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Economy

Regions joins group focused on diversity and inclusion

Eddie Burkhalter

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Regions Bank recently announced that the Fortune 500 company has joined a list of corporations and universities that pledge to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. 

Birmingham-based Regions in June became the first financial institution in Alabama to join with the coalition CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, which runs the program. 

Regions president John Turner in statement on Business Wire on June 20 said that the beast teams are diverse and inclusive. 

“Diversity and inclusion are not only fundamental to our corporate strategy; Regions truly values and benefits from the diversity of its associates, customers and the communities we serve,” Turner said. 

The more than 750 CEOs who have signed the pledge work in more than 85 industries in all 50 states, according to the nonprofit. 

Pledging CEOs promise to: 

  1. Continue to cultivate a workplace that supports open dialogue on diversity and inclusion
  2. Implement and expand unconscious bias educational trainings
  3. Share best practices – and lessons learned – with the collective business community
  4. Create and share strategic inclusion and diversity plans with board of directors. 

Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers, first proposed the idea for CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion in 2016 after a series of police shootings of black men in the U.S., according to Fortune Magazine. Those shootings prompted Ryan to start a dialogue in his own company about race and diversity, then spread those conversations to CEO’s across the country through the nonprofit. 

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About 78 percent of CEO’s who responded to an end-of-year survey said the program had a positive impact on their companies’ diversity and inclusion, According to Fortune magazine

Regions is joined in the program by two other Alabama-based companies — Vulcan Materials Company and Protective Life Corporation — as well as The University of Alabama. 

Regions in 2018 created a new role when the company hired Clara Green as head of diversity and inclusion, and in January, the company was named among the top 250 companies in Forbes Magazine’s Best Employers for Diversity list, which ranked companies through anonymous surveys to American workers. 

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Evelyn Mitchell, senior vice president of media relations and issues management at Regions, in an email to APR on Monday wrote that the bank had diversity and inclusion programs in place for some time before signing on to the pledge. 

“However, we are expanding our focus on this area both internally and externally,” Mitchell said. 

Some of the work Regions has already done include the introduction of an expanded diversity and Inclusion internal training program, the launch an internal program meant to create a dialogue on diversity called “Conversations with Clara” and work meant to create pathways to attract, develop and retain diverse talent. 

“This also includes creating a platform to expand our reach to other diverse populations, such as veterans and those that are differently-abled,” Mitchell said. 

“We’re inspired by all CEOs who have taken the pledge and want to advance diversity and inclusion in their organizations,” wrote JC Lapierre,  CEO Action strategy leader, in an email to APR on Monday.

Now in its third year, the program continues to develop ways to engage the partnering CEOs and drive meaningful progress on diversity and inclusion issues, Lapierre wrote, including:

  • A peer network of nearly 2,000 CEOs and C-suite leaders that engage in shared learning of ideas and challenges.
  • Creation of free strategic resources and a public database of more than 700 examples of signatory programs and initiatives.
  • Hosting the largest conversation about bias and understanding in the workplace, engaging more than 615,000 signatory employees around the world.
  • Expanded the reach of unconscious bias education in our workplaces and communities through the Check Your Blind Spots tour. An immersive, tech-enabled nationwide unconscious bias educational tour, it has reached tens of thousands of people and inspired them to personally act on inclusion.

The  coalition is currently in the process of planning a third CEO closed-door session, to take place in November in New York City.

“This annual gathering is an opportunity for CEOs to identify short and long-term actions that they can achieve within their own organizations and as a collective to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace,” Lapierre wrote.

As companies and universities look to address matters of race, sexual orientation, age and gender identity in their hiring and promotion practices and interactions with customers, some state governments don’t seem to accurately represent the people that they represent. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures and the Pew Charitable Trusts in a joint 2015 report found that women made up 14 percent of the Alabama’s legislators, while females made up about half of the state’s population. Alabama tied with South Carolina in that statistic. 

Only three other contiguous U.S. states had fewer female legislators in 2015, which were Louisiana, Oklahoma and Wyoming. 

White lawmakers made up 75 percent of Alabama’s Legislature in 2015, according to the report, while 24 percent were black, which was higher than the national average of 8 percent.

