The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail tells how a bold, imaginative investment by a public employee pension fund turned into a world-class tourist attraction that helped change the image and boost the economy of an entire state. The pension fund was the Retirement Systems of Alabama, and its alternative investment was in a string of golf courses and affiliated high-end hotels and spas. In business-speak, this was an "economically targeted investment" designed to diversify returns, create jobs, and increase tax revenue. Twenty-five years later, the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is known worldwide for the quality and beauty of its courses and the hospitality and elegance of its resorts. It has significantly increased Alabama's infrastructure for tourism and conventions, provided millions upon millions in new tax revenues, spurred construction of thousands of units of adjacent housing, and helped persuade other businesses to locate in the state. Making the Golf Trail a reality involved not only the initial vision of CEO David G. Bronner and his associates at RSA, but also the design genius and reputation of Robert Trent Jones Sr. and the hard work of many dedicated engineers and builders. It also required the cooperation of scores of local and state elected officials and economic developers. This book is the illustrated historical account of the financial, legal, political, and economic impact details of RSA's investment in the RTJ Golf Trail. Such a detailed history could not have been written without the years of economic analysis conducted by author Mark Fagan dating back to the earliest stages of the concept. Fagan's ongoing involvement with Dr. Bronner and those working to develop the Trail made possible the mammoth one-of-a-kind history that is presented in this book.
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About the Author
A lifelong Alabamian, Mark Fagan observed the negative aspects of his state's slow economic growth from the 1950s to the late '80s. But he also enjoyed the economic progress of the last three decades as the state began to act on its great potential. After earning undergraduate and doctorate degrees, he became a professor at Jacksonville State University, where for more than 32 years he researched and published on attracting retirees for economic development. He began promoting retirement development in Alabama in 1988 and helped create the Alabama Program to Attract Retirees. When the Retirement Systems of Alabama began investing in the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in 1990, Fagan conducted the economic impact projections and assisted in negotiations for some of the proposed sites. He collected information on the Trail's development for 22 years and then spent three years interviewing, reviewing documents, and compiling knowledge and illustrations. This book reports the why, who, when, what, and how of RSA's confident investment in Alabama. Now retired, Fagan lives with his wife, Pam, in Fairhope, Alabama, adjacent to one of the RSA golf complexes.