Who will lead Birmingham business into the next 20 years?
The business leaders below stand out from the crowd. All of them are making an impact in their professional niche and paving the way to a greater future for our city for the next two decades and beyond.
DR. Sarah Parcak
Sarah Parcak studies Egypt—from space. And on the ground too. An expert in satellite archaeology, Sarah and her husband, Greg Mumford, both Egyptologists and UAB professors, have worked on archaeological projects in the Delta, Sinai, and pyramid fields regions of Egypt.
What Parcak discovers is not just published in peer reviewed scientific papers but also shared with a wider audience. Her research has been featured in major international BBC-Discovery Channel documentary Egypt: What Lies Beneath, BBC show Rome’s Lost Empire, and a BBC-PBS NOVA special Vikings Unearthed, and she has worked with NASA and the U.S. State Department. You might also see her in interviews with media outlets such as Science, Nature, National Geographic, CNN, and BBC, and she has been named a National Geographic Fellow.
Parcak made national headlines earlier this year when she was awarded the 2016 TED Prize, and with it she wants to try to discover the millions of unknown archaeological sites across the globe. To do so, she is building a citizen science platform called GlobalXplorer that will launch in early 2017 and enable anyone with an internet connection to discover sites using satellite technology.
A native of Bangor, Maine, Parcak holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a M.Phil and PhD from Cambridge University. She serves as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a 2014 TED Senior Fellow. At UAB, she is founding director of the Laboratory for Global Observation where she is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology.
Laird P. Foret
Isotope Eleven, Inc.
With his passion for exploring new innovative business ideas, Laird P. Foret is at the helm of a technology solutions firm Isotope Eleven. Under his leadership, the company provides custom software development and relevant technologies with the resources to meet the challenges of emerging technology and business’ reliance on those them. They seek to deliver software incrementally, rather than making clients wait for long periods and major deployments, and test-driven development that integrates testing thoroughly into the software development lifecycle.
A serial entrepreneur, Foret belongs to several startup accelerator organizations, regularly attends TechBirmingham and Birmingham Startup Drinks, and is a board member of the Birmingham Business Alliance. Prior to leading Isotope Eleven, the Louisiana native started MovieTime, a video rental store that partnered with local restaurant to offer dinner and a movie, from 1995-1997; The Hippodrum bar/restaurant in 1996; and Mexican restaurant Manchas that featured scratch-made tamales in 1998.
Foret has been on on the Dream Team of Church of the Highlands since 2008. He is also passionate about his animals, including his chickens, dogs, fish, and pony, and his 4-year-old daughter, Ellyson. Through both his personal life and business, he is “finding a way to leave this world a better place than I came into it.”
Slade Land Use, Environmental, and Transportation Planning
On any given day, you might catch L’Tryce Slade on a construction site with her sleeves rolled up. A general contractor, she’s the face behind an eco-friendly construction firm that seeks to provide sustainable solutions to its clients. Her firm has a multi-disciplined team of general contracting professionals, environmental professionals, urban planners, and geotechnical consultants. Through the company, she has served as limited home builder with certifications in material testing, roadway inspections, and environmental services for the past decade.
Recently, the company has started to expand its service offerings with a new construction material testing laboratory located in Innovation Depot. Its work will allow the company to offer more benefits to its client base including soil, concrete, grout, mortar, and asphalt testing, and ultimately allow them to become a one-stop shop urban planning, environmental services, and construction. The firm works on commercial, recreational, hospital, laboratory, school, airport, hotel, entertainment, and residential projects.
Outside her construction work, Slade supports Central Alabama Sickle Cell, UNCF Gala, the Firehouse Shelter, Kidney Foundation, and Susan G. Komen of North Central Alabama, and she is a member of the Junior League of Birmingham and the Birmingham Chapter of
An Ahoskie, North Carolina native, Slade received undergraduate degrees in political science and communication studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a master’s degree in Regional Planning, and Juris Doctorate Degree, also from UNC.
