Don Brown, David Hare, James Harbison and Uday Bhate were set to be inducted into the Alabama Construction Hall of Fame during the Alabama AGC BuildSouth Awards Banquet, Jan. 16 at The Club.
The Alabama AGC established the Alabama Construction Hall of Fame to honor and recognize outstanding individuals in the construction industry. These individuals are held in esteem by their peers and have demonstrated their professionalism through active support of the industry and through their civic and community involvement. In short, only those who have literally changed the landscape of our state and nation will be enshrined 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 to be eligible for the hall of fame.
This year’s inductees certainly rise to that standard.
Uday Bhate has founded several engineering companies including Bhate Geosciences headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. He grew up in a small town in India where his family was in the textile business. After attending a Jesuit high school he completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Bombay (ranking first in his class). He was offered scholarships and a potential graduate assistantship at University of Oklahoma in Petroleum Engineering. Without that promised financial assistance and a loan to buy the airplane ticket, it would have been impossible to come to the US. Subsequently, he moved to Atlanta in December 1969, to attend Georgia Tech. Tech offered a graduate assistantship and importantly lower fees and better stipend. With a full academic load, research work and a job in the evening, a typical work week was 80+ hours. By summer’s end in 1970 he had paid all his fees, expenses and loans and managed to save money.
In January 1971, he moved to Skidaway Institute in Savannah, Ga. to work on the Savannah River dredging project for the US Army Corps. This was one of the most interesting experiences working with acclaimed international engineers and scientists. After graduating from Georgia Tech and finishing the USACE project, he began working for Federer, an engineering firm based in Atlanta.
His first major Alabama project was in 1972 on a 3,000 acre tract near Selma, for a nuclear power plant site investigation. Other projects included the Red Mountain slope failure study and BJCC. He permanently moved to Alabama in 1973 to manage the Birmingham office. While working, he completed his MBA degree at UAB in 1977.
Starting in Birmingham in the 1970’s had its challenges. Calling on potential customers who were often less than amused at someone new with a strange sounding name was not easy. Waiting and hoping for that phone to ring was tough. But he also had a lot of help from some very good people in the construction industry that saw value in personal attention, practical and creative solutions and cost saving ideas that worked. This is ultimately what built the business.
His earliest projects were for clients such as UAB, US Steel, South Central Bell, Baptist Health System, Brasfield & Gorrie, Brice, Blue Cross-Blue Shield and others. He has worked on a majority of the new high rise buildings in Downtown Birmingham and UAB Campus, major hospitals in the area, large industrial facilities such as Honda Motors in Lincoln, major shopping malls and others. Ultimately this is a relationship business. Birmingham has a great construction community with so many high caliber people who helped.
He has been recognized for his professional and civic activities including: Georgia Institute of Technology Outstanding Alumni Award, Birmingham, UAB School of Business Outstanding Alumni award, ACIA Chairman’s Award, Birmingham Chamber Business Person of the Year, Alabama School of Fine Arts Foundation and Boys and Girls Club of North Alabama.
In these accomplishments, the most invaluable support is from his family and staff for their patience and understanding.
Recently, the Montgomery Advertiser featured Don Brown, FAIA as one of Montgomery’s top ten persons or businesses “that made things happen”. Serving his community, profession, college or country has satisfied his personal commitment to leave a place better than he found it. Don was born in Montgomery, but lived in many places. After graduating from high school in France in 1963 he began his education in art history and political science at Williams College. He received a degree in architecture from Auburn in 1971 and immediately began to serve in the Air Force on active duty. He returned to Montgomery in 1976 and began his practice in 1977.
Don has had senior design and management responsibility for approximately 2,000 projects with a value of $2 billion over his 37 years as a principal and firm owner. During this history the firm has completed work in virtually every market segment, primarily in the southeast. The work of his firm, Brown Studio Architecture, includes, among many landmark projects, Montgomery’s downtown and riverfront master plan, the Alley, the Riverwalk, the Amphitheater, the Ballpark, the first sidewalk restaurants, loft apartments, and many offices.
He has recently served as Vice President of the American Institute of Architects. His had senior responsibility for all national Knowledge Communities which represent forward thinking, best practices, educational programs, and project recognition for every project type and professional interest area of the profession worldwide, as well as leadership for the AIA’s focus on compiling and sharing practice relevant research. He led the development of the new national model building code for energy and resources, and has been a frequent broadcast speaker or moderator for his profession on multiple topics. For several years he chaired the federal and legislative affairs for his profession, defining issues and solutions affecting the profession and the public. He served the AIA in Alabama in every capacity over thirty years. He was elevated to Fellowship in the AIA for service to the profession.
Don was chair of Montgomery’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Landmarks Foundation, the Montgomery Historic Development Commission, as well as the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee during the Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s unsuccessful effort to divert significant Air Force programs from Montgomery. While leading an architectural practice he also served as an Air Force reserve commander at Maxwell, retiring as a Colonel. For several years he chaired the federal advocacy affairs for the association representing all branches of reserve forces, all while commanding forces deploying in combat conditions worldwide.
His service to Auburn University has extended ever since he was selected as a top ten student leader to being recently afforded the honor of being the May 2014 Commencement Speaker for the University. He has been Chair of the Board for the School of Architecture, taught thesis and other courses, and currently serves on the Executive Committee for the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction.
He and Maureen have been married for 46 years, and have two daughters, a son, and six wonderful grandchildren.
