The Harbert Construction Corporation was a construction company founded in 1946 by John M. Harbert. It became the central business around which the multi-armed Harbert Corporation grew, and was eventually sold off to Raytheon Engineering in 1993.
Harbert founded the company shortly after returning home from World War II and graduating from Auburn University. He purchased some surplus construction equipment from the U. S. Army and used subcontracted labor for his first small bridge projects. His brother B. L. Harbert and two other engineers joined the firm before it was incorporated in 1949.
The company's first major project was a five-span bridge, partly built with war surplus, that still stands in Autauga County. During the next decade the company expanded rapidly to meet post-war demand for heavy infrastructure construction. Their contract to construct a natural gas pipeline in Florida in the 1950s opened the door for the company to diversify into real-estate development. The company also established a resource exploration and development division which opened coal mines and limestone quarries in Kentucky. The pipeline business and another barge-operating venture were spun off as Five Flags Pipeline Company and Harcon Barge Company respectively.
In the 1960's Harbert Construction built the Elton B. Stephens Expressway. The company also constructed a portion of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Mississippi and took over operations of the Harriman Coal Terminal. Harbert sold its coal operations to Standard Oil in 1981 for $400 million. With that capital, the Corporation invested heavily in oil exploration through the newly-formed Harbert Energy Corporation.
Harbert was a partner in the realization of the Riverchase planned mixed-use development in Hoover and constructed its own headquarters office in the development in 1976. Ten years later, Harbert served as general contractor for the Riverchase Galleria. The company constructed the 32-story AmSouth-Harbert Plaza in downtown Birmingham in 1989.
In the same decade, Harbert Corporation became involved in securities and investment banking with its Harbert Capital Services subsidiary. It's simultaneous expansion into power generation led to the creation of Harbert-Cogen, Inc. and Harbert Resource Recovery, a joint-venture with a French waste-management company.
John Harbert stepped down in 1990, promoting his son Raymond president and CEO of the company. He sold to company's oil and gas assets in 1992 in order to focus on power generation with alternative fuels. In 1993 the construction division was sold to Raytheon Engineering. Harbert's real estate and capital divisions now do business as Harbert Management Corporation. A new construction company, B. L. Harbert International, was formed in 2000 by Billy Harbert, Jr.