20 Who Make Alabama Business Tick

Jeffery Bayer
President & CEO
Bayer Properties, Birmingham

Bayer, who attended the University of Alabama, was a partner in Metropolitan Properties for 10 years before founding his property management company in 1983. He then transformed it into a national commercial real estate firm with Alabama properties that include The Summit, The Pizitz and Uptown Entertainment District, in Birmingham. An International Trustee for the International Council of Shopping Centers, Bayer is a board member for Leadership Alabama, Leadership Birmingham and the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, where he serves on the executive committee.

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David Bronner
CEO
Retirement Systems of Alabama, Montgomery

Bronner earned his bachelor’s and master’s from what is now Minnesota State University, Mankato, before attending law school and earning his PhD at the University of Alabama. He took the helm of RSA in 1973. Under his leadership, RSA has refined investment strategies over the years, including a small percentage of the total portfolio that is put into private placements, including the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, as well as the 55 Water Street in New York City, one of the largest privately owned buildings in the country. Most private placements have gone to developments that contribute to the Alabama economy.

Stephanie Bryan
Tribal Chair & CEO
Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Atmore

Bryan, who grew up in the Poarch Band community, has worked both in the insurance industry and as a tribal employee. She served as the vice chair of the tribal council from 2006 until 2014, when she became the first woman elected to oversee tribal operations, including its gaming portfolio. Bryan is active on the local and national level, serving on committees and boards, including PCI Gaming Authority, Tribal Gaming Commission, National Tribal Gaming Commissioners and Regulators, Support ACH (Atmore Community Hospital), Escambia County Alabama Community Hospital Board and Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors.

Paul Bryant Jr.
Founder & Chairman
Bryant Bank, Tuscaloosa

Bryant, son of his namesake, the legendary University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, majored in commerce at the university and has supported its football program over the years. An avid entrepreneur, Bryant has invested in banking, gaming, insurance, cement and catfish farming. Earlier in his career, he was general manager of the Birmingham Barons and helped establish GreeneTrack. He is president of Greene County Greyhound Park and president of the Greene Group. He has served as chairman of the Crimson Tide Foundation and a trustee and chair of the UA board of trustees.

Frank Collazo
Chairman & CEO
COLSA Corp., Huntsville

Francisco “Frank” Collazo, a Puerto Rico native and disabled veteran, served in the U.S. Amy for 30 years before starting his company in 1980 in his Huntsville garage. He is founder, chairman and CEO of Colsa Corp., a privately owned missile defense contractor. His holding company has been a major contributor to Alabama congressional candidates. Collazo dropped out of high school at 15 to serve in World War II, then Korea and Vietnam Wars. He earned a master’s in computer systems engineering from the Southeastern Institute of Technology. The University of Alabama in Huntsville awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Mark Crosswhite
Chairman, President & CEO
Alabama Power, Birmingham

Crosswhite, whose ancestors helped settle Alabama, earned his bachelor’s and law degrees at the University of Alabama. He represented Southern Company, the parent company of Alabama Power, in private practice for 17 years, before joining Southern Company Generation as vice president and general counsel. Crosswhite is chairman of the board for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. The many boards he serves on include the Birmingham Business Alliance, Business Council of Alabama, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., Southern Research, the University of Alabama Law School Foundation and Leadership Birmingham.

C.T. Fitzpatrick
Founder, CEO & Chief Investment Officer
Vulcan Value Partners, Birmingham

The Montgomery native earned his bachelor’s from the University of Alabama and MBA from Vanderbilt University. During his 17 years with Southeastern Asset Management, he was a principal, portfolio manager and vice president. In 2007, he established Vulcan Value Partners to manage his personal capital and began taking clients in 2010. Fitzpatrick is a board member for Birmingham Landmarks and UAB Health Service Foundation. He established the Fitzpatrick Endowed Professorship at UA and serves on the Board of Visitors at the Culverhouse College of Commerce and the President’s Cabinet.

Billy Harbert
Chairman & CEO
BL Harbert International, Birmingham

Harbert followed his father and uncle into the construction industry. After graduating from Auburn University, he led pipeline and commercial construction projects for his family’s company, Bill Harbert International Construction. Harbert later earned an MBA from Emory University. In 1992, he was named vice president of the family company and, four years later, president of the company. Harbert created BL Harbert International in 2000 using assets of the family company and then expanding its reach. He is a founding partner of Bonaventure Capital LLC, is active in the Young Presidents Association and serves on the board of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.

Raymond Harbert
Founder, Chairman & CEO
Harbert Management Corp., Birmingham

Graduating from Auburn University in 1982, Harbert joined Harbert International, a subsidiary of his father’s company Harbert Corp. He became vice president of Harbert Corp. in 1988 and was elected CEO in 1990. Three years later, he founded Harbert Management Corp., borrowing $3 million from his inheritance. He serves on the Auburn board of trustees and is namesake of its Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, in recognition of his donation, the largest ever to the university. Harbert serves on the board of trustees of Children’s of Alabama and on the executive committee of the Birmingham Business Alliance.

Jim Hudson
Co-founder & Chairman
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Huntsville

Hudson served in the U.S. Army, including a year as a combat pilot in Vietnam. He earned a bachelor’s in chemistry and a master’s in physics from the University of Alabama, in addition to a master’s in biology from UAH. He co-founded Hudson Metals in 1970 with family members. Then in 1987, he founded Research Genetics, serving as CEO until 2000, when the company merged with Invitrogen. Since then, he has founded several technology companies, as well as the multi-faceted HudsonAlpha Institute, where he serves as chairman. He is active in Huntsville business, arts and revitalization.