President and CEO
Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham
Christopher Nanni has a deep-seated passion for giving and serving. Over his 30-year career, he has run organizations and programs dealing with issues such as addiction, homelessness, poverty, and education, and he spent two and a half years in the Dominican Republic doing mission work along the
Now as the head of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, he gets to connect philanthropy with addressing community problems, many of them in similar realms to what he has seen over the years. As the largest foundation in the state with assets of more than $250 million, the Community Foundation connects philanthropists, nonprofits, and engaged leaders in the Greater Birmingham area. Since starting his position in 2014, Nanni has worked under the belief that the foundation is strategically poised to help build a more prosperous community, working to make grants to be proactive in resolving
Nanni has a master’s in social work from the University of Chicago and a master’s in cross-cultural theology from Catholic Theological Union. He earned his bachelor’s degree in theology and computer applications from the University of Notre Dame, where he was a walk-on for the men’s basketball team. Originally from Buffalo, New York, he met his wife, Allison, while at Notre Dame. They have three children, Marcello, Louie, and Maria, and reside in Homewood.
Sidewalk Film Festival
Although she didn’t start working in the industry until later in her life, film has always been on Chloe Cook’s mind. She graduated from Auburn University with a degree in communications in 2000 and then spent nine years working in marketing, public relations, and event planning. A nudge from a friend led her to apply for the executive director position for Sidewalk Film Festival in 2009. Even though she did not have much experience, she landed the job and has since shined in her role.
Sidewalk celebrated its 18th anniversary this year, and Cook has played a key role in its continued success. It is her job to ensure that everything the organization does aligns with its mission of encouraging filmmaking in Alabama, and building audiences for independent film.
Sidewalk is the city’s largest festival attracting around 10,000 attendees each year. In three days, guests can choose from more than 250 films screened in 10 venues, 10 free panels and workshops, more than 15 bands and musical performances, eight parties, and attend a food truck rally and street market. For the second year in a row, Moviemaker magazine named the Sidewalk Film Festival among the “The Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.”
Between logistics and funding, volunteers and bookkeeping, it’s a big load, but Cook says it’s worth it. These days, she’s dreaming of opening up an art house theatre under the Sidewalk name, which would give Sidewalk a year-round brick and mortar presence in the city.
Principal, President & Architect
Mike Gibson’s eye for design has led him on an impressive journey. He founded Appleseed Workshop in late 2005, during his third year in Auburn’s architecture program. He built the company with a mission to create beautiful furniture and spaces of lasting value. Among one of the youngest architects to win an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Award, he does not consider himself a talented architect, but rather a problem solver who chooses to do so through the built environment.
Gibson is commonly known as the “big idea man” at Appleseed Workshop, where his focus is on the big-picture planning. He has led Appleseed to win eight AIA Awards, and since the spring of 2010, he and the Appleseed team have taken 17 underutilized downtown Birmingham locations and turned them into successful residences, restaurants, and retail spaces. New downtown projects like the Pizitz Food Hall are in the design phase currently, and local spots such as El Barrio, Paramount, and Bamboo on 2nd are all Appleseed projects.
Gibson is active with a variety of local organizations and initiatives including REV Birmingham and Design Week Birmingham. He does pro bono work for missionaries overseas as well as pro bono design work for The Firehouse Shelter. His company supports an organization called Neverthirst that provides clean and living water solutions in North Africa and southern Asia and also recently funded the majority of an adoption for a local couple.
Birmingham is growing into a stronger tech hub, and Jennifer Skjellum is spearheading efforts to make that happen. As president of the nonprofit organization TechBirmingham, she is helping create, recruit, and grow technology jobs here. Her efforts don’t just work within the businesses realm either; they start with youth. Her new organization TechAlabama helps provide STEM education to K-12 youth, in addition to workforce development and growing the STEM jobs and tech businesses in the state. She also helps engage kids with technology as a member of the board of the McWane Science Center.
Skjellum’s entrepreneurial experience dates back to 1996, when she and her husband founded MPI Software Technology, Inc. for the high performance computing market. In 2004, MPI was acquired by Verari Systems, Inc., a privately held company that is headquartered in San Diego.
