Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced the establishment of Alabama’s first statewide commission on entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Alabama Innovation Commission, known as Innovate Alabama, is a platform for innovators to engage policymakers, exchange ideas and identify policies that promote innovation.
“Through the establishment of the Alabama Innovation Commission, I look forward to collaborating with our state’s leading innovators to develop a long-term strategy to create a more resilient, inclusive and robust economy,” Ivey said. “Alabama has always had a rich tradition of developing technologies to move our state forward. Now more than ever, we must capitalize on future opportunities by engaging our state’s trailblazers to discuss new ideas and policies that support entrepreneurship, economic development and jobs.”
RELATED: 6 trends fueling Alabama’s economic growth in 2020 and beyond
The commission will examine policies to increase entrepreneurship, spur innovation and enhance technology accelerators, in addition to addressing the challenges and red tape that startup companies often face. It also will produce and present a comprehensive innovation policy agenda to the Office of the Governor and the Alabama Legislature. State Rep. Bill Poole is chairman of the commission and Sen. Greg Reed is vice chairman.
Gov. Kay Ivey announces Alabama Innovation Commission from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.
“I’m inspired by the potential for future growth in our state’s innovation community and look forward to continued momentum and growth in this sector,” Poole said. “The Alabama Incentives Modernization Act set into motion a new set of incentives that will help grow, attract and retain startups and technology companies in the state. Forming the Alabama Innovation Commission is a critical step to further create policies that will ensure Alabama’s competitiveness in the technology and startup sector.”
RELATED: More innovation and technology startups moving to Alabama
RELATED: Commerce secretary says Alabama needs new economic development plan
“Through this commission, we hope to tap into the potential for the state to become a hub for startups and technology-based companies,” added Reed. “I look forward to working with the Alabama Innovation Commission to encourage collaboration, public-private partnerships and smart policies that promote access to opportunity and create a pipeline for success in all corners of the state.”
The Alabama Innovation Commission has a six-member advisory council of innovation leaders with Alabama ties. Alabama Power Executive Vice President Zeke Smith is president of the advisory council. Former U.S. secretary of state and incoming director of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution Condoleezza Rice serves on the advisory council.
“Alabama is home to me, and I am honored to serve on the advisory council for the Alabama Innovation Commission,” Rice said. “While our country currently faces many challenges, this is an opportunity to create forward-thinking ideas and policies that will inspire the next generation of innovators. By focusing on knowledge-based skills and education, technology growth and entrepreneurship, we unlock the potential for future success across the state.”
RELATED: Techstars, Alabama Power and state leaders join forces on EnergyTech Accelerator
RELATED: Alabama universities tackling state’s economic growth challenges
“The Alabama Innovation Commission will provide a tremendous opportunity to partner with leaders from the public and private sectors to grow our great state,” said Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA). “The focus on innovation to deliver sustainable growth will benefit our entire state through new solutions and more job opportunities. I am excited to play an important role in building Alabama’s future.”
The commission will convene online Aug. 13.
Today, I’m proud to announce the creation of the Alabama Innovation Commission, our first statewide commission for innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. #InnovateAlabama #alpolitics https://t.co/60DFJp1rI1 pic.twitter.com/y1n4Kp275O
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) July 16, 2020
Commission members are:
• Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) serves in the Alabama House of Representatives. A native of Marengo County,he was first elected in 2010 and is chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Budget Committee and the Tuscaloosa County Legislation Committee. Poole was sponsor of the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act, a critical law focused on making the state more attractive to tech-based companies and entrepreneurs.
• Reed (R-Jasper) was first elected to the Alabama Senate in 2010 and is the majority leader. He is a native of Jasper and a member of the Rules, Jefferson County Legislation, Confirmations, Transportation and Energy, Healthcare and Local Legislation committees. Reed was Senate sponsor of the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act.
• Scott Adams is executive vice president and chief digital & innovation officer of Protective Life Corporation. He leads Protective’s community engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility activities, as well as oversees several corporate functions, including the Protective Life Foundation, brand and social engagement and corporate communications. In addition, he works with executive leadership on the development of strategy and innovation in support of growth initiatives.
