Perry Hand (far right) is one of four Auburn University graduates inducted in the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame for 2018.
Perry Hand, Volkert’s chairman of the board, was one of six honorees inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame on February 24, 2018. Of these six, four (pictured here) are graduates of Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.
Hall of Fame inductees are selected based on an established set of criteria, including their contributions to the advancement of engineering and technology. These individuals serve as inspiration for others to pursue careers in all engineering fields. As a professional, an entrepreneur, a politician, and a business leader, Hand offers ample inspiration to engineers in many walks of life.
Hand was graduated from Auburn University in 1969 with a degree in civil engineering, which he immediately put to use for his first employer, David Volkert & Associates, Inc. He worked on bridges in Louisiana and then the Gulf State Park project in Baldwin County, Alabama, a project that would become a hallmark of success throughout his Volkert career. In 1970, Hand opened his own engineering and surveying business, which he ran for nearly two decades.
By the early 80s, Hand saw the need to promote a more robust business climate in his home state and decided to enter the political arena. In 1983 he won election to the Alabama state senate representing Baldwin County, the first Republican in history ever to do so. Bringing his engineering perspective to legislative issues, he was re-elected in 1986 and served under Guy Hunt, the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction. During this term, Hand was recognized by his senate colleagues for his tireless efforts to bring a balanced-budget approach to state government and received their “Outstanding Legislator” award.
In 1989 Governor Hunt appointed Hand to serve as Alabama’s secretary of state, completing an unexpired term due to a congressional election. In 1991 he was appointed to be the director of Alabama’s highway department, later named the Department of Transportation. During his two years in office, he prepared a transportation program that would make full use of President George H.W. Bush’s Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and passed a gasoline tax to fund it. Once again, Hand was hailed for his engineering-borne drive to find solutions and break through seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
In 1993 Hand returned to Volkert as a senior vice president. He formed new lines of business, recruited new talent, and developed new centers of expertise, particularly in architecture and program/construction management. Volkert offices were opened in a number of new markets, including Atlanta, Chattanooga, Raleigh, and Collinsville, Illinois, under his direction. His emphasis on producing “good work, on time, in budget” steadily grew the company’s client base and revenues.
Not surprisingly, Hand’s career advanced with Volkert’s success: in 2007 he was promoted to president and chief marketing officer, and in 2011 he was appointed president, CEO and chairman of the board, in which capacity he served until he appointed his successor this year. Under his leadership in the chief executive role, Volkert grew from a $77 million firm in 2011 to a $180 million firm today, reflecting a 15 percent growth rate year-over-year for the last six years. In 2017, Volkert was ranked 94th among Engineering News-Record’s “Top 500 Design Firms,” the firm’s highest position since ranking began in 1965.
Hand now splits his leadership time between two organizations, continuing his chairmanship of Volkert’s board and taking on a one-year term as chairman of the Business Council of Alabama. In this role, Hand continues to promote a business-friendly climate throughout the state and improve its infrastructure. “I joined the BCA because I wanted a good pro-business legislature,” Hand said. “The BCA is the team to work with to get that done.”
From a life of leadership in both the public and private sector, Hand has demonstrated how much influence an engineer with a passion for service can have. “An engineer is put forth on earth to solve problems,” Hand said at his induction to the Engineering Hall of Fame. “Engineers brought us the quality of life we enjoy today, and together we have laid the groundwork for future generations to continue building upon, so that our future can be as prosperous as our past.”