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For those who know Brunson Cooper, it comes as no surprise to learn that during the height of the pandemic, he purchased a truckload of food for delivery to the Low Country Food Bank and took a one-day, 14-hour roundtrip from Washington, D.C., to his hometown of Hemingway, South Carolina, to distribute it after catching wind that many local families were in desperate need. More than 400 cars came through the donation line that day, leading Cooper to sponsor two additional food drives in Hemingway that year.

For Cooper, the act was second nature. Building and nurturing relationships is a driving force in his life—a value instilled in him by his father, after whom he’s named. Without deliberately taking time to foster key relationships, Cooper says, he’d never be doing what he does today: owning and operating his own construction company, D.C.-based Corenic Construction.


Growing up in what he describes as a “very country, three-light town,” Cooper says his father showed him from a very young age what it was he didn’t want to do for a living. Outside of his parents’ day jobs—his father a paper mill foreman and his mother a second-grade teacher—the family cultivated a massive garden behind their home, akin to a small farm. Cooper’s chores included everything from mowing the family’s 2.5-acre property with a push mower, to weeding the huge garden, to washing his father’s pickup truck every three to four days. 

“He was always telling me, ‘Listen. I want you to be better than me. I want you to get a good education. I want you to do something more,’” Cooper tells CE during an interview at Corenic’s offices near the Washington Navy Yard. “More” started with Cooper’s enrollment at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he completed a degree in civil engineering. Upon graduating in 1996, he accepted a job offer from Turner Construction. After expressing his pride with a hearty congratulations, Cooper’s father took his offer letter and drove him straight to a used-car dealership—in the vehicle that Cooper had been borrowing from him. “You’ve got a job now?” his father said. “You’re gonna buy your own car, and I’m taking back my car. I’ve done my part.” 

Cooper drove that new-old car north during his move to Falls Church, Virginia, to work as a field engineer on his first Turner project: a new headquarters for the Society for Human Resource Management in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. His first day on the job, Cooper was greeted by the project’s superintendent, who told him, “You’re a part of the team now. You might be the lowest man on the totem pole, but you’re still a manager here and it’s your job to manage our subcontractors.” Cooper stepped up, learning the project front to back—fielding questions from laborers, taking survey notes, supporting daily construction reports and doing personnel count morning and night. 

“I became the guy with the answers,” Cooper says. “One of the biggest things my dad instilled in me was to approach everyone I meet with the same level of respect. I never went into a conversation thinking I knew everything—instead, I asked the questions.” In doing so, Cooper developed a rapport with the team that didn’t go unnoticed, earning him a promotion to superintendent just a few months into the year-and-a-half-long project. 

Cooper continued to work his way up the Turner ladder, becoming a project manager and then a senior project manager, at which point he started to think about what came next. He had begun a side hustle working on home-improvement projects for acquaintances, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that it could lead to something bigger.


Cooper’s wife, Tia, agreed. A financial manager with a successful career of her own, she encouraged her husband to step out on his own, and in 2009 the two drafted a business plan and came up with a name—“Corenic,” a combination of his children’s middle names: Lillian Corine and Brunson Dominic, now 14 and 13, respectively. 

About a year later, what began as a piece of paperwork legalizing the company name turned into Corenic’s first job—a simple, $17,000 lobby renovation consisting of a fresh coat of paint and new carpet installation. Cooper did the work in the mornings and evenings surrounding his 9-5 shift at Turner, supported in part by two trusted subcontractors. That job’s successful completion led to a steady trickle of work, and with each new project completed, Cooper put the earnings back into Corenic. Within a couple of years, the trickle had turned into a much heavier flow, and in 2012, after a 15-year tenure with Turner, Cooper dove full-time into Corenic. 

Just 10 years later, Corenic has grown from a one-man, $17,000 show to more than 30 full-time employees, more than 1,000 completed projects and annual revenues topping $50 million. The firm’s primary market focus is interior alterations and renovations, with a growing portfolio of small-base buildings and facility additions. The secret sauce, according to Cooper, boils down to building relationships and keeping commitments. 

“I’m a man of my word—my word is my bond,” he says, echoing Corenic’s company slogan: “A commitment made, a commitment delivered.” Cooper instills in his team that the best thing they can do for the company is provide unmatched customer service. “I just like to talk with people, I like to have conversations, I like to get to know them—and I think that’s been a huge contributing factor to my company’s success,” Cooper says. “If I’m a client and I have 10 contractors bidding my job, I’m not going with a name on a piece of paper—I’m going with the team who took the time to get to know me, to get to know exactly what I want and how I want it done.”

That philosophy has served Corenic well. More than 80% of its business comes from repeat clients, and several employees are previous colleagues of Cooper’s. “I first met Brunson at Turner Construction in 1999, and right off the bat I knew he was someone who was going to be very successful in this business,” says Corenic superintendent Barry Wenck, who semi-retired from Turner in 2013. Cooper offered him a part-time position, and after a few jobs Wenck was out of retirement and working full-time again.

“Brunson leads by example. He trusts his team and doesn’t micromanage,” Wenck says. “I have worked in the construction industry for 46 years, and Brunson is without a doubt one of the humblest people I have ever met in this business. He has always said that Corenic’s success comes from his dedicated team of employees—an attitude that I think will always keep Corenic on top.”

Corenic General Manager James Morrow, another connection from Turner, echoes Wenck. “Brunson has high expectations of himself and of others,” Morrow says, “but his humility and his desire for genuine connection with his team keeps us constantly moving toward the next big goal.”


It’s not just Cooper’s clients and colleagues who have taken note of his successful leadership style. Corenic’s rapid rise has earned him several awards and honors, including recognition as one of the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund’s “40 Under 40,” receiving Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Certificate of Entrepreneurship and being named a Minority Business Leader by the Washington Business Journal.

For Cooper, though, it’s not so much about the award as it is about the reward—which is the opportunity to give back that has been afforded by his company’s success. Cooper is all in when it comes to doing good, whether it’s funding a scholarship program at his hometown church in his late father’s name, going “all out” for Christmas toy drives or donating to groups such as Prince George’s County’s Community Youth Advance, which provides tutoring, mentoring and experiential learning to the county’s underprivileged K-12 students. 

One of the organizations nearest and dearest to Cooper’s heart is Mentoring to Manhood, which provides weekly tutoring, group mentoring activities and family support to more than 150 middle- and high-school-aged boys. Cooper has been involved with the program since 2015. “One of the students I worked with [through Mentoring to Manhood] recently called me and is enrolled in the electrical engineering program at Morgan State University,” Cooper says. “I was able to connect him with my best friend, who’s an engineer in the Army. It’s incredible to me to see these young men grow and to see them learn the value of making connections. I received an award from the organization last year, which has been one of the biggest honors I could have ever received.

“To me, that award was confirmation that I have grown into a man like my father was—a giver,” Cooper says. “We didn’t have much, but what we did have, my father always shared. To be able to do the same thing today, with my wife and my family…to know that I’ve been fortunate enough to have success in my life that I can share—that’s been the greatest award of them all.”  


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