Charles McCrary
Lead Director
Regions Financial Corp., Birmingham

Recently named to the Alabama Business Hall of Fame, McCrary kicked off his career with a degree in mechanical engineering from Auburn University in 1973. He then started with Southern Services Co., a subsidiary of Southern Company, beginning 30-plus years that culminated in service as president, chairman and CEO of Alabama Power. His father had been CEO of Gulf Power. Early in his career, McCrary earned a degree from Birmingham School of Law. In addition to Regions, he sits on the board of Auburn University and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Roy J. Nichols
Co-founder
Nichols Research Corp., Huntsville

A native of Chicago, Nichols earned a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Michigan and worked in its Infrared Physics Laboratory before becoming chief engineer in the McDonnell Douglas discrimination and data processing department. After his transfer to Huntsville, he co-founded Nichols Research in 1976, serving as president and CEO until the company’s merger with Computer Sciences Corp. in 1999. He was the CEO and chairman of Torch Concepts from 2000 to 2005. Nichols currently serves as a director emeritus of Adtran Inc. and was previously a director for the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

Jimmy Parnell
President — Alabama Farmers Federation;
President, CEO & Chairman,
ALFA Insurance, Montgomery

A fifth-generation farmer, Parnell has been involved in the trade since he received a pair of heifers for his first birthday. He still helps run his family’s cattle and timber interests, having done so since graduating from Auburn University in 1985 and helping the family weather the farm crisis of the 1980s. Parnell became active in the Alabama Farmers Federation, chairing a committee in 1997, and then began serving on the state board of directors. He was elected to lead the state association and its insurance arm in 2012. He is director of the American Agricultural Insurance Co.

Jimmy Rane
Founder, President & CEO
Great Southern Wood Preserving, Abbeville

Rane, the wealthiest man in Alabama, according to Forbes magazine, may be better known as the Yella Fella of his company’s well-known TV ads. Rane purchased and took the reins of a small Abbeville wood-treating company in 1970, after mediating a family estate dispute his senior year in law school, and he has built the company into a giant enterprise. He had attended Auburn as an undergraduate and then Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. Rane has renovated much of Abbeville’s downtown over the years and instituted the Jimmy Rane Foundation to award full college scholarships to local students.

Van Richey
President & CEO
American Cast Iron Pipe Co., Birmingham

A Cullman native, Richey served in the U.S. Army as a young man and has advocated for early learning programs during his career. He earned his bachelor’s and an MBA from the University of Alabama and completed the advanced management program of Harvard Business School. He was hired by ACIPCO in 1976, working his way up to leader of the company. He has served on the boards for UAB Health System, Wachovia Corp. and SouthTrust Corp. Richey is a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor.

Jody Singer
Director
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville

A Hartselle native, Singer earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Alabama in 1983. She began her 32-year NASA career in 1985 in the mission planning and development office through NASA’s professional intern program. She then took on a series of leadership roles in human spaceflight, technology and science flight missions programs and projects before being appointed in 2002 to NASA’s Senior Executive Service. Singer served as deputy director of Marshall Space Flight Center from February 2016 to July 2018, when she became acting director. This past September she was named to lead the center.

Gary Smith
President & CEO
PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Andalusia

Smith practiced law in Birmingham after earning a law degree from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in 1979. He had received his B.S. from the University of North Alabama. Smith began his career at PowerSouth as a staff attorney to vice president of legal and corporate affairs before taking the helm of the company two decades ago. He is chairman of the board for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and serves on the board of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and Southern Independent Bank.

W. Stancil Starnes
Chairman, CEO & President

ProAssurance Corp., Birmingham

Starnes founded the Starnes & Atchison law firm in 1975. He had graduated summa cum laude from Samford’s Cumberland School of Law after earning his bachelor’s from the University of Alabama. He worked on defense of medical claims involving ProAssurance and its predecessor companies for more than 25 years. In 2006, he became president, corporate planning and administration of Brasfield & Gorrie Inc., before taking the helm of ProAssurance in 2007. Starnes is on the board of directors for the National Commerce Corp. and National Bank of Commerce. He is a trustee of the University of Alabama.

Lee Joseph Styslinger III
Chairman & CEO
Altec Inc., Birmingham

Styslinger began working for Altec, which his grandfather founded, after graduating from Northwestern University in 1983. Styslinger later earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. He serves on the board of directors for Regions Financial Corp., Vulcan Materials Co., Harvard Business School, Altec Inc., Children’s Hospital of Alabama and the Altec/Styslinger Foundation. Styslinger served on President George W. Bush’s Export Council and President Donald Trump’s Manufacturing Council. Styslinger is a member of the Business Roundtable and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also an owner of the new professional soccer team, Birmingham Legion FC.

Timothy Vines
President & CEO
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Birmingham

A native of Lafayette, Vines earned his bachelor’s in finance from Auburn University in 1988. He began his career at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama as a management candidate and worked his way up until being named president in 2017 and CEO this past April. He serves on the boards of Regions Financial Corp., Regions Bank, Prime Therapeutics, American Red Cross Alabama Region, the Better Business Bureau serving South and Central Alabama and the Birmingham Business Alliance. He chairs Samford’s board of trustees and the Samford University Pension Plan.

Kathy Hagood is a Homewood-based freelance writer for Business Alabama. Photo credits: Elizabeth Gelineau, Cary Norton, Robert Fouts, Todd Douglas

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