Business Council of Alabama Chairman Perry Hand in his sailing days in and around Mobile Bay navigated stormy seas while captaining a premiere national engineering firm. In his political life, he successfully set his sights on improving Alabama’s investment in its infrastructure.
And in mid-2018, a year of change for the BCA, Hand as chairman accepted the task of easing the BCA into an era of new leadership.
“This was great year for change for the BCA,” Hand said in a recent interview. “We made a lot of changes, some were hard, but it was something that needed to be done.”
Hand praised incoming BCA Chairman Mark Crosswhite, Alabama Power CEO, and looks forward to the BCA’s next leader, incoming President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt, the chief of staff to Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.
“I feel good right now,” Hand said. “Now we can implement what we set up. A lot of folks put a lot of time into it. We had past presidents helping in the negotiations, setting up new bylaws. It was very gratifying to see the interest the people of the BCA had getting this done.”
A registered professional engineer, Chairman Hand has spent nearly 40 years serving the public either in private business or government service: He was an elected state senator, Alabama secretary of state, and state Highway Director.
Hand was elected to the state Senate in 1983 as one of only four Republicans and was later named secretary of state to fill an unexpired term. Governor Guy Hunt appointed him Highway Director in 1991.
Hand was an early supporter of the BCA in the mid-1980s to counter the effect that lopsided state appellate court decisions were having on private business. In the early 1990s, he agreed to serve as state Highway Director and led the effort for then-Gov. Hunt to increase the state’s motor fuel tax by 5 cents as an investment in roads and bridges.
Hand has been with the privately held Volkert Inc. for 25 years. Founded in 1925 and based in Mobile, Volkert Inc. offers engineering, environmental consulting, program management, and construction services.
Hand joined Volkert in 1993 and was named chief marketing officer in 2004, president in 2007, and CEO and chairman in 2011. This year, he relinquished the CEO title and remains chairman. Hand was elected into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Now, nearly 25 years after the 1992 infrastructure push, Hand returned to help chart a course for a second generation of infrastructure investment as BCA first vice chairman and chairman of ProgressPAC, the BCA’s political arm.
“I think it will be front and center,” Hand said of a legislative infrastructure effort in the 2019 session that begins in March. “It’s been a culmination of efforts of the last couple of years by the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure.
“This is the big issue for us – infrastructure. We’ve got to have infrastructure improvements in order to attract new industry,” Hand said in an earlier interview. “Right now, the Department of Transportation … does not have the funds to build new highways that we desperately need.”
In this year of change, the BCA remains valuable to businesses who view political involvement as necessary in order for them to prosper, Hand said.
“I joined the BCA because I wanted a good pro-business Legislature, I wanted good Supreme Court justices,” Hand said. “The BCA is the team to work with to get that done.
“The value of the BCA has been bringing together businesses into Alabama politics,” Hand said. “We have a strong political action committee, and we will continue to do that. That’s what we are, without apology, a group of businesses that want consideration of the business point of view.”