Today you can see her entrepreneurial spirit at work at Runtime Computing Solutions, LLC, a high performance and embedded computing space software company located in the Innovation Depot, where she serves as president and co-founder.
Outside of Innovation Depot, Skjellum is on the Advisory Board for the Stump Entrepreneurship Program at Birmingham-Southern College and was recently appointed the McCain Executive in Residence for Entrepreneurship at Birmingham-Southern. Building on her experience, also mentors others in the community. She holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Humboldt State University and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Melt Birmingham, Fancy’s on Fifth, Hot Diggity Dogs, and The Marble Ring
After living in New York City for a decade, Paget Pizitz moved back to Birmingham to be closer to her family, the famous Birmingham business Pizitz clan. Little did she know that she would soon meet restaurateur Harriet Reis and embark on a food truck and restaurant adventure. Reis and Pizitz started with a food truck, lovingly named Matilda, that served creatively conceived and deliciously grilled cheese sandwiches, the business aptly named Melt.
Less than a year later they were scouting locations for a brick and mortar restaurant. It didn’t take them long to call Avondale home. As Reis says, the tree-lined streets really sealed the deal for them.
Years later, they look back and are so thankful for their decision, Pizitz says. About two years later, Pizitz convinced their head chef to entertain the idea of a burger bar and oyster dive. When they walked into the space across the street from Melt and just down from Avondale Park, the need for convincing was over.
They immediately began construction on what is now Fancy’s on 5th. Soon after, Pizitz began another venture on the second floor of the building with Hot Diggity Dog and The Marble ring, a traditional speakeasy.
Everything in The Marble Ring is a representation of the roaring ’20s and styled after the extraordinary Jazz Age lives of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Their decadent lifestyle has been transported through time and placed in every detail of The Marble Ring. The “secret” entrance to the modern-day speakeasy is a phone booth located in the back corner of Hot Diggity Dog.
The restaurants have been at the forefront of the extraordinary renaissance of the Avondale neighborhood of eastern Birmingham, a feat of which Pizitz and Reis are justifiably proud.
Nowlin & Associates
Justin Craft rose to the forefront of the effort to revive the football team at UAB after the university’s initial decision to close the program. A former player at the school (he earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from UAB in 1997), he worked to help build a group of major business players to take on the cause of creating a fundraising effort to reinstate UAB football, making it bigger and better this time around. The team will take the field again in 2017. As part of the UAB Athletics Board, the business leaders raised more than $14 million for the effort to build a football operations center and practice facility for the team, and fundraising continues at a brisk pace.
Alongside UAB football, Craft with his wife, Kim, has been involved in charitable efforts for UAB, the City of Birmingham, FCA Birmingham, Monday Morning Quarterback Club, Crippled Children’s Foundation, and Children’s Hospital. The couple gets right down to the personal level with fundraising, putting together an initiative to gather 100 donations within two weeksto purchase truck outfitted with handicap controls for former UAB football player Tim Alexander.
In the business realm, Craft has increased revenue five-fold since taking on the CEO role at Nowlin & Associates. The 40-year-old financial services firm has doubled its staff in the past five years to now include 27 team members. Craft joined Nowlin in 1998.
President & CEO
Corporate Realty Associates
Robert Simon is committed to the development of Birmingham and recognizes the potential impact of its growth to the surrounding communities. Through his leadership, service, and innovation, he envisions and identifies opportunities for corporate headquarters, institutional clients, and public-private partnerships.
Under his leadership, Corporate Realty is currently working to complete work with HealthSouth Headquarters by 2018. Notable past deals include the Venue at the Ballpark apartments ($39 million transaction), CiTYViLLE Block 121 mixed-use space ($36.5 million), Homewood Medical Building, Cardiovascular Associates ($21 million), Intermark Building ($6 million), Infinity Headquarters, Homewood Middle School, Jemison Flats, and the Saks Building.
