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Innovate Alabama board holds first meeting of the year

The board announced the creation of the Innovate Alabama network to connect entrepreneurs and businesses with resources.

The Innovate Alabama board holds its first meeting of the year at Troy University.

Innovate Alabama held its first board meeting of the year at Troy University on Tuesday. During the discussion, CEO Cynthia Crutchfield and board members shared progress on various programs within the organization’s three pillars to help innovators grow roots in Alabama: entrepreneurship and access to capital, talent attraction and retention, and outdoor recreation.

Entrepreneurship and Access to Capital

SSBCI Program

The Alabama Innovation Commission recommended that the State of Alabama apply for the federal State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) Program to provide needed resources to small businesses.  

The SSBCI program was established in 2010 and reupped in 2021 through the American Rescue Plan. SSBCI aims to spur private investment for entrepreneurial pursuits. 

Receiving SSBCI funding would provide needed resources to small and early-stage businesses and to support scaling of existing businesses.  

Innovate Alabama Network

Innovate Alabama will lead an initiative to create a statewide innovation ecosystem asset map that will aggregate resources into a database or app that will be accessible to innovators, entrepreneurs, students, and private citizens throughout the state. It can also be utilized as a recruitment tool for students and innovators outside the state who will more easily be able to see the resources and opportunities we have for them here. 

Mapping the innovation ecosystem will help to find gaps and missing connections that can help drive Alabama’s innovation economy. From these gaps, Innovate Alabama can help direct funding and partnership opportunities.

Innovation City Designation

In an effort to promote an alignment of resources and policy, Innovate Alabama will offer an Innovation City designation. This designation will come with recognition and opportunities to receive resources or coordinate with partner entities. Innovate Alabama will leverage best practices, precedents, and input from statewide leadership to define the metrics and goals of the designation.  

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An Innovation City designation with a meaningful value proposition for municipalities can drive local leadership, policy, and investment to support the economic development goals of Alabama.

Talent Attraction and Retention 

Fuel Alabama

One of the initiatives being implemented to attract and retain talent is the Fuel AL program being led by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA).  

Fuel AL will connect undergraduate and graduate students to a region and that region’s employers. At the same time, it will host workshops and networking events to engage students and present career and entrepreneur opportunities within the state.  

HBCU Engagement

With 14 HBCUs in the state, Alabama has more HBCUs than any other state in the nation.  Under leadership by former Alabama Innovation Commission member Charisse Stokes, Tidal IT Solutions has exposed students to technology and innovation by strategically facilitating programs and events to attract and retain tech talent while encouraging entrepreneurship as a career option.  

Innovate Alabama will leverage their successes to intensify attraction and retention of HBCU students.  

Innovation Scholars Program

The Innovation Scholars Program (called the Eminent Scholars Program in the Alabama Innovation Commission report) is a public-private endowment program to fund research for eminent scholars working areas of commercial viability.  

This program provides a double benefit to the state as it positions our universities to recruit and retain top-tier technology-focused faculty and staff while also creating patent activity that will retain Alabama’s position as a leader in innovation. 

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Outdoor Recreation

Lifestyle and Outdoor Recreation

A primary takeaway from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution’s research amplifies the need to leverage Alabama’s natural resources and robust outdoor recreation landscape to help attract innovators to the state.  

The Innovate Alabama Council on Outdoor Recreation was created to address this opportunity. The Advisory Roundtable was then established to inform and support the council’s efforts to expand, promote, and protect Alabama’s outdoor recreational assets for enjoyment of current and future Alabamians.  

The Council and its Advisory Roundtable completed a survey to report on the needs and opportunities in this area and provide recommendations for the utilization of Alabama’s outdoor assets as innovative economic development tools. 

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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