By Lee Allen –
2017 FATHER OF THE YEAR HONOREE
Alan Lee Levin – “Butch” to those who know him well – is as plain-spoken and down-to-earth as his favorite attire, a checkered shirt, jeans and brogans.
“I don’t own a tuxedo and I have only one suit and that’s for special occasions,” he said; ergo, what you see is what you get, and what you get is a small-town Midwestern farm boy, independent and self-confident since the age of 12 when that boy became a man and learned early that failure wasn’t an option.
He grew up to become a very successful Tucson businessman who will be honored as a 2017 Father of the Year by the Father’s Day Council Tucson on May 19.
Coming from German stock, Alan’s father and grandfather were very industrious as well as what Levin called bone-headed.
“Dad farmed about 6,000 acres. One day when he and grandpa were putting away the mules, my dad’s dad had a heart attack and died in his arms. So my father’s childhood was rough with lots of early responsibilities. He’d never talk about things that bothered him, so he worked hard during the days and drank hard at night. If he’d been drinking the night before, when the help showed up in the morning, I’d assign their day’s work. I was 12 years old.”
Levin admits that as the oldest of seven children, he was pressed into service early and despite all his hard work, “my dad would never, ever, compliment me to my face for a job well done.”
Levin decided to be a different kind of parent when his three children – Matt, Mike and Laura – came along.
“Unlike how my dad treated me, I compliment my kids, although they have to earn those compliments. One child ended up in a sheriff’s patrol car one night after a DUI charge. I talked to that child, reminded them that actions have consequences, and while I would be there for them, be a supportive parent, I wouldn’t be punitive. They needed to realize the impact of what they’d done and how they’d correct that action, and they did.
“Today, I couldn’t do the family-owned Port of Tucson project without them. They’ve become my support group and if I died tomorrow, I know everything we’ve built would be in good hands.”
What the Levin clan built is the Port of Tucson, Arizona’s only active inland port, a location for international container shipments and the Century Park Research Center for warehousing, manufacturing and distribution. It’s located on 770 acres on South Kolb Road north of Interstate 10. Over a million square feet have been developed in the Foreign Trade Zone that includes access to a two-mile rail siding.
“I had a vision for this place and initially invested $8 to $9 million in startup funding. I never built this place for the money. I did it because it was something that made sense and nobody else had thought of it. Plus, with my mechanical engineering background, I like to build things, and with my Midwest mentality, I know that if you don’t do it yourself, it’s not going to get done. Businesswise, I’ve been blessed.”
If not driven by money or power, what is his motivator? “It’s a good question and I don’t have a ready answer,” he said. “I do know that part of the broad motivation involves helping other people and this business allows me to do so.”
Help comes in the form of jobs at the Port of Tucson. “I like teaching young people how to do things because they don’t have an opportunity to learn job skills in school and not everybody’s going on to college.”
Of those who do, the Levin family, for nearly 20 years, has provided scholarship funding – $200,000 last year alone – for deserving students at his former high school who commit to four-year studies. There are no grade requirements, just staying on until graduation.
“My grandmother taught me that whenever you’ve been blessed, you pass those blessings along and that’s been a lifelong theme for my wife and me during our 50-year marriage.”
Levin looks forward to future opportunities to share his value system and parenting style with his eight grandchildren that he said he “absolutely adores.”