Simon is originally from Chicago and has lived in Birmingham for more than 30 years. His involvement and support of the city has led to appointments including board member for Operation New Birmingham and City Action Partnership. He is personally involved with supporting the United Cerebral Palsy, Red Cross of Alabama, the Women’s Fund, Operation New Birmingham, and the Community Foundation’s Three Parks Initiative.
Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D.
Senior Vice President for Medicine and Dean
UAB School of Medicine
Dr. Selwyn Vickers is changing lives through his medical work. He is a world-renowned surgeon, pancreatic cancer researcher, and pioneer in health disparities research. The Alabama native became senior vice president for medicine and dean of the School of Medicine at UAB in October 2013. As dean, he leads the medical school’s main campus in Birmingham and the regional campuses in Montgomery, Huntsville, and Tuscaloosa.
Dr. Vickers’ major research interests include gene therapy as an application in the treatment of tumors, the role of growth factors of pancreatic cancer, and the role of death receptors in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. He earned baccalaureate and medical degrees from the Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Vickers is co-principal investigator for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Pancreatic Cancer and is also part of a collaborative effort to design interventions targeting the four most significant causes of death and disease across the lifespan of African-American men and boys.
Co-Founder and CEO
Recently named by Upstart Business Journal one of the nation’s Top 100 Influential Thinkers, Tanveer Patel brings to ConcertCare two decades of successful business ventures partnering healthcare with information technology.
ConcertCare, founded in 2012, was built on the belief that the link between quality patient care and provider profitability, one of the healthcare system’s most critical links, is broken. The company works to understand the pain healthcare providers are experiencing today, as well as the multitude of pressures driving physicians and their practices further and further away from the core mission of healthcare.
Serial entrepreneur Patel, who came to the United States at the age of 19, founded and managed CircleSource, a healthcare software development company, until its acquisition in 2010 by a fellow healthcare business. She’s also mentored numerous successful entrepreneurs—and has served as an investor and advisor for healthcare companies such as Comply MD and Secant Healthcare.
Patel also co-founded and serves as president of the Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama. She is a past two-time president of the Birmingham Venture Club’s Board of Directors, and the president-elect of the Birmingham International Center. She also serves as a board member of Tech Birmingham, past board member of HIMMS, and board member for four for-profit corporations, two of which she serves as chairman of the board.
Shareholder and Board Member
Sirote & Permutt, P.C.
Bradley Sklar focuses on economic development, tax and business planning, real estate investments, succession planning, and entity formation for a wide range of business clients at Sirote & Permutt, where he is a long-time board member as well as past co-chair of the corporate and tax group. Sklar was instrumental in promoting the passage of the Limited Liability Company Act, which was adopted in 1993 and a transformative business development in the state.
A Birmingham native, Sklar is committed to the revitalization of Birmingham, which shows in his work with the Birmingham Business Alliance, where he has chaired the Finance and Taxation Committee, and REV Birmingham, where he helps the organization attract new business and development, and most recently served on the Incentives Task Force. He is a graduate of the BBA Leadership Development, Leadership Birmingham, and Leadership Alabama programs. A six-year member of the Mountain Brook School Board, he currently serves as president. Sklar has also been active on the American Cancer Society Board and has served in multiple roles in the Birmingham Jewish community.
Business projects in which he has played major roles include the complex acquisition of land that allowed the Barons to return to downtown Birmingham in their new stadium at Parkside. Close behind that development, Sklar played a major role in bringing HealthSouth’s new headquarters to the city on land at Liberty Park along I-459.
Sklar has played a role in dozens of major developments in the past dozen years that add up to a virtual transformation of the city, from the City Federal Building redevelopment in 2007 to the Alabama School of Fine Arts in 2010 to the Lyric Theatre, The Pizitz building, and the renovation of the Empire Building into a new downtown hotel in more recent years.
