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Book details
  • Genre:HISTORY
  • SubGenre:United States / State & Local / General
  • Language:English
  • Pages:296
  • Hardcover ISBN:9781543964318

Alabama's Public Pension Fund Growth and Economic Expansion Since 1973

by Mark Fagan

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The pension fund is the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) which manages pensions for 358,000 public teachers and public employees. This book tells how RSA grew assets and helped expand Alabama's economy through RSA's investments and industrial recruitment for the state. The Oral History chapter includes statements from President Trump, US Senator Richard Shelby, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, former Alabama governors Jim Folsom Jr. and Bob Riley, retired Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Janie Shores and retired Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, US congressmen Glen Browder and Jo Bonner, industrial developers Billy Joe Camp and Elmer Harris (Mercedes-Benz), corporate executives locating facilities (Airbus, IPSCO, Bell Micro) to Alabama, and many others. The remaining chapters provide photos and documentation which validate these statements.

RSA' funds under management grew from some $600 million in 1973 to $43.8 billion in 2018 while earning $52 billion in investment income and paying $51 billion in benefits. RSA's most famous investment is The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail with its 26 golf courses and 8 resort hotels. RSA's other alternative investments were in 65 TV stations, 125 newspapers, and 15 buildings in Alabama and New York City. It serves as a memoir of Dr. David G. Bronner's activities at RSA and preserves these memories for Alabama history.


Details are given on how RSA diversified assets into billions of dollars in office buildings, golf courses, hotels, media companies, housing, and other commercial industries which stimulated Alabama’s economy, created higher paying jobs, and increased tax revenue. RSA played a role in almost every major industrial development project in Alabama since 1993 and assisted with financing for many of the corporations that developed plants in the state. RSA staff helped recruit corporations such as Mercedes-Benz and Airbus to set the foundation for the automotive and aerospace industries in Alabama. RSA developed a massive railcar assembly plant in Alabama and developed facilities for hosting Alabama’s Internet Exchange. RSA worked to develop Alabama companies in the chemical, wood pulp, steel, metals, maritime, and high-tech industries. Details are given on Alabama's economic expansion since 1973.

The basic information in this book was compiled from RSA newsletters, RSA reports, and news stories and interviews about RSA's activities over the last 45 years. It was written for RSA members, RSA Board members, RSA staff members, political and business leaders in Alabama, academic professionals teaching about public pension funds, and historians documenting Alabama history over the last 50 years. It was written for future leaders at RSA and Alabama as well as future members of RSA.

About the author

I earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree with a major in psychology and a minor in economics at Jacksonville State University (JSU). I received my Master’s in Social Work (MSW) Degree with an emphasis on psychiatric social work practice in 1977 and my Doctorate in Social Work with a concentration in Social Policy, Planning, and Administration and a doctoral minor in Human Resources Management in the School of Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama in 1981. I retired from JSU as Professor and Head, Emeritus in 2012 with 32 years of service in teaching and managing the Department of Sociology and Social Work.

I served as a consultant for The Center for Economic Development (CED) at JSU for 22 years. I provided the retirement component for 10 economic best-fit analysis reports by a team of 7 researchers at the CED at JSU from 1985-87. These reports were done for the following entities in Northeast Alabama: Piedmont, Oxford, Randolph County, Cleburne County, St. Clair County, Cherokee County, Talladega County, Clay County, Coosa County, and Marshall County. 

I was released half-time from JSU from 1988 to 1992 to assist in the development of the Alabama Program to Attract Retirees in the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. This statewide initiative was the first one in the nation in state government. I provided assistance to 94 local communities with their efforts to attract retirees for economic development. I coordinated 4 Governor's Conferences, made 65 major presentations, and 103 minor presentations around Alabama and the nation about retirees and retirement.

My research on attracting retirees was instrumental in developing the concept for the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (The Trail). The Trail consists of 11 golf complexes totaling 468 golf holes, 8 resort hotels, and two active retiree communities by The Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA). I have assisted the RSA since 1992 with the development and promotion of The Trail. This work includes negotiations for 3 sites; projected economic impact studies for 4 sites and access roads for 3 sites; booklets on the RSA’s 2 resort communities; 40 articles; 11 professional presentations; 17 topic encyclopedia entries; 24 news stories; 10 TV programs; and 4 radio programs.

