M. Miller Gorrie, founder and CEO of Brasfield & Gorrie LLC, was inducted into the Alabama Construction Hall of Fame on Jan. 9.
The Alabama AGC established the Hall of Fame in 2000 to honor and recognize outstanding individuals in the construction industry.
Gorrie joins the late Winton “Red” Blount, founder of Blount International in Montgomery; George Edwards, former owner of Richardson Construction Co., Birmingham; the late D.W. “Bill” Ellard of Ellard Contracting Co. Inc., Birmingham; Paul B. Krebs of Paul B. Krebs & Associates Inc., Birmingham; and Nicholas H. Holmes Jr. of Holmes & Holmes Architects, Mobile.
Those who are inducted into the AGC’s Hall of Fame are held in esteem by their peers and have demonstrated professionalism through active industry, civic and community involvement. To be eligible for induction in the Alabama Construction Hall of Fame, one must have served the Alabama construction industry as a general contractor, a specialty contractor or supplier, an architect or an engineer for at least 25 years.
Gorrie bought the assets of the Thomas C. Brasfield Co. in 1964, changed the name to Brasfield & Gorrie three years later and grew the small business into a billion dollar company that operates nationally.
When asked if he thought his initial investment would lead to the construction giant, he said, “No way. I can remember thinking if we can get it up to $5 million a year we’d be in pretty good shape. But we blew through that in about 1969 and then this year we plan to do a billion and a quarter.
“The most fun was the first two and a half years when we were trying to make something out of nothing and you had it on the line every day,” Gorrie said.
Things have slowed for the Brasfield & Gorrie CEO in recent years.
“I come in most days when I’m in town and work as long as there’s mail and phone calls and stuff to deal with,” he said. “But I’m out of the deal flow largely and the day-to-day decision-making process. I’m pretty well just a mentor and adviser.
“Estimating is the part I liked best,” he said. “It fit my personality better. There’s nothing to build unless you get the work, and being in the business I felt the first order of business was to get work.
“For some strange reason the industry thinks project management is a higher goal than estimating and I feel just the opposite. I worked in estimating for 10 years until the company began to grow to where I had to spend my time in general management,” he said.
Things weren’t always so hectic for Gorrie, but he has a history of hard work. As a youth, he threw the Birmingham Post on a hilly route on Birmingham’s Southside. He saved his money from that and other jobs and invested in IBM stock, which later helped finance his business.
After graduating from Auburn in 1957 with a degree in civil engineering, Gorrie served in the U.S. Navy’s Naval Construction Battalions. After three years as a “Seabee,” he returned home to Birmingham and began working with local construction and engineering companies such as Rust, Daniel and J.F. Holley.
When Gorrie purchased Brasfield, he had a single employee, Imogene Powell, who ran the office.
The company’s construction projects grew from small office buildings to hospitals, condos, industrial and wastewater treatment plants. Under Gorrie’s leadership, the company became a regional general contractor with offices in Orlando, Atlanta, Raleigh and Nashville. The company now employs nearly 2,300 people and has worked in 23 different states.
In the 1980s and 90s, Gorrie expanded the company, establishing offices in other markets and has literally shaped the Birmingham skyline by building projects such as the AmSouth/Harbert Plaza, Park Place Tower, The Financial Center, One Federal Place, the McWane Center, BellSouth Tower Renovations, Alabama Power Renovations, the Energen Building, Birmingham’s main Public Library and the Downtown YMCA, as well as completing a large number of projects for UAB.
Over the span of his career, Gorrie has been honored with a number of awards and it was announced recently that a building soon-to-be-built on the Auburn University campus would carry his name — the M. Miller Gorrie Construction Center.