Brasfield & Gorrie LLC
Brasfield & Gorrie LLC
Sales: $2 billion (2006 est.)
NAIC: 236210 Industrial Building Construction; 561110 Office Administrative Services
Brasfield & Gorrie LLC is one of the 30 largest construction companies in the United States, operating as a full-service general contracting, construction management, and design/build service provider in the Southeast. The company serves a variety of markets, including religious, office, parking, retail, education, and sports and leisure, but relies on healthcare construction for roughly one-third of its business. Brasfield & Gorrie ranks as the largest healthcare general contractor in the United States, as determined by Modern Healthcare. The company’s second largest market is water and wastewater construction. Brasfield & Gorrie operates through 25 divisions that focus on specific, specialized construction markets. The divisions take direction from five full-service offices in Atlanta, Georgia; Orlando, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Jacksonville, Florida.
Brasfield & Gorrie’s evolution from an anonymous construction firm into a nationally recognized, regional powerhouse reflected the ambition and success of Magnus Miller Gorrie, the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame inductee who orchestrated the company’s spirited growth. Born in 1935, Gorrie grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where his life’s work would leave an indelible mark on the city’s skyline. As a teenager, he began accumulating the savings that would fund his start as a construction entrepreneur, first delivering newspapers and later spending his summers working various construction jobs. The money earned from a paper route and part-time employment proved to be significant because Gorrie, whose father worked for International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), invested everything he earned, converting it into IBM stock. As the years passed and IBM’s market value soared, a sizable nest egg developed, giving Gorrie the funds to start out on his own.
While Gorrie’s holdings in IBM grew in value, he gained the experience he would use as an independent contractor. He attended Auburn University, graduating in 1957 with a degree in civil engineering. Next, he joined the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineering Corp., serving a three-year term before returning to Birmingham in 1960. He found employment with a firm name J.F. Holley, working in various areas of the building industry until the desire to strike out on his own induced him to tap into his IBM savings, which had been maturing for at least a decade. In 1964, the 28-year-old Gorrie found the vehicle to begin his entrepreneurial career, a general contracting firm named Thomas C. Brasfield Company. Owned by Thomas Brasfield, who had conducted business as a sole proprietor since 1921, the firm operated only locally, performing small commercial and remodeling work in Birmingham. At the time, Gorrie’s savings amounted to $80,000, a considerable sum considering the average annual salary in the United States in 1964 was $4,743. Gorrie sold some of his IBM shares and paid Brasfield $45,000, which gave him control over the business, as much as $10,000 worth of equipment, an office, a secretary, and two supervisors. Gorrie quickly set to work to turn the 23-year-old business into a bustling, growing enterprise.
Gorrie inherited a business that was well known and respected within the Birmingham community. Because the firm had cultivated ties to the city, Gorrie chose to retain the name of the business and continued to operate it as the Thomas C. Bradfield Company at first while he concentrated on more important matters than signage. He bid low on projects, taking on the construction of small office buildings, schools, churches, and, most significantly, medical facilities, the company’s largest single market in the 21st century. Revenues during his first year of operation reached $800,000. In 1967, he decided to add his name to the business’s title, renaming the company Brasfield & Gorrie, and moved it to Birmingham’s Southside, where it would remain for the next 40 years.
Brasfield & Gorrie had a permanent name and a permanent location by the end of the 1960s, but nearly everything else about the company was in flux. Change occurred in the form of market diversification, as the company developed the strengths that would define its success and shifted its strategic focus to take advantage of fluctuating market conditions. One of the first defining events in the company’s development occurred in 1968, when it completed its first multistory, concrete project. The success of the project convinced Gorrie to specialize in concrete structures, leading to what would be hundreds of high-rise construction projects completed under the Brasfield & Gorrie banner.
