M. Miller Gorrie Awarded Lifetime Achievement Award
The McWhorter School of Building Science is pleased to congratulate M. Miller Gorrie, founder of construction firm Brasfield & Gorrie, who was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the inaugural Business Alabama Awards ceremony on March 3. Auburn’s Building Science program is housed in the M. Miller Gorrie Center, which was named in his honor.
Gorrie was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1935. After graduating from Auburn in 1957, he served several years in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineering Corps and then returned to Alabama to work in the construction industry. Despite his background in engineering and construction, it was Gorrie’s business sense that really helped him succeed in the industry. In 1964 he purchased Thomas C. Brasfield’s small construction company. He knew that name recognition was important, so he kept Brasfield’s name in the business title despite the fact that he was not involved with the new company. “I didn’t want to be an unknown,” he explained. “Mr. Brasfield had been around since 1921, so it was easy for me to call on people and tell them I was with him. The first three years we operated as Thomas C. Brasfield Inc. just so it felt familiar to people.”
Today Brasfield & Gorrie is one of the largest privately held construction firms in the country, providing general contracting, design-build services and construction management for a wide range of industries. Headquartered in Birmingham, the company is known for building large infrastructural projects like hospitals, schools, high-rise offices and water treatment plants and boasts an annual revenue of $5 billion. In addition to its headquarters, Brasfield & Gorrie has a dozen other offices in the Southeast, including Atlanta, Miami, Nashville and Orlando, and has completed projects in 39 states.
Gorrie was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 1997, the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Alabama Associated General Contractors Construction Hall of Fame in 2004. He was honored with an Auburn Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, which Gorrie describes as more of a “midlife” achievement. “That’s almost 20 years ago,” he said. “I can look back on things more now than I could then. There have been tremendous changes in the industry. The biggest change is that we’re probably five or ten times larger than we used to be so we’re playing a different ball game. We’ve been in business 59 years and it’s been a pretty steady climb.” He also said that technology has changed the industry drastically since that last lifetime achievement award. “The technology has just radically changed what everybody does,” he stated. “I’m sure it’s better, but I didn’t grow up with it. So much is done by equipment instead of labor; you don’t just get out there with a shovel anymore.”
“Our lifetime achievement awards were for five people who have left an indelible mark for the better on Alabama business,” stated Alec Harvey, executive editor of Business Alabama Magazine. “Miller Gorrie certainly has done that, not just in the construction industry but across all sectors of Alabama’s business community.” The publication named honorees in seven categories along with the five lifetime achievement winners. Mr. Gorrie says that at 87 years old he was grateful to be included, but more important to him is the work his company does to bring business to the state. “It’s flattering to be selected as one of the five,” he stated. “Construction is one of the most significant industries in Alabama and in Birmingham in particular. We are helping Alabama by bringing in revenue from other states.”
As Auburn’s building science seniors gear up for graduation in May, Gorrie’s advice for them is to identify their strengths and interests. “The sooner they can figure out what they’re good at and what they really like, the better off they’ll be,” he said. “I am fortunate that I figured it out when I was 14, so everything I did from that point on was focused. Whenever they find what their strengths are, they need to work hard to learn everything they can to develop those skills.”