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2 years ago

Jimmy Rane is now the richest Alabamian, but it’s what he’s done with his wealth that matters

Jimmy Rane stars as "Yella Fella" in Great Souther Wood's Yellawood commercials (Photo: Screenshot)
Jimmy Rane stars as “Yella Fella” in Great Souther Wood’s Yellawood commercials (Photo: Screenshot)

Forbes Magazine announced this week that Alabama has a new richest resident: Jimmy Rane.

Here’s how Forbes describes his ascent:

The founder of Abbeville-based building materials company Great Southern Wood Preserving, Rane is better known nown as Yella Fella, the cowboy alter-ego he plays in TV commercials.

He got into the lumber business by accident. In 1970, as a law student, Rane stepped in to mediate a family dispute over his father-in-law’s estate and ended up taking control of a small fence post manufacturer. He expanded the company on the side while he ran a private practice and spent five years as a county judge. Eventually Rane shifted his focus to Great Southern Wood, where he remains chairman and CEO.

Today the company hauls in more than $700 million of revenue a year, and Rane is personally worth an estimated $610 million.

Rane’s hometown of Abbeville, the oldest remaining colonial settlement in East Alabama, is home to just under 2,700 residents in the southeast corner of the state. Its population today is roughly the same as it was in the 1950s. It has one high school, one middle school and one elementary school, and is served by a single radio station — WESZ, “Oldies 98.7.”

Many of the downtown storefronts and a local theatre marquee have been restored to the way they looked at a time when Elvis was emerging as the face of rock-n-roll and the jury was still out on whether capitalism or communism would prevail as the globe’s dominant economic system.

Archie Theatre, Abbeville, Ala.
Archie Theatre, Abbeville, Ala.

It’s the kind of town that isn’t so much stuck in the past as it is nostalgic — sentimental about the values that its residents have passed down to each other for generations.

And at the center of it all is Mr. Rane, the town’s most famous resident.

Rane founded Great Southern Wood Preserving in Abbeville 46 years ago when he started peddling treated lumber out of the back of a red, 1961 pickup truck. Today the company is the largest of its kind — not just in Alabama, not even just in the United States, but in the entire world.

“We’re in 27 U.S. states, every Caribbean country, every central American country, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uraguay, China and Taiwan,” Rane had told Yellowhammer at his company’s headquarters. “We’re competing on a world stage.”

The company employs roughly 1,000 people around the globe, but through it all he has remained fiercely loyal to his rural Alabama hometown.

Rather than expanding Great Southern Wood’s Abbeville headquarters as the company grew, Rane instead chose to purchase and renovate buildings in other parts of town, like the old Standard Oil gas station, and turn them into usable office space. By doing that the company’s exponential growth has had an even greater impact on the town.

His passion for historical preservation has led him to renovate properties all over Abbeville. There’s even a 1950s-style soda shop called Huggin’ Molly’s that Rane opened a decade ago.

Huggin' Molly's, Abbeville, Ala.
Huggin’ Molly’s, Abbeville, Ala.

It has been suggested in the past that Great Southern Wood’s business would actually benefit from moving out of Abbeville, that a relocation to a larger hub of commerce would further strengthen the company’s robust bottom line.

“Why Abbeville?” I asked. “What makes this place so special?”

“Why not Abbeville?” Rane replied without hesitation. “I think that’s the better question. Abbeville is home. I’ve lived here all my life. My mother’s family has been here a long time. My friends and family are here. Abbeville is composed of really fine, educated people who want an opportunity… so why not? I want to do all I can to help make Alabama as great as it can be.”

In addition to leading the efforts to preserve and sustain his hometown and improve his home state, Rane has also proven his commitment to giving the next generation of leaders the opportunity to succeed.

The Jimmy Rane Foundation was founded in 2000 and since then has given out millions of dollars in college scholarships to over 300 deserving students.

One of those students is Brandon Gosselin, who suffered a traumatic brain injury shortly after graduating high school that left him with, in his words, “the mental capacity of a third grader.”

Gosselin was determined to fight back and achieve his dream of becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college. He caught the eye of the Jimmy Rane Foundation, which is now helping make it happen.

“Since receiving the Jimmy Rane Foundation scholarship, my world has expanded,” Gosselin said. “Shattered hopes and dreams are mine again… I’m on track to be the first person in my family to graduate with a four-year college degree.

“What I found is that I’m able to go beyond what my doctors thought I could do, what my family and friends ever dreamed I would do, all because of what we read in Philippians 4:13,” he concluded. “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ The glory goes to God, and the heartfelt thanks goes to the Jimmy Rane Foundation.”