Gorrie wasted little time before making his company a recognized entity in the construction industry. In 1975, a decade after he purchased Thomas Bradfield’s modest business, Gorrie leaped onto the national stage, drawing the attention of one of the country’s most respected trade publications. Engineering News-Record listed Bras-field & Gorrie among the 400 largest contractors in the United States, an annual ranking that would include the Birmingham firm every year from 1975 into the 21st century. The firm’s stature increased as its areas of expertise broadened. In 1977, a market of tremendous importance to Brasfield & Gorrie was entered when the firm took on its first water and sewage treatment contract, a project that soon led to a slew of requests to construct other plants. The rapid growth of Brasfield & Gorrie’s water and wastewater business, which became a principal source of revenue, second only to healthcare construction, prompted Gorrie to form a separate operating division for such projects. The creation of the division represented the company’s first step toward developing the decentralized organizational structure that took shape in the 1980s and 1990s.
Brasfield & Gorrie’s mission is one of excellence. In every project we undertake, we strive to be a conscientious, construction-industry and business leader, attuned to the needs of our clients, our communities, and our own B&G family. Our goal: to do better, work harder, and build success stories every day.
Brasfield & Gorrie’s ever increasing size demanded something other than a monolithic structure. The company needed an organizational framework that could make it more responsive to the needs of its clients, a necessity created by the firms’ geographic expansion. During the early 1980s, the company took advantage of a major surge in condominium construction that spread across the Alabama Gulf Coast to the Florida Panhandle, demonstrating its increasing willingness to court business outside Birmingham. When the condominium construction market began to wane, Gorrie directed his work crews in Florida to move to the central part of the state, where another boom in construction was taking place. Brasfield & Gorrie, which was awarded a $25 million contract to construct the Orlando City Hall, anchored its presence in Florida by opening a full-service office in Orlando in 1985, the same year it opened an identical facility in Atlanta, Georgia. Branch offices (additional locations would be established in the years ahead) served as hubs for Brasfield & Gorrie’s construction efforts throughout the Southeast, each equipped to serve the spectrum of the firm’s markets: religious; multifamily; education; healthcare; industrial; parking; office; retail; sports and leisure; mixed-use; and water and wastewater treatment. The branch offices, in turn, presided over the divisions comprising Brasfield & Gorrie’s operations, the number of which reached six by the time the company entered the 1990s.
The 1990s saw Brasfield & Gorrie strengthen its already stalwart position within the construction industry. The company’s Atlanta office was pressed to its limits early in the decade, given the herculean task of providing 50,000 yards of concrete for the construction of the Georgia Dome, the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics. The 1990s also witnessed the ascension of the second generation of Gorrie leadership. Gorrie’s son, M. James Gorrie, rose through the ranks of the company before earning his promotion to the title of president in 1995. Miller Gorrie assumed the responsibilities of chairman and chief executive officer after his son became president. On the expansion front, two new, full-service offices opened in the late 1990s, doubling the size of the company’s network. The offices, both established in 1998, were located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee.
By the time Brasfield & Gorrie entered the 21st century, the company held considerable sway in the southeastern construction market. Four decades of expansion under the direction of Gorrie brought the Brasfield & Gorrie banner into 16 states, giving the company a large and geographically diverse customer base. The size of the company’s customer base was significant because Bras-field & Gorrie generated roughly 85 percent of its business from repeat clients. Further, having customers located in 16 states mitigated the company’s exposure to downturns in construction activity in particular regions, enabling it to respond to clients’ requests in markets enjoying growth while it waited for anemic markets to regain their vitality. The result was a company spared the swings in the construction cycle that often hobbled firms wed to one or two markets. Between 2001 and 2006, years that included a nationwide economic recession, Brasfield & Gorrie completed an average of $1.02 billion in volume annually, enjoying steady business drawn from a broad geographic base.
