The Surprising Way Alabama's Richest Man Spends His Money
Jimmy Rane gained a new title among his many others last year: Alabama's richest man.
Rane founded Great Southern Wood Preserving, a treated lumber company, and today the company is the largest of its kind in the world, according to Birmingham, Ala.'s Yellowhammer News, with $700 million in annual revenue. Rane, 69, serves as its CEO and owns 100% of the company, according to Forbes, which says Rane is worth $610 million.
So how does he spend all that money? According to multiple profiles, Rane has mostly concentrated on revitalizing his hometown of Abbeville, population 2,700.
"I've lived here all my life and my mother's family has been here more than 200 years," Rane told Yellowhammer News. "It's a very important place. Not just because it's home but because of the history of the town. Some of its people have made significant contributions to the country and to the world."
Abbeville's fortunes declined significantly in the wake of NAFTA's passing, which according to AL.com caused the West Point Pepperell textile mill to close, eliminating 1,400 jobs. By the late 1990s, downtown Abbeville looked "burned out and caved in," Rane said.
In stepped Rane, who opened a family style restaurant filled with collectibles, and led an initiative to build a convention center. Rane also saved a historic Standard Oil gas station in town and converted it into additional office space for his employees (Great Southern has about 1,000 stationed around the globe).
Rane also bought up vintage Abbeville signs of the town's and America's historic businesses — Buster Brown Shoes, Rexall Drugs, Philco, Mother Penn Motor Oil, Ford, among many others according to AL.com — and attached them to the buildings. He also reconstructed the facade of the Archie Theater, the mid-century auditorium where he used to watch western movies on Saturday afternoons.
"Walking around downtown is like a walk back in time," Rane said.
Rane is also known for being a booster of Auburn University, and has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans in Alabama and elsewhere, according to Mother Jones. He has also established a foundation to grant college scholarships.