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By Jeff Wing
July 10, 2016
When legendary Buffalo Bills #34, running back Thurman Thomas, suffered his last knee injury as a pro footballer in 2000, probably the last thing he imagined as he hit the turf was that 14 years later he would enjoy a career renaissance as a construction magnate. Thomas played five pro bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. He has now traded the gridiron for steel and concrete. Whoever said, “There are no second acts in life” got it wrong this time.
Two years ago, Thomas partnered with former Buffalo Bills star receiver and longtime pal Fulton “Flip” Johnson to form a telecomm and construction start-up called 3480 Group, along with friend and power attorney Cheryl Green.
The company has been making good on big dreams and bigger connections, but is driven by a people-powered principle that is unequivocally stated by CEO Johnson on the company site: "Our mission is simple but defined––success comes with a humanitarian responsibility to touch others in a positive and meaningful way. At 3480, we will impact as many lives as humanly possible along the journey to success." These guys may not be the first professional builders with a humanitarian service mission at the core of their business plan, but they are surely one of the most forthright in stating the goal up front.
How did these gridiron gladiators wind up as CEO and President of their own construction company? Thurman Thomas has involved himself in a number of enterprises over the years since his retirement from pro ball, having notably founded Legends Energy, a business success that was eventually acquired by NRG Energy.
Fulton Johnson has 26 years of experience under his belt, having been founder and principal owner of Pro Fast Dev Group and ProFast Telecom. The nuts and bolts and client rolodex of ProFast were in time absorbed into 3480 Group. Mr. Johnson has also said that his first deep dive into construction was overseeing the building of his mother’s home when he was a fresh-faced 26 year-old.
On the Telecom side, 3480 handles everything from site acquisition to zoning to architectural and engineering, right through to requests for backhaul and transport. The client portfolio includes such entities as AT&T, Cingular, BellSouth, and others. Construction-wise, 3480 provides construction services in tandem with their Telecom work, and will also partner with and augment the efforts of your chosen A/E firm, in that scenario managing the pre-construction and construction phases of the given project. Recently, 3480 Group has formed a strategic partnership with global construction giant Gilbane Building Co., with whom 3480 Group works in a subcontractor capacity. Mr. Thomas’ two year appointment by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the New York State Tourism Board speaks to the value of his reputation and name in the region.
The two Buffalo Bills stars are pleased and surprised to find themselves reunited, this time off the field and on the jobsite. Thurman for his part is also excited and moved by the opportunity 3480 offers to bring needed growth and energy to parts of his adoptive home town of Buffalo; neighborhoods and districts that he feels have been wanting for a sponsor.
“For me, it’s more of a social responsibility now,” he says, speaking of his connection to Buffalo. “Downtown is taken care of. We want to do a little more in the community, so that’s where we’re focused on right now.”
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