James Calvin Harbison was born near Jasper, Alabama, in 1935, to Calvin and Ruby Williams Harbison. As a young boy, James worked alongside his father on the family farm where he developed a strong work ethic. His father, an experienced carpenter, also introduced him to the construction field.
Beginning at age 17, James began working on construction jobs with his father and three brothers. After graduating from Walker County High School in 1953, he worked full-time as an apprentice carpenter. He later worked for Henry Green Construction Company and Daniel Construction. In 1969, he accepted an invitation from Miller Gorrie to join Brasfield & Gorrie, a small developing company in Birmingham, Alabama. At that time, Gorrie said the 34-year old carpenter foreman was “perhaps the most exciting hire I ever made.”
James’ first project at Brasfield & Gorrie was Mercy Hospital (Cooper Green) in Birmingham. This assignment was followed by a high rise building project in Gadsden, Alabama, where he served as superintendent.
In 1977, James was named general superintendent. About that time, Brasfield & Gorrie began wading more deeply into the construction of water treatment and wastewater treatment plants where he was able to apply problem-solving skills to help the company refine and deepen its expertise in this sector. He also was instrumental in helping the company establish a reputation as a fast and “quality-minded constructor.”
Between 1979 and 1984, a condominium boom occurred along Alabama’s Gulf Coast and James was at the forefront. Over this period, Brasfield & Gorrie built 37 condominiums, which represented approximately $200 million in contracts, and increased the company’s volume by 50 percent.
During the succeeding years, Brasfield & Gorrie continued to experience significant growth and expansion, opening offices in Atlanta, Georgia, and Orlando, Florida, in 1984. James continued to play an instrumental role as the company completed several landmark projects, including the AmSouth Harbert Plaza (now Regions Harbert Plaza) in Birmingham, the Orlando City Hall in Orlando, the structure of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and the “Batman Building” in Nashville, Tennessee.
James Harbison was an early adopter of Miller Gorrie’s business principles that included the value of integrity. This was easy for him because the company’s values mirrored his own. James was once quoted as saying: “There are two things I won’t do - I won’t lie to you and I won’t lie for you.”
By the time of his retirement in 1995, James had built an incomparable field force for Brasfield & Gorrie, and he had completed projects that helped the company become a major construction enterprise in the Southeast. Additionally, he had realized a professional goal of creating standards of excellence.
For his contributions to the construction industry, James was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Subcontractors Association of Alabama in 1996.
In recognition of James and the other four company founders, Brasfield & Gorrie established the Annual Founders Award in 2006 to honor select employees who lead by example and consistently demonstrate the values of the company.
Throughout his career, James has been an active member of the community. From 2000 to 2004, he served as a member of the city council in Clay, Alabama. Today, he volunteers with charitable organizations, and often supervises remodeling projects at his church.
James and his wife, Jeanne, have four children. Two of his children are owners of commercial construction companies, and one is a civil engineer. Also, three of his grandchildren followed in his footsteps and now work in the construction industry.
Walking a jobsite with a site superintendent, leading a lunch-n-learn on safety best practices, then flying to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress for our industry’s best interests – that’s a typical day for David Hare. David’s construction career began right after he graduated from Ragland High School in 1969. He first worked as a carpenter’s assistant under his Uncle Gerald, who retired from BL Harbert in 2011. Gerald passed on to David his most important lesson: get a job done right the first time through strong work ethic and careful planning. Forty-five years later, David is still known for his passion for construction, his dedication to quality, his strong leadership and work ethic, and his focus on mentoring others.
In 1971 and in 1974, David was awarded Outstanding Apprentice for Birmingham and the State of Alabama while working for Sullivan Long & Haggerty as a carpenter. From there, David worked for JM Foster as General Carpenter Foreman and Assistant Superintendent. From 1980 to 1996, David was Superintendent for Brice Building Company, where he completed such iconic projects as Birmingham’s Southtrust Tower (in a joint venture with Harbert), and the Bryant Denny Stadium addition.
David joined the Harbert family in 1996 as General Superintendent and Vice President, and has provided sound leadership in projects across many industry sectors all across the United States. He has guided hundreds of employees at BL Harbert in the field and in the office, instilling the values he learned as a young carpenter’s assistant: quality, pride in workmanship, and doing the right thing. David has provided oversight on over a billion dollars worth of design-build, construction management, and general contracting projects in the 18 years he has worked in the Harbert family, and serves as a role model for all BL Harbert employees.
A champion of craft training, David has dedicated many years to supporting the field side of our industry. David’s commitment to the Construction Education Foundation of Alabama (CEFA) is second to none, and he has served eight years on its Board of Directors. He has introduced young talent to the industry, and supported their training as they grew in their construction careers. David continues to be an advocate for craft workers, the backbone of our industry—informing all that proper and consistent training, safety, and support keep our future strong. His work with Alabama AGC has also been significant, serving on the Advisory Council for the Go Build Alabama campaign.
“The hiring of David Hare is the one event in our company history that completely changed the culture of our U.S. Group field operations. David’s leadership and commitment to safety, quality and schedule forever elevated BL Harbert within the construction industry,” states Gary Savage , U.S. President of BL Harbert International. In addition to his contribution to the Harbert family and Alabama’s construction industry, David is a dedicated husband, father, grandfather, friend, and an active member of Riverchase Church of Christ.
Billy Harbert says of David, “There is simply not a more dedicated construction man that I have worked with in my career.”
All who know David would agree with that statement, and that is precisely why David is being inducted in the Alabama Construction Hall of Fame.