To some, the word “green” indicates a lack of knowledge or experience. Although Mike Jenkins is certainly green, with more than 40 years in the brick industry he is anything but inexperienced. As the fourth generation at the helm of Jenkins Brick Co., he helped revolutionize the brick-making process in 1998, becoming one of the industry’s first manufacturers to use landfill gas rather than natural gas for firing the kilns. Jenkins Brick is the largest user of earth-friendly methane gas in the brick industry, and the company also harvests stormwater from the roofs of its manufacturing plants for use during production.
As worker-friendly as he is environmentally conscious, Jenkins treats his employees in an exemplary manner. From corporate executives to workers stacking brick, everyone is an “associate,” and each associate receives the same benefits. Everyone at Jenkins Brick is on a first-name basis, and Jenkins ensures equal treatment of all associates.
Jenkins has not always been an experienced and resourceful leader in the brick industry, however. In 1960, the 18-year-old graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Alabama. Jenkins attended Washington and Lee University in Virginia and graduated in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and four years of ROTC training. He was then commissioned by the U.S. Army and served two years of active duty in Korea as an infantry officer. Jenkins received his parachutist badge as well as the Expert Infantryman Badge, and he was the only officer below the rank of major to receive the Army Commendation Medal during the 13-month tour.
After an honorable discharge in November 1966, Jenkins began his career with Jenkins Brick Co., a business founded in the late 1800s by his great-grandfather. Jenkins learned every aspect of the family trade, beginning in sales and working his way up to plant manager. He also continued his education, earning a master’s degree in ceramic engineering from Clemson University in 1969. In 1974, Jenkins advanced to the position of chief executive officer of the company, which at that time had three distribution locations in Alabama and Florida. Today, Jenkins Brick operates in nearly 30 locations throughout the Southeast, manufacturing and distributing its own brick as well as brick and building materials manufactured by others.
Jenkins Brick Co. has plants in Coosada, Montgomery, and St. Clair County in Alabama, which together produce more than 326 million bricks annually. In 1998, the plant in Montgomery was converted to run on landfill gas, and it now produces 110 million bricks each year while saving energy and benefitting the environment. The Coosada plant, originally built in 1959, began to produce high-end specialty brick in 2004 and makes 80 million bricks annually.
In 2006, Jenkins Brick built the St. Clair County facility, placing it just six miles from the local landfill so the kilns could be fueled with the methane gas produced by the waste.
The company’s current use of landfill methane reduces greenhouse gases each year in an amount equal to planting 14,700 acres of forest, removing the emission of 13,700 vehicles, or preventing the use of 166,000 barrels of oil.
Throughout the years, Jenkins Brick CO. has been recognized numerous times for outstanding business and environmental practices. The United States Environmental Protective Agency awarded Jenkins Brick with the 2006 Project of the Year, honoring the company’s earth-friendly plant in St. Clair County. Jenkins Brick was selected as one of 11 businesses worldwide to participate in a Harvard University study called “The Project on Global Working Families.” The green-minded Jenkins Brick is also a two-time recipient of the Alabama Wildlife Federation Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award for Air Conservationist of the Year, receiving the honor in 1999 and again in 2007. Jenkins Brick also received the Alabama Technology Council and Business Council of Alabama award for Medium Manufacturer of the Year in 2007. The same year, the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts, a national nonprofit organization uniting business and the arts, recognized the company’s involvement in the arts in Montgomery with the 2007 Business in the Arts Award. Then in 2008, Jenkins Brick received MAX Credit Union’s EcoMax Green Leadership Award and was also named among Inc. Magazine’s Top 5,000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America.
Jenkins, like his company, has amassed several awards for business leadership and community service. In 1999, Jenkins’ alma mater, Washington and Lee University, selected him as one of 250 leading alumni in honor of the school’s 250th anniversary. Jenkins’ high school, Sidney Lanier, honored him with the title of Outstanding Alumnus. Jenkins received the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award from the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Community Leadership Association awarded him its Distinguished Leadership Award. In 2008, the Montgomery Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognized Jenkins’ outstanding contributions to the architectural profession, awarding him the Mike Barrett Memorial Award. Most recently, Jenkins receive the highest honor in his industry, the Brick Institute of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jenkins has not only served as the leader of his company for decades but he has also been involved in numerous civic and service organizations, generously giving his time and leadership to the community. In the past, Jenkins acted as director and vice chairman of both the Montgomery Area United Way and the Montgomery Red Cross, and he directed the United Way’s 1999 capital campaign. He also served as a trustee for both the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind Foundation and the Nature Conservancy of Alabama. As a co-founder and an original steering committee member, Jenkins contributed to the formation of Leadership Montgomery and is co-founder, past chairman, and current director of Leadership Alabama, organizations that foster relationships that bridge social and ethnic boundaries. He is a past director of Jackson Hospital, the National Episcopal Church Foundation, and the Montgomery Area YMCA.
Over the years, Jenkins has been involved in several educational causes throughout the state and the country. He was a director of the alumni board at Washington and Lee and served on the board of governors for the Alabama Association of Private Colleges and Universities. He served as president and board chairman of Montgomery Academy, and he served as a director of the Montgomery City-Council Public Library.
In business, Jenkins has served as chairman of the Rebel Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization and director of the Society of International Business Fellows. He is a former chairman of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, a former director and vice chairman of the Alabama Association of Business and Industry, and a director of the Business Council of Alabama.
Currently, Jenkins continues to lead in numerous organizations. He serves as a director of the Alabama Archives and History Foundation and is a trustee of the Alabama Archives Museums. Jenkins also serves as director and vice-chairman of the Brick Industry Association and director of the Business Council of Alabama. In education, he is a director of the Alabama State University Foundation and a trustee of Huntingdon College. Jenkins also holds memberships in the Chief Executive Organization, the Society of International Business Fellows, and the World President’s Organization.
In 2007, the position of president of Jenkins Brick was filled by someone Jenkins wholeheartedly trusts: his son, Mike Jenkins V. The senior Jenkins said he did not want his son to feel forced into the family business. “I was very conscious to neither discourage nor encourage him to choose this path,” he said. But the younger Jenkins chose the brickmaking profession and worked his way through the ranks of the company. Jenkins said, “Seeing my soon now as an integral part of the company is one of the great pleasures of life.”
Jenkins and his wife, Kent, have four children and 11 grandchildren. He lives in Montgomery where he continues to serve as CEO and chairman of Jenkins Brick Co.