 

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Economy

ADECA names Elaine J. Fincannon as new deputy director

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Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell announced on Thursday that Elaine J. Fincannon has been appointed as the agency’s deputy director.

Fincannon most recently served as Senior Vice President for Investor Relations for the Business Council of Alabama. She worked with BCA for over 25 years as part of its senior team, working with a diverse range of business leaders and CEOs of Alabama’s largest employers. During that time, she also served as BCA’s liaison to Alabama’s trade associations and to the more than 100 chambers of commerce throughout the state. She also served on the President’s Committee and Corporate Partners Committee for the Alabama Automotive Manufacturer’s Association and was a part of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association’s membership committee.

“Elaine Fincannon’s extensive knowledge and experience with the public and private sector in our state made her an ideal choice to be ADECA’s new deputy director, and I am pleased that she has decided to bring those talents to the agency,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “Elaine is mission-focused, forward-thinking and detailed-oriented, which are the exact skills needed to serve as deputy director of ADECA. She and I will work closely together to continue supporting Gov. Ivey’s mission of improving the lives of all Alabamians.”

Fincannon is an active member of the community, serving as a member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League of Montgomery, the Montgomery Humane Society, Auburn University Montgomery Alumni Association and other volunteer efforts. She also served as a member of the American Society of Association Executives and was an officer of the Association of State Chamber Professionals. She has a bachelor’s degree of science from AUM and was honored with a Distinguished Chamber Professional Award in 2019 by the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.

Fincannon joins ADECA with a focus on working with Boswell to meet the agency’s mission to strengthen and support local communities.

“It is an honor to join ADECA during this time, and I am grateful to Director Boswell and Gov. Ivey for this appointment,” Fincannon said. “I plan to work diligently to serve the people of Alabama to the absolute best of my ability.”

 

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Alabama Workforce Council delivers annual report touting improved career pathways

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The Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) recently delivered its Annual Report to Gov. Kay Ivey and members of the legislature. The report highlights the many and varied workforce successes from 2019. It also outlines policy recommendations to further solidify Alabama as a leader in workforce development and push the state closer to Ivey’s goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the state’s workforce by 2025.

Gov. Ivey acknowledged the recent progress stating, “the continued efforts of the AWC and the various state agency partners in transforming our workforce are substantial. Significant work has been accomplished to ensure all Alabamians have a strong start and strong finish. We will continue to bolster our state’s economy through dynamic workforce development solutions to help us reach our ambitious goal.”

The AWC, formed in 2015, was created as an employer-led, statewide effort to understand the structure, function, organization and perception of the Alabama workforce system. The goal of the AWC is to facilitate collaboration between government and industry to help Alabama develop a sustainable workforce that is competitive on a global scale. 

“This report details the tremendous efforts of the dedicated AWC members and their partners who have greatly contributed to the progress of building a highly-skilled workforce.” noted Tim McCartney, Chairman of the AWC. “To meet ever-growing job needs of an expanding economy, we have put forth recommendations to bring working-age Alabamians sitting on the sidelines back into the workforce to address our low workforce participation rate.”

Included among the many highlights from the report are:

  • Created the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship to support apprenticeships and work-based learning statewide.
  • Established the Alabama Committee on Credentialing & Career Pathways (ACCCP) to identify credentials of value that align with in-demand career pathways across Alabama.
  • Furthered foundational work toward cross-agency outcome sharing through the Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS).
  • Commissioned statewide surveys to better understand the characteristics, and potential barriers, of the priority population groups (during record-low unemployment) identified as likely to enter or re-enter the state’s workforce. 
  • Provided technical assistance, support staff and grant writing services to a cohort of over 30 nonprofits from across the state enabling them to expand services and directly connect more Alabamians to training and economic opportunity. Services helped cohort members secure over $6.4 million in grant money through various out-of-state grant programs.
  • Identified and evaluated 17 population segments of potential workers and determined the likelihood of adding members of those respective population segments into the workforce. Within this process, issues affecting the state’s labor participation rate were also detailed. 