• Barker in his role at EDPA supports business recruitment and expansion efforts in Alabama and promotes innovative and emerging startup companies through EDPA’s Alabama Launchpad program. A veteran in economic development, he has more than 35 years of experience leading recruitment, expansion and innovation efforts in the Southeast. Prior to joining EDPA, he served at Alabama Power in economic development, most recently as executive vice president of Customer Services. Barker is on the board of directors for business and economic development organizations, including the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UAB, Opportunity Alabama and Innovation Depot.
• Lindsay Rane Carter is associate general counsel for Great Southern Wood Preserving, makers of YellaWood. An alumna of Auburn University and Jones School of Law, Carter represents one of the most profitable businesses to come out of Alabama.
• Rick Clementz is general counsel and corporate secretary for Mercedes-Benz US International Inc. Trained as an engineer, he manages employment, liability defense, patent defense, all contracts and international law for Mercedes-Benz International in Vance. MBUSI exports more than $1 billion annually in finished product. MBUSI employs 3,800 Alabamians and is the sole distribution site for the GLE, GLS, GLE Coupe models sold in 135 countries.
• Rep. Jeremy Gray has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2018 representing District 83. A native of Opelika, he is on the Commerce and Small Business, Health, Lee County, and Public Safety and Homeland Security committees.
• Miller Girvin is CEO of Alabama Capital Network (ACN), a community economic development organization with the mission to facilitate growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Alabama. She connects Alabama-based companies with valuable resources and connections and facilitates relationships with venture capital to continue upward trajectory.
• Abe Harper is president and CEO of Harper Technologies, a comprehensive IT support and consulting firm based in Mobile. He has been working in the IT industry since he was a teenager and has expanded his business from serving residential clients to serving small-to-medium-sized businesses, nonprofits and government entities throughout Mobile and Baldwin counties, as well as surrounding counties in neighboring states.
• Shegun Otulana is founder of TheraNest and its parent company, Therapy Brands, a leading provider of software technology solutions for mental, behavioral and rehab health providers and organizations. In 2020, he stepped down as CEO and currently serves as vice chairman of the board. Prior to Therapy Brands, Shegun founded Zertis Technologies, a computer software consultancy company. He is founder/CEO of HVL, an idea and growth studio that owns and operates a family of technology companies.
• Peggy Sammon is CEO of GeneCapture, Inc., a startup medical device company at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. She is an experienced entrepreneur with a background in multiple high-tech startups in environmental monitoring, wireless and biotech.
• Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier is a Selma native and has served in the Alabama Senate since 2018. She is a member of the Finance and Taxation, Education, Judiciary, Governmental Affairs, Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development, Children Youth and Human Services and Veterans and Military Affairs committees.
• Arndt Siepmann is deputy director of Economic Development for the city of Auburn. He has worked in various economic development corporations, including on a regional and state level. He started the Entrepreneurship and Technology Program for Auburn and leads the Auburn Regional Launchpad competition. Siepmann also works with the Auburn University Harbert College of Business to support student entrepreneurship efforts.
• Charisse Stokes is executive director of TechMGM, the collaboration of local, industry, educational and governmental entities working to leverage Montgomery’s technology assets to focus on economic, workforce and community development. Over the past 20 years, Stokes has held numerous IT and programming positions across the Department of Defense, industry and nonprofit organizations.
• Neill Wright is a co-founder and president of Bronze Valley, a nonprofit, early stage venture investment platform that supports high growth, innovation and technology-enabled companies created by diverse, underrepresented and underestimated founders. He has more than 25 years of experience as an investor, entrepreneur and operating executive.
Advisory Council members:
• Smith has more than 35 years of service with Alabama Power. He is responsible for the company’s Environmental Affairs, Charitable Giving, Corporate Affairs, Governmental Relations, Public Relations and Regulatory Affairs functions. Smith is chairman of the Alabama Power Foundation board of directors, in addition to serving on the boards of many external organizations.
• Greg Canfield is secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. He works closely with the governor’s office to organize economic development efforts that shape sustainable growth strategies and drive dynamic job creation across the state. His primary responsibilities include increasing business recruitment and expansion activity, expanding export opportunities for Alabama companies, improving workforce development initiatives, enhancing small business growth and providing avenues for job creation in the film and entertainment industry.
• Chris Moody is partner in the Foundry Group, a venture capital