Eric P. Jack, PhD
UAB Collat School of Business
Dr. Eric P. Jack is the Wells Fargo Endowed Chair in Business Administration, professor of management, and dean of UAB’s Collat School of Business. Jack was appointed dean of UAB’s Collat School of Business in April 2013 after previously serving as the interim dean. These days he is heavily involved in planning for the new building that will house the UAB Collat School of Business and Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Jack received his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. Later He earned an MBA with an emphasis on research and development management from Wright State University and a doctorate in operations management from the University of Cincinnati.
A passionate teacher, Jack was awarded the 2006 UAB President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. His research interests include operations strategy, flexibility, health care management, service operations, quality management, and supply chain management. Before beginning his academic career, Jack served for 21 years as a U.S. Air Force officer.
He was a member of Leadership Birmingham Class of 2014, and serves on the boards of Rotary Club of Birmingham, The Innovation Depot, Malcovery Security LLC, the Birmingham Committee on Foreign Relations, and United Way of Central Alabama.
A naturalized U.S. citizen, Jack was born on the island of Trinidad and Tobago. He is married to his former engineering classmate, Ave Parker Jack from Augusta, Georgia, who is also an instructor
BLOC Global Group
Herschell Hamilton is a principal of BLOC Global Group, a leading southeast U.S. based commercial real estate consulting services firm with offices in Birmingham and Washington, D.C. The company manages and develops complex real estate and building projects, provides commercial real estate transaction and advisory services, and structures successful public/private partnership projects.
Prior to co-founding BLOC, Hamilton was vice president of new market ventures for the private equity firm MRG. Before joining MRG, he cofounded and served as chief operating officer of a web-based media/technology company.
Hamilton has seven years of investment banking experience, structuring public finance transactions. He served in two high-level public administration posts with former Alabama Governor Jim Folsom and worked as chief administrative assistant to Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr.
Hamilton is a licensed real estate broker in Alabama, Georgia, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin, and earned his CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) designation in 2010. Hamilton also holds a series 7 securities license.
His board memberships include the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Birmingham Branch Board, Ballard House Project, Inc., and the Birmingham Business Alliance and Leadership Birmingham. He is the former chairman of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Board of Directors and Red Cross Blood Services Division as well as a former director of Birmingham Water Works and Sewer Board.
Hamilton earned his undergraduate degree in zoology from Howard University, and a Masters in Public and Private Management from Birmingham-Southern College. He is a candidate for a Master’s of Science in Technology Commercialization at the University of Texas at Austin (Spring 2018).
Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer
Jarrod Morgan is a co-founder of ProctorU and was the company’s first proctor. Today he is chief strategy officer for the company, the world’s largest online proctoring company. ProctorU has proctored more than 2.5 million exams in 73 countries on all of the world’s continents since 2008.
Today the company has partnerships with almost 1,000 institutions of higher education and professional certification, employing 500 people in five offices in Hoover, Livermore and Folsom, California, Gilbert, Arizona, and Manila in the Philippines. Morgan created the initial prototype of the service to fill a need for Andrew Jackson University, where he served as director of technology. He works out of ProctorU’s Birmingham office where he coordinates the marketing and partnership aspects of the company.
Here in the metro area, ProctorU employs 160 people. Coordinating the marketing and partnership aspects of the company’s operation, Morgan is known for a positive attitude and an honest leadership style.
When not at ProctorU, Jarrod spends time with his two daughters, Maddie and Lizzie. He is a dedicated foodie, devoted Catholic, and gourmet beer connoisseur. He studied computer science at the University of Florida and is a die-hard Gators fan.
Jim Akerhielm has a knack for leading IT companies. Since he started TekLinks in 2012, it has grown its employee base by more than one-third to about 200 people. The company ranked No. 19 on the MSPmentor 501 Top Managed Services Providers in the World and No. 70 on the Talkin’ Cloud 100 Top Cloud Services Providers in the World.
Under his leadership, the company’s revenue has grown 46 percent to almost $100 million, with its total assets reaching $100 million from an original $22 million. He also secured debt financing of more than $30 million and established a strong capital base with equity investors.
