Power of Ten

Embracing the River

September 29, 2021

After graduating from the University of Tennessee in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management, Bob spent four years with the predecessor of EMJ Corporation as a construction superintendent building regional malls and shopping centers.


In 1978 at the age of 25, he founded Bencor Corporation, a general contracting firm that quickly expanded operations into 18 states around our country building retail, manufacturing, multi-family, and office building projects. In 1990, he sold the company to internal management.


In 1982, he founded the Corker Group, which acquired, developed, built, managed, and leased projects. In 1999, he acquired two large real estate holding companies and combined their operations with the Corker Group. In 2006, in preparation for service in the U.S. Senate, he sold the vast majority of the assets he owned at the time.


While building his companies, Bob was involved in multiple civic and nonprofit activities. Among those, in 1986 he cofounded and was Chairman of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, whose mission was to provide the opportunity for all Chattanoogan’s to have decent, fit, and affordable housing. Over 10,000 citizens have benefited from this effort.


Bob’s public service career is also extensive. He served as Commissioner of Finance and Administration for the state of Tennessee, where in addition to handling the state’s financial affairs, he acted as chief operating officer and also oversaw the state’s health care efforts, including the privatized Medicaid program called TennCare.


From 2001 to 2005, he served as mayor of Chattanooga in what became a highly transformative period for the city. Among other efforts, he led the development of the $120 million 21st Century Waterfront Project, created the vision for what has become Gig City, built — along with the county — Enterprise South Industrial Park, where Volkswagen’s North American manufacturing facility resides, and established Chattanooga as a leading outdoors destination.


From 2007 to 2019, he served in the United States Senate, becoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was a national and global thought leader on fiscal, financial, and foreign policy issues, leading TIME Magazine to name him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.


In January of 2019, he returned to business. He serves as chairman of Rise Ventures, which acquires, develops, manages, and leases both commercial and residential projects; is chairman of One-to-One Health, which operates health clinics for self-insured employers; and is a special advisor to Jefferies Financial Group, a global investment banking firm. He also serves on the advisory board for several philanthropic and policy-focused organizations, including the Aspen Economic Strategy Group. He and his family reside in his hometown of Chattanooga and his office is located in the historic Volunteer Building that he has owned since 1997.