In short, Rane’s personal wealth is in the national headlines this week, but it is what he’s done with his wealth, resources and connection that really matters.

1 hour ago

Public Policy Foundation: ‘Amendment 4 would save Alabama taxpayers millions’

The Alabama Public Policy Foundation (APPF) issued a press release on Thursday in an effort to educate voters about the virtues of voting “yes” on Amendment 4 on the November 6 general election ballot.

Rosemary Elebash, an APPF board member and state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), explained that the amendment would save Alabama taxpayers millions of dollars by eliminating costly special elections when a regularly scheduled election is already imminent.

“Under current law, the governor must call a special election to fill legislative seats vacated due to death or resignation, even if there are only a few months remaining in the term,” Elebash outlined. “Each legislative special election costs from $90,000 to $900,000 per county, based on the number of voters and polling locations. These sometimes occur when candidates already have qualified for the next general election or when the Legislature is not scheduled to meet again before the end of the term.”

APPF noted that money spent on late-term special elections could be used for other services important to Alabama taxpayers. In addition to the wasteful cost, Elebash said back-to-back balloting can create fatigue and confusion for voters.

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“In recent years, we’ve seen candidates win special elections and immediately begin campaigning for a regular primary election a month or two later,” she said.

Amendment 4 would allow Alabama Senate and House of Representatives seats to remain open if vacated on or after Oct. 1 of the third year of a four-year term. The longest a seat would remain vacant would be 14 months. The amendment only applies to these state legislative seats, and the governor would still be required to schedule special elections for vacancies occurring earlier in a term.

You can read the objective Fair Ballot Commission’s explanation of Amendment 4 here.

APPF is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization “created to promote educational, social, financial and economic policies to enhance the well-being of Alabama citizens.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Kay Ivey: Walt Maddox ‘misguided’ on calls to expand Medicaid

FAIRHOPE – Gov. Kay Ivey isn’t necessarily buying into the notion that the expansion of Medicaid could be a win-win for Alabama, as her Democratic opponent Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has portrayed it.

Medicaid expansion has been a key component of Maddox’s campaign, and it has been something Republican lawmakers have resisted given its potential future cost to state taxpayers.

Thursday night, before taking the stage at Baldwin County’s Oak Hollow Farms for a political rally, Ivey fielded questions from reporters, one of which dealt with the expansion of Medicaid.

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She expressed her support for quality health care, but described Maddox’s push as “misguided.”

“It’s important that we have the availability of quality health care for our people,” she said to Yellowhammer News. “That’s for sure. But at the same time, we’ve got to be sure we’re doing all we can with the Medicaid program, and nobody has come up with how we’re going to pay back the high cost if we expand it. So, I think my opponent is misguided again.”

In recent weeks, Maddox has been pushing Medicaid expansion on his bus tour of Alabama, and on Thursday, his second TV ad began airing across the state that doubles down on the proposal.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

3 hours ago

7 Things: Illegal immigration argument in the WH, libs complain about pot enforcement costs, Maddox demands Ivey prove his smear, and more …

7. 2020 is definitely underway, with Sen. Kamala Harris proposing a straight-up giveaway to every person making less than $100,000 a year.

— Sen. Harris says she wants to provide Americans whose wages haven’t increased a “basic income” to “keep up with cost of living increases.”

— The proposal has absolutely no chance of becoming law, but this is more about her appealing to the Democrat base before she enters the primary for President.

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6. As Canada legalizes marijuana, a new report tells how much marijuana costs Alabama.

— The Southern Poverty Law Center is claiming the enforcement of pot laws cost the state $22 million dollars a year, clogs up forensic labs, and as a kicker, they also claim that drug laws are racist.

— Madison County District Attorney dismisses the claims of racism and says law enforcement is just doing their jobs, “I can tell you law enforcement officials on the street do not care what color you are, they do not care whether you’re a man or a woman, if you’re breaking the law, they’re going to address it.”

5. Nick Saban endorses an old friend in West Virginia; Alabama liberals want him to endorse Walt Maddox here.

— Sen. Joe Manchin’s campaign in a red state looked to Saban, a native son and life-long friend, for a boost to swing voters in the state President Donald Trump won big.

— Every election year people wonder if Nick Saban will wade into Alabama politic; he never does even though some people fake it.

4. A Speaker Nancy Pelosi would make you pay if you disagree with her; an Alabama Democrat won’t support her if she is elected.

— Former Speaker Pelosi knows there is a good chance she will get her hand on the gavel again, and if she does there may be some pain. Pelosi said, “If there’s some collateral damage for some others who do not share our view, well, so be it, but it shouldn’t be our original purpose.”