Before starting TekLinks, Akerhielm led Triton Cellular Partners, the 15th largest cellular provider in the U.S., to grow from zero to $170 million annual revenue in less than two years. He served as its president and CEO from 1998 to 2000. Prior to that position, he managed $300 million in annual revenue and more than 500,000 customers for Verizon Wireless as its vice president-Southeast region.
Outside of the cellular sphere, Akerhielm not only volunteers with the United Way of Central Alabama and Hands On Birmingham but has also partnered with them for TekLinks to sponsor Oxmoor Valley Elementary School. Tapping into their corporate niche, they are providing support with teacher technology projects and helping prepare students to take the ACT on computers, among other projects.
Senior Vice President and Commercial Relationship Manager
David K. Germany’s specialty is relationships. Through his work at Regions Bank, he manages commercial client banking relationships throughout North Central Alabama. Among other projects, he has been a part of the Samford University’s new building for the Brock School of Business and securing the financing for the new campus of the Indian Springs School.
As senior vice president and commercial relationship manager in Regions Bank’s Government and Institutional Banking Group, he has negotiated and structured commercial banking deals with values of more than $2 billion since 2007. Germany graduated from the Regions Bank Management Associate and Commercial Credit Training Programs in 2003, and completed the bank’s Management-Level Leaders program in 2015. He became a Certified Treasury Professional in 2008.
In 2015, Regions awarded Germany the Better Life Award for leading an effort to build playing courts for tennis, volleyball, and basketball on the campus of the A. G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club, where he is president of an Advisory Board. He currently is also a member of Impact Alabama, Leadership UAB, the Birmingham Business Alliance Board of Directors, the Rotaract Club of Birmingham, the UAB Minority Health Junior Board of Directors, and the American Heart Association.
Germany received his Bachelor of Science degree in investment finance from the University of Alabama and a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in finance from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
As chair of the board of directors at Momentum Telecom, Elizabeth Pharo’s leadership is characterized by technological foresight. The local cloud-based telecommunications company provides broadband and communications services.
Pharo has largely contributed to the growth of Momentum’s retail business sales through employee empowerment and customer emphasis. She played a pivotal role in moving Momentum’s headquarters to the Birmingham Business District, solidifying the company’s commitment to the Birmingham region and transforming Momentum into a successful industry leader.
A native of Birmingham, Pharo earned a Bachelor of Science in computer sciences from Birmingham-Southern College and is a 2018 MBA candidate at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is married with four children and in her free time enjoys running and investing in the local community.
She currently serves on the boards of Cahaba Brewing Company, First Commercial Bank, and Swell, a company that provides single instance software for social fundraising. Pharo is also a trustee for The Altamont School and Birmingham-Southern College, and a member of the Alabama Membership Chair for Young President’s Organization, Birmingham Kiwanis Club, and Advisory Board of the Southern Research Institute.
Vice President of the Birmingham Division
Jonathan Porter believes in the power of a company to connect with its community. As vice president of the Birmingham Division for Alabama Power Company, he is responsible for thecompany’s operations, sales, customer service, economic and community development, and external affairs activities for more than 430,000 customers across six counties in North Central Alabama.
Porter graduated cum laude from Tuskegee University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. While at Tuskegee, he was a four-year letterman in football and was an All-Conference scholar-athlete. He received a Master in Business Administration degree from the UAB.
Porter worked as an underwriting analyst at Protective Life Corporation and as a manager at INROADS Inc. before joining Alabama Power in 1991 as a customer accounting intern through the INROADS program, where he interned four summers with Alabama Power until graduation. He rejoined Alabama Power in 2000 and has held various positions of increasing responsibility including his most recent role as vice president of Human Resources
Porter currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Jefferson County Education Foundation, Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority, INROADS Inc., REV Birmingham Inc., Birmingham Business Alliance, Alabama Power Foundation, and the A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club. He also serves on the board of trustees of Tuskegee University and is a member of the Newcomen Society of Alabama.
A native of Bessemer, Porter and his wife, Kima, are the proud parents of daughters Laila and Kailyn.