How Alabama can attract more entrepreneurs and start-ups

Alabama’s desire to drive economic growth through innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology has a clear roadmap for success through the work of dozens of Alabama’s public and private sector leaders.

These leaders gathered on October 14 in Montgomery for the final meeting of the Alabama Innovation Commission (AIC), also known as Innovate Alabama. The commission was established by Governor Kay Ivey in July 2020 to develop and execute strategies that will spur innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as to help attract and retain talent in Alabama.

“We need to be more strategic,” said Bill Poole, Alabama chief financial officer and president of AIC. “The new economy and the future economy will surround technology, innovation and research. We need to capitalize on the opportunities around us.

The Alabama Innovation Commission is gearing up for the future from the Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Poole and State Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed of Jasper, who serves as AIC’s vice-president, praised the committee members not only for coming up with a comprehensive plan of action, but for working together to implement the key elements of this plan during the last legislative session. The creation of the Alabama Innovation Corporation – a new entity to support statewide entrepreneurship, rural businesses, research and development in existing businesses, and access to advanced technical skills that will lead a future workforce – tops the list of achievements.

“We’ve done a great job as an innovation commission – for all the right reasons,” said Reed.

“We focused Alabama businesses, the Alabama legislature, elected officials on this idea of ​​an entrepreneurial ecosystem and the focus on growing high tech, keeping our most talented in Alabama. . The fact that we have raised this conversation so much higher than it has ever been in Alabama is truly the greatest accomplishment. “

Reed and Poole said AIC has been successful thanks to contributions from leaders in both the public and private sectors. Zeke Smith, executive vice president of external affairs for Alabama Power and chairman of the AIC Advisory Board, said the work was supported by support from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a think tank on public policies promoting the principles of individual, economic and political freedom. The group, led by Alabama-born Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State and AIC Advisory Board member, presented AIC with a set of ideas for growth and recommendations to AIC in May. policies.

“This partnership with the Hoover Institution and Stanford University, led by Dr. Rice, and the recommendations from the research and data they provide is something we are very proud and excited about,” Smith said. “We have now issued recommendations that we believe will make a big difference to the State of Alabama in the growth of this innovative, technology-based ecosystem.”

Among the recommendations approved by the members of the commission to be included in the final report:

  • Create a retention program targeting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) talent at universities and colleges in Alabama.
  • Create an accelerator program that will educate students and faculty to take academic research, business ideas, and technology from idea to licensed product.
  • Remove barriers to allow university professors to become stakeholders in startups.
  • Create and / or support programs designed to increase STEM and entrepreneurship offerings in K-12 schools in Alabama.
  • Create an aid program to fund non-profit organizations offering development / retraining programs for adults.
  • Market Alabama’s growing innovation ecosystem across the country.
  • Leverage Alabama’s outdoor recreation assets as a tool to attract and retain talent in the workforce.
  • Host a world-class summit for entrepreneurs and investors.
  • Develop regional mentoring networks for founders and business owners.
  • Support efforts to expand broadband across the state.
  • Create regional innovation hubs in Alabama that will fund and encourage collaboration to create and advance innovation-driven ecosystems.
  • Support efforts to create an Open Data Council to make non-sensitive data available to state agencies and members of the public.
  • Create a state R&D tax credit for certain targeted high growth industries.
  • Create an angel investor tax credit equal to 25% of an equity investment made in a qualifying high growth company.
  • Create two seed capital funds managed by the Alabama Innovation Corporation.
  • Create a $ 2 million annual grant program to provide non-dilutive working capital (growth capital) for high-growth businesses in need of additional financing.
  • The Alabama Innovation Corporation and the state are expected to team up to request and implement the state’s Federal Small Business Credit Initiative.

“The release of the final report with the recommendations is exciting,” said Poole. “The seeds have already been planted and we have already seen those first shoots, but can we bring these assets together, form public-private partnerships and implement a plan that leads to success? The State of Alabama must not only be present in this environment, but also competitive in this environment. “

AIC is due to deliver its final report to Ivey at the end of October. The full report will be posted on AIC’s website,

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