— In what is becoming a bit of a ploy for Democrats looking to distance themselves from the national Democratic Party, Mallory Hagan who is running for Congress in Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers 3rd District, has declared she isn’t voting for Pelosi. Hagan said, “Sixteen years is too long for Mike Rogers and too long for Nancy Pelosi.”

3. George Soros involvement in Alabama elections is not as complicated as some are pretending.

— After a report that George Soros donated $200,000 to Tuscaloosa PACs this week, PACs that have given Mayor Walt Maddox $600k+ overall this cycle, people are equivocating, saying the PACs donated to Ivey in the past.

— The fact is PAC funding is a mess, the pass-through process is a joke, but the idea that Soros is giving Ivey money is comical deflection that no one with any scruples would try to make and Ivey’s response is perfect: “Bottom line is [if] George Soros puts $200 [thousand] in Alabama elections, for sure it’s not for conservatives like I am.”

2. Phase two of “The Governor is sick” rollout is underway, Maddox allies allege a cover-up, and he then demands it be explained.

— Phase one of this sad charade included revisiting a previous smear that Governor Kay Ivey is secretly-ill, but adding a twist of a grudge-holding former state employee who is also Maddox’s friend.

1. There was a shouting match at the White House over the plan to actually enforce our borders.

— White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton got into an argument over a proposed policy to step up border enforcement in the lead up to the election. Trump sided with Bolton and threatened to send the military to the border to stop a caravan of future illegal aliens.

— Trump’s threats of military action and cutting foreign aid payments have apparently pushed Mexico into attempting to stop the flow at their southern border; they are sending federal police and reaching out the UN for help.

Passion and purpose: How an Alabama based software company is helping the United Cajun Navy organize Hurricane Michael relief efforts

When Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle and parts of the Carolinas last week, Alabama native Hammond Cobb didn’t waste any time helping those tragically devastated by the storm.

Cobb called the United Cajun Navy, a well-known Louisiana volunteer group and immediately got to work mobilizing their team’s volunteer efforts with the help of his software company, Serquest.com

Cobb says Serquest is a “software system that is designed to put people into action faster.”

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Essentially a LinkedIn for nonprofits, Serquest gives organizations the ability to create an online ‘resume’ for their organization where they can list current volunteer opportunities and donation needs.

The United Cajun Navy has their urgent needs listed on Serquest.com. Groups of volunteers, individuals or corporations who want to assist Florida residents affected by Hurricane Michael can sign up or donate here.

Cobb says the United Cajun Navy a “democratic and lean volunteer network of people who save lives first, ask questions later and don’t ask for compensation for doing the right thing.”

He said government agencies can often be slow when it comes to helping people get what they need and by partnering with the Cajun Navy, he knew people would get the assistance they needed, and quickly.

“We help people now and do paper work later,” Cobb said.

In addition to hosting volunteer needs on his organization’s website, Cobb created inspirational video ads and public service announcements to encourage people to volunteer.

At the end of the day, Cobb said his mission for Serquest revolves around, “connecting people to people.” A nonprofit for nonprofits, he sees Serquest as a personal network centered approach to helping volunteer organizations.

5 hours ago

Sessions conducting ‘most aggressive campaign against leaks’ in DOJ history

After 39-year-old former FBI Special Agent Terry J. Albury was sentenced on Thursday to 48 months in the District of Minnesota in connection with his unauthorized disclosure and retention of classified national defense information, Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed the DOJ is in the process of “conducting perhaps the most aggressive campaign against leaks in Department history.”

“We are conducting perhaps the most aggressive campaign against leaks in Department history,” Sessions said in a release. “Crimes like the one committed by the defendant in this case will not be tolerated—they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and punished … Today’s sentence should be a warning to every would-be leaker in the federal government that if they disclose classified information, they will pay a high price.”

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According to court documents, Albury worked as a Special Agent in the FBI’s Minneapolis field office at the time of the disclosures, held a Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance and his daily duties provided him access to sensitive and classified FBI and other U.S. government information.

The court documents also say that, beginning in 2016 and continuing through August 2017, Albury knowingly and willfully disclosed national defense information, classified at the Secret level, to a reporter. Albury employed methods to avoid detection, including printing documents that he created by cutting and pasting portions of an original document into a new document so as to avoid leaving a record of having printed the original, classified document. Albury also accessed documents on a classified computer and took pictures of the computer screen in order to photograph certain classified documents. Those additional classified documents were recovered on an electronic storage device found during a search of his home.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn