It’s no overstatement to say that contemporary Birmingham was built by Brasfield & Gorrie. One can’t visit the city without noticing the incredible impression the firm has left during its 50-year history as the city’s most prestigious builder. Regions Harbert Tower, McWayne Science Center, the Hugo Black Courthouse, Kirklin Clinic, and Birmingham Green are but a handful of the iconic buildings that define the city’s atmosphere, and all of them are Brasfield & Gorrie projects. These immense successes belie the company’s humble and diligent beginnings.
Company founder Miller Gorrie became interested in construction and engineering while helping his father, an IBM salesman, build a cabin on farmland the family owned. Beginning in his late teens, Gorrie invested into two things: IBM stock and his engineering education. Three years with the US Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps, a degree in civil engineering, and career experience with Brice Building, Daniel Construction, and Rust Engineering readied Gorrie to realize his ambition of running the most successful construction firm in Alabama.
Gorrie needed two things to get his business started: a successful brand and startup capital. The first he got by striking a deal with veteran builder Thomas Brasfield, who’d already established a powerful reputation in the local construction industry but was looking to retire. Gorrie cashed in his IBM stock, purchased the “Thomas C. Brasfield Co.” trade name with $45,000 of his IBM sale profits, and took Brasfield on as his vice-president. Their first job was a $475 renovation for First National Bank.
Two major factors contributed to Brasfield & Gorrie’s success. The experience Gorrie got in building with reinforced concrete while working for Daniel Construction led him to bid more confidently on large-scale commercial and civil construction projects than his competitors could. His decision to branch out into the Georgia commercial market and the Florida condominium business during the boom years of the 1980’s and early 90’s led the company to greener pastures.
Fifty years on, the company is still going strong. Brasfield & Gorrie has annual revenues of $2.3 billion and over 2,600 employees and offices in Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida. But true to their roots, their headquarters remain in Birmingham. Their most recent contract is for a $672-million baseball stadium and commercial development for the Atlanta Braves.
The secret to the company’s success, according to Gorrie, is “integrity,” always making sure to “do what you say and you meet your commitments.”