Brasfield & Gorrie’s organizational structure expanded as its customer base grew. The creation of divisions, which began in earnest during the 1980s, was the company’s response to entering new markets and fleshing out its presence in existing markets. By 2004, when the company celebrated the 40th anniversary of Gorrie’s purchase of the Thomas C. Brasfield Co., Bras-field & Gorrie comprised nearly 20 divisions, a number that would increase almost annually. There were 21 divisions by 2006 and 25 divisions in 2007, the year the company opened its first new full-service office in nearly a decade with the establishment of a facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
A look back at the accomplishments of Brasfield & Gorrie since the transfer of ownership from Brasfield to Gorrie revealed the depth and breadth of the company’s activity during four decades of growth. The company had completed more than 35 million square feet of office construction, more than two million square feet of religious construction, more than nine million square feet of retail construction, and more than 12 million square feet of high-rise residential and hotel construction. Healthcare construction, the company’s forte, amounted to more than 20 million square feet during Gorrie’s era, accounting for one-third of Bras-field & Gorrie’s business in the early 21st century.
- Thomas C. Brasfield Co. is established in Birmingham, Alabama.
- M. Miller Gorrie acquires Thomas C. Bras-field Co.
- Gorrie changes the name of the company to Brasfield & Gorrie.
- Company completes its first multistory concrete project.
- The company begins building water and sewage treatment plants.
- Brasfield & Gorrie opens offices in Atlanta, Georgia, and Orlando, Florida.
- Gorrie’s son, M. James Gorrie, is appointed president.
- Offices are opened in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee.
- The company completes construction of the Georgia Aquarium.
- An office in Jacksonville, Florida, is opened.
As Brasfield & Gorrie charted its course for the future, the company figured to play a prominent role as a contractor of choice. The projects undertaken during the middle of the first decade of the 2000s revealed one of the nation’s premier construction companies, a firm entrusted to manage complex and costly contracts. Bras-field & Gorrie was awarded arguably its most difficult project in 2002, when its Atlanta office was selected to build the more than $200 million Georgia Aquarium, the largest of its kind in the country and one of the largest in the world. The company was involved in the project from sketch to completion, officially breaking ground at the site, located on the Coca-Cola complex in downtown Atlanta, in May 2003. Funded by Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus, the aquarium measured 440,000 square feet, featuring a conference center large enough to accommodate 12,000 guests, a 1,600-car parking deck, a food court, facilities for school programs, and more than five million gallons of marine and fresh water. The facility, which was completed in late 2004, was a testament to Brasfield & Gorrie’s capabilities, calling upon the company’s skills honed in its water and wastewater business. One of the projects undertaken after the Georgia Aquarium project offered a more typical example of the company’s work. In mid-2005, the company broke ground on the Bailey Medical Center Hospital, a 53-bed, acute-care facility located in Owasso, Oklahoma. A three-story, 138,000-square-foot, $55 million building, Bailey Medical was completed in late 2006, at which time Brasfield & Gorrie had $4.2 billion worth of work in progress or under contract.
Jeffrey L. Covell
Hardin Construction Company, LLC; Choate Construction Company; Alberici Corporation.
Barth, Cindy, “Brasfield & Gorrie Up for Project of the Year,” Orlando Business Journal, October 6, 2000, p. 41.
“Brasfield & Gorrie Begins Construction on Bailey Medical Center,” Construction News, August 15, 2005, p. 12.
Dorich, Alan, “Partners in Healthcare,” US Business Review, July 2006, p. 25.
Miller, Joanna, “Underwater Dream Becomes a Reality,” Construction Today, October 2005, p. 14.
Salgado, Brian, “Billion-Dollar Contractors,” Construction Today, August 2005, p. 196.
Scalzitti, James, “Solid-Built Relationships,” Construction Today, November–December 2005, p. 76.
Sloan, Barbara, “Building Success in Alabama,” Partners, Summer 2004, p. 14.
Snyder, Jack, “After Helping Build City’s Skyline, John Mills to Retire,” Orlando Sentinel, April 12, 2006.