Vice-Chair of the AWC Sandra Koblas of Austal USA commented, “the energy around workforce development in Alabama right now is incredibly exciting. We are working together with businesses, nonprofits and agency partners to reduce barriers, increase opportunities and grow the state’s overall economy.”

The full report can be viewed here.

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To learn more about the Alabama Workforce Council please visit: www.alabamaworks.com/alabama-workforce-council

 

 

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Shelby announces $733,150 ARC POWER Grant for Opportunity Alabama

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Wednesday announced that Opportunity Alabama, Inc., a nonprofit initiative in Birmingham, Alabama, is the recipient of a $733,150 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant.  This grant will fund the Creating Opportunity for Alabama (COAL) Initiative.

“ARC’s decision to award this funding to Opportunity Alabama will help significantly boost private investment and business development throughout our state’s coal-impacted communities,” said Senator Shelby.  “I am proud this nonprofit initiative is working to help our local communities understand and capitalize on Opportunity Zones.  These federal funds will facilitate an improved quality of life in Appalachian Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs and dozens of new businesses.”

“Opportunity Zones, and the private investment they incentivize, are helping uplift communities throughout the Appalachian Region,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas.  “Opportunity Alabama is working to ensure communities understand and are able to capitalize on this program to improve Appalachian Alabama, and this POWER investment will have a big impact on that mission.”

 The project will create an investment funding and business development ecosystem targeted to the federally designated Opportunity Zones in 36 coal-impacted counties in Alabama.  As a result of the ARC grant, Opportunity Alabama will work with a team of local, state, and national partners in a three-phased approach.  The first phase will work on building a local capacity to effectively prepare for and attract Opportunity Zone investments, focusing particularly on rural communities.  The second phase will create a pipeline of investment opportunities to attract substantial private investment by facilitating demand studies, environmental assessments, and construction cost estimates.  The third and final phase will focus on developing and implementing an impact-investment data collection and analysis process to make it easier for investors to deploy their capital.

This project will yield 250 new jobs, create 25 new businesses, and leverage $100 million in private investment.  In addition to the federal grant provided for the project, Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Foundation are expected to provide private financial support.

Opportunity Alabama is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in Alabama’s Opportunity Zones.

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State Sen. Andrew Jones files bill to eliminate grocery tax

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State Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries.

Jones’ bill, Senate Bill 144, is different from other recent efforts to eliminate the grocery tax in that his proposal would be revenue neutral and also neutral to the State Education Trust Fund.  In other words, the State of Alabama and the Education Trust Fund would neither gain money nor lose money if SB144 passes. 

“The grocery tax is a regressive tax which penalizes hardworking families in Alabama,” Jones said. “At least 38 states and the District of Columbia have full or partial sales tax exemptions for groceries.  It is important to me that we eliminate this out-dated tax which disproportionately affects lower income Alabamians.”

Jones’ bill pays for the loss of sales tax revenue by capping the federal income tax deduction on Alabama state income taxes. Alabama is one of only 6 states that allow such a deduction.

“It was important to me to have a revenue-neutral proposal that did not result in a loss to our education budget,” Jones continued. “Grocery sales taxes fund our education budget, as does state income tax.  By implementing an FIT deduction cap, funding for our education budget remains unchanged.”  

Under Jones’ proposal, individuals would still be able to take a FIT deduction of up to $6000 and Married Couples filing jointly would still be able to deduct up to $12,000.  

“In layman’s terms,” Jones continued, “a family of 4 making under $134,800 would still be able to take their full FIT deduction. An individual filing as head of family making less that $70,700 would still be able to take their full FIT deduction. Finally, a person filing as single or married filing separately making less than $58,300 would still be able to take their full FIT deduction.” 

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While everyone would benefit from no grocery tax, Jones noted that working families would benefit two-fold.

“Our blue-collar Alabamians will not only get to avoid paying taxes on groceries,” said Jones, “they will also not pay a dime more in income taxes.  SB144 will result in more money staying in their pocketbooks. I encourage everyone who supports this effort to contact your local legislator and ask them to support SB144.”   

Constitutional amendments require a 3/5ths vote of both the House and Senate and must then be approved by a majority of Alabama voters.

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