SouthBound - Summer 2017

Twenty-five years of touting the South

By Michael Randle, EDITOR

THIS IS THE 100TH EDITION of Southern Business & Development, the economic development magazine of the American South, the world’s fourth largest economy. Since we are published quarterly, that means this issue represents the 25th year of SB&D. Note our masthead at the bottom of this page. Yep, there it is, Volume 25/Number 1.


I started SB&D after founding, publishing and eventually selling the Birmingham Business Journal and a few other local business publications in Birmingham, Ala. During those years, I began a friendly relationship with Steve Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine. Ironically, Forbes is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.


Originally, Southern Business & Development was titled Southern Business and it was going to be a general-reach business publication about the South. I discussed the idea with Steve, as I wanted his input in what would essentially be a Forbes-style magazine with regional content. I was still only in my mid-30s and really had no idea how to launch a national magazine. He told me to take my time and take my idea on the road, which I did for six months.


It didn’t take long for me to realize that I did not have the resources to publish a “Southern Forbes.” That would take way too many employees and my startup fund wasn’t nearly large enough. So I called Steve back and asked if he would consider investing in my new idea. He said he wasn’t making any new investments and told me, “Michael, you are not going to believe what I am preparing to do.” He would run for President in 1996 and again in 2000, so I started SB&D on my own in 1992.  


During those first six months of pitching my idea, I visited several dozen economic development agencies to learn more about the industry. After all, BMW had announced its intentions to build a plant in South Carolina in June 1992, while we were in deadline for the first issue. There was considerable excitement throughout the economic development community in the South and I thought to myself, “Man, these economic developers are like rock stars.”


One particular meeting occurred in the spring of 1992 when I dropped in on Michael Olivier, then the CEO of the Harrison County Development Commission in Gulfport, Miss. Olivier went on to tell me that the South needed its own economic development publication. After all, Olivier said, the South was the fastest growing region in the country and most Southern states were highly successful in capturing industry, primarily from Northern states.


So, shortly after six months of travel and pitching my idea, a magazine — about economic development in the South, read mainly by CEOs from up North — was born. To this day, our readership is primarily decision makers from outside the region.


While there isn’t anything in this issue but my editorial that celebrates our 25th year, in the next four issues and on our websites —, and — you are going to read plenty of material about our 25th anniversary. In the spring issue of next year, a really cool time line of major economic development events in the South over the last 25 years will be published.


I would like to thank all of our supporters, advertisers, readers and companies who have invested in the South, and the 2,000 some-odd economic developers I have met and visited in those 25 years. You have made the South’s economy what it is today, and the last 25 years have seen remarkable growth in the region. Thanks, again.

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Montgomery AL 36117