February 19, 2016
From Farm Land to Major Development, Smith Has Seen Progress of Schilling Farms
By Daisy Fontaine
– The Collierville Herald –
Schilling Farms has a long and beautiful history, starting in 1929, when owner Neal Schilling worked for Ford. Schilling delivered Ford vehicles to Arkansas and his business was called Dealer’s Transport. The drivers had to ride back home on the bus.
The current president of Schilling Enterprises, Harry Smith, said Schilling was one of the first to realize that flat beds were the best for carrying the vehicles and this idea spread out from Memphis.
The entrepreneur spread out and, in 1958, he became the owner of the first Lincoln-Mercury dealership and his finances increased, an event that caused him to start buying small farm tracts in Collierville in the early ‘50’s, which eventually became Schilling Farms.
At this point Schilling decided he would become a Ford tractor distributor, the first of his businesses which began on the farm. He urged tractor dealers to come and see demonstrations. This was quite lucrative until around 1962 when Ford bought the company out.
By that time there were visitors walking around the farm — Hereford cattle. The cattle farm was taken care of by a Mississippi State University graduate who was an excellent farm man. Another excellent director had also arrived. Smith had come on the scene, keeping books, directing the Dealers Transport, and generally seeing that things were going right. There were two training centers, one in Georgia and another in Texas, that were showing the tractors and other equipment.
Mr. Schilling had died sometime in 1970.
Smith came to Memphis to stay around 1982. He had been president and CEO of Schilling Farms for some time. “Five or six years ago Ford tractor was merged with New Holland. Four years ago Fiat bought them out. We closed the center here. We did it just at the right time,” he said.
The right time for Smith was the time to stop and pray. A goodly amount of Schilling Farms had been sold in tracts. Smith said, “Eleven or 12 years ago I knew a long term plan was needed. We needed to sell it, hire some people to help develop it or someone to joint venture with us – like Boyle Investment. I’m thankful that I found them.
“I’ve always considered this was God’s ground. I wanted the land to be used in a way that God wanted, a real testimony where people can live, work, play, go to school and church."
Smith said he really wanted to have some authority. “A relationship with Boyle popped up. It was good. We seemed to have the same thoughts. Things began to go right,” he said.
Today Schilling Farms has completed 30 single family homes, 600 apartment units, 10 office buildings, including Helena Chemical Co.’s office building, still in construction and the largest of the office buildings, two restaurants and two churches. Life Church has bought 44 acres for future expansion. Methodist Hospitals are preparing to build doctors’ offices and a hotel will be built on Schilling Farms this year, Smith said.
“Bayard Boyle mentioned to me once that the white fence should remain at Schilling Farms and the mystique that goes with it. I can’t over emphasize the relationship with Boyle Investment. We have enjoyed this wonderful relationship that is making Schilling Farms so much as we would have it.” Smith said.
Smith, a quiet gentlemen who tries to study out the Godly way to do things, was born in Florence, Ala., where he lived for 37 years. During those years he was graduated from the University of North Alabama and became a CPA. He worked 16 years in public accounting before coming to Memphis. His family includes, his wife, Beth, and a daughter, Leslie, and her husband Rex Jones, who is involved with Schilling Enterprises. The Smiths have three grandchildren.