Vice Chancellor for Economic Development
Josiah (Jo) Robins Bonner, Jr. is Vice Chancellor for Economic Development for The University of Alabama System.
He joined the UA System in August of 2013, initially holding a joint appointment for both Economic Development and Government Relations. In September 2015, Bonner was given sole responsibility for Economic Development. In making the announcement, then-Chancellor Robert Witt said, “This is a critically important time in the history of our state, and the UA System is extremely mindful of our leadership role in job creation, industrial recruitment and business retention. We are fully committed to doing everything we can to help Alabama continue to grow.”
As Vice Chancellor, Bonner works with the senior leadership on all three campuses that make up the UA System – The University of Alabama, The University of Alabama at Birmingham and The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Additionally, Bonner works on a daily basis with state, local and national leaders – in government, business and higher education – to advance The System’s strategic mission, building on existing relationships and developing new ones that will enhance the overarching mission of the state’s largest enterprise of higher education and help grow Alabama’s economy. The UA System has more than 100,000 students, faculty and staff and an annual economic impact upwards of $8 billion; without question, it is a powerful engine for economic development, job creation and breakthrough scientific research. He reports to Chancellor C. Ray Hayes and The UA System Board of Trustees.
For more than a decade, Bonner represented Alabama’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was first elected to 108th Congress in November 2002, and was successfully reelected to five additional terms. As a student at The University of Alabama, Bonner worked on Capitol Hill as an intern for Congressman Jack Edwards. After graduation, he returned to Washington as chief of staff and press secretary to Congressman Sonny Callahan. He parlayed his almost 18-years-experience as a staffer into a convincing win in a crowded Republican primary during the summer of 2002. Bonner never lost an election and ran unopposed in the November 2012 general election.
In Congress, Bonner earned a reputation as a respected and influential voice of reason in both Alabama and Washington. In addition to his service on the House Appropriations Committee, he was a member of three key subcommittees: Defense; Commerce, Justice & Science; and Financial Services. Widely respected on both sides of the aisle, Bonner was selected by House Speaker John Boehner for a six-year stint on the House Ethics Committee where he served as chairman during the 112th Congress.
While Bonner and his staff were well-known for having the state’s best constituent services, he devoted a significant amount of time to help turn around the sluggish economy of South Alabama. In 2012, the Mobile Press-Register called Bonner “a champion for South Alabama” and he is credited with playing a major role in helping land several significant economic development projects, including the $5 billion ThyssenKrupp project to Alabama in 2007, as well as helping secure $5 billion in contracts in 2010 for Austal to build 20 new ships for the U.S. Navy.
His crowning Congressional accomplishment came in 2012 when Airbus announced plans to build their first U.S. Final Assembly Line in Mobile. Over the years, Congressman Bonner developed a close personal friendship – and strategic partnership – with most of the top corporate leaders at Airbus, one of the world’s largest aerospace and defense companies. The Airbus project is valued at more than $600 million and is projected to bring at least 1,000 new jobs to Mobile alone.
Jo Bonner has received numerous awards including the Distinguished Public Service Award in 2013, the highest honor the U.S. Navy bestows on a civilian. In 2016, the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) created the inaugural “Congressman Jo Bonner Spirit of Leadership Award” and honored Bonner as its first recipient. He also received the 2012 “Governor Bob Riley Building a Better Alabama Award” by the BCA. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from The University of South Alabama for his distinguished record of public service in 2012. He serves on numerous boards around the state including the American Village Citizenship Trust, the Business Council of Alabama, the AlabamaGermany Partnership and is chairman of the Alabama School of Math and Science Foundation Board.
Bonner earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from The University of Alabama in 1982. He is married to the former Janée Lambert, of Mobile, and they are the parents of a daughter, Lee, age 21, and a son, Robins, age 18.