fun and people enjoy being able to eat under the rays of the sun or the twinkle of the stars.”

Alan Gorman and his girlfriend explained they do not like going to busy places like a restaurant. Gorman does not like being a part of big crowds, so that’s why he and his girlfriend chose to attend the food truck park instead, he said.

“It’s different,” said Gorman. “It isn’t the same things.”

The Atlanta Food Truck Park’s emphasis on community separates it from other parks.

The large facility provides long picnic tables, fire pits, a playground area, a covered stage and cool cafe lights locals and non-locals enjoy, which other parks may not have.

“Out here, you’re outside, and you can experience nature, but you’re in the city,” said Kristian Johnson, owner of Bailey Grace Boutique .

The collectiveness of the park keeps people coming back, Johnson said. The experience patrons feel should be welcoming as they get something special out of the park, Johnson said.

The Atlanta Food Truck Park is not a regular fast food restaurant or store that just anyone can enter said, Johnson.

This is especially true for food truck attendee Gorman and his girlfriend. He explained that since he does not enjoy eating at regular restaurants, the food truck park was the perfect date night for him and his girlfriend.

“The Atlanta Food Truck Park has been rated three consecutive years by Jezebel magazine as one of the top locations for a first date,” Bowers said.

Gorman said he always drives by the park located on Howell Mill Road because it’s conveniently located right down the street from where he lives.

With this in mind, people have become more receptive of the food truck industry. The success of food trucks, in general, has people flocking to not only to the Atlanta Food Truck Park, but to food truck events all over Atlanta.

But some visit the park not out of convenience, but because of other interests.

The park’s appeal

Food trucks have consistently been growing popular, so popular that they have been setting up shop outside local schools and stores, Bowers said.

Even though there are food trucks all over the state of Georgia, the Atlanta Food Truck Park is significantly different.

“It’s the first and only permanent food truck park in Atlanta,” Bowers said.

Food trucks provide not only a connection over food, but create a peaceful and kind energy, Bowers.

“To be able to actually speak to the creative mind behind your meal is a rarity even in fine dining, yet very common among food trucks,” Bowers said.

Bowers said she thinks people also enjoy the unique menu concepts, the fusions and intriguing combinations at the Atlanta Food Truck Park.

In the long run, the Atlanta Food Truck Park is a community. Families, couples and friends gather together to enjoy one another’s company by making connections over the love of food explained Bowers.

A growing industry

For Joshua Neeld and his family, the food truck park is even more special since they want to open a food truck themselves. He and his family came from Brunswick, Georgia, which doesn’t have market for food trucks, Neeld said.

They had heard through the Atlanta Street Food Coalition website about the Atlanta Food Truck Park. The Neeld family decided it was in their best interest to travel to Atlanta to check out how food trucks are run and how food trucks provide for their customers.

With 10 years of service industry experience, Neeld realized opening a food truck now would be the perfect time since there is no competition in Brunswick, Georgia.

“The entrepreneurship in the food truck industry is what makes me want to start a food truck,” Neeld said. “Starting your own little small business is what makes food trucks likable. Food trucks also bring a fun and festive feel. Having food trucks also located in a park makes it a little more open. There is a lot of variety and people get to try a lot of different food items in one spot.”

The food truck industry is one of the faster growing businesses in Georgia, Bowers said.

“Being a new industry to Atlanta, the resurgence helped the food truck industry here become the fastest growing small business segment in the state,” Bowers said.

According to the park’s website, the goal of the park was to find a location with good visibility and a good demographic.