Most of my 184 publications and technical writings since 1981 have focused on the economic impact of retirees and retirement places. My publication categories are books-7; technical publications-48; newsletter/magazine articles-70; newspaper specials-8; technical white papers-6; agency publications-6; bound booklets-12; academic journals-4; websites/Facebook Series-4; topic encyclopedia entries-17; and book chapters-2. My seven books are Attracting Retirees for Economic Development; Retirement Development: A How-To Guidebook; The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail: Its History and Economic Impact with a Foreword by David G. Bronner (CEO of RSA); Coastal Alabama Retirement Guide; Coastal Alabama Economic History; and Alabama's Public Pension Fund Growth and Economic Expansion Since 1973; and The 60 Commercial Buildings Developed by The Retirement Systems of Alabama.

Booklets by me include: The Colony at The Grand; Guide to Retirement at National Village; Planned Retirement Communities: An Opportunity for Alabama; Guide to Retirement in Etowah County, Alabama; Lake Havasu City, Arizona as a Retirement Destination; Yuma County, Arizona as a Retirement Destination; Willcox, Arizona as a Retirement Destination; Holbrook, Arizona as a Retirement Destination; A Longitudinal Study of Three Naturally Occurring Retirement Areas (Sequim, Washington; Hendersonville, North Carolina; and Northeast Georgia); and The Virginia Tobacco Commission Regional Assessment for Retirement Development (34 counties in Virginia). Booklets by me with other authors include: Guide to Retirement in Alabama with Leonard J. Hansen; Elderly Migration and Economic Development: Guidelines for Appalachian Communities with Graham Rowles and John Watkins (University of Kentucky); and Attracting Tourists and Retirees for Economic Development with Wilson Lee and Tom Chesnutt (Auburn University).

I have lectured and consulted on retirement development in Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, and Arizona. I assisted the Center for Economic Development at JSU to house the American Association of Retirement Communities from 2000-2005. I have served as a consultant with the Alabama Commission on Aging, the Alabama Reunion, Cooper Communities of Arkansas, Santa Cruz Lifecare of California, the West Virginia Retirement Development Office, and the Virginia Tobacco Commission. I assisted the Arizona Department of Commerce with their assessment of selected rural communities for retirement development.

I have assisted in planning and approvals for several active retiree communities in Virginia. These include The Farms of New Kent in New Kent County; Fried Companies’ Active Adult Community in Greene County; Potter Homes Active Retiree Community in Fredericksburg; Fried Companies’ 2,200-acre Active Retiree Community in Spotsylvania County; and Bob Karen’s Williams Mill Village in Culpeper.

Projected Economic Impact Studies by me include: New Bragg Lake: Arkansas’ Next Lake Resort?; Residential Development on The Tennessee River in Marshall County, Alabama; A 900-unit housing development adjacent to The Trail complex (The Shoals) in Colbert County, Alabama; The Trail's Silver Lakes complex (36 holes) and housing development in Calhoun County; The Trail’s Shoals complex (36 holes) and 235-room 4 star hotel/conference center in Florence/Sheffield; The Trail’s Capitol Hill (54 holes) complex in Prattville; and Forest Ranch (an 18-hole golf complex and 1,700-unit retirement community in Placer County, California). I completed the projected economic impact studies for applications for access road funding from the Alabama Industrial Access Road Authority for the following sites on The Trail: Magnolia Grove (54 holes) in Mobile, Silver Lakes (36 holes) in Glencoe, and Cambrian Ridge (36 holes) in Greenville. 

I have been consulted by and quoted in the news media for stories on retirees and retirement including 43 TV programs, 92 magazines/periodicals, and 258 newspapers around the US.  Some of the national media in which I have appeared include The Golf Channel, CBS News, NBC News, CNN News, ABC News, “Good Morning America,” National Public Radio, U.S. News and World Report, Governing, Time, The AARP Bulletin, New Choices for Retirement Living, Where to Retire, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Money, Business Week, Mature Outlook, Golf Digest, Smart Money, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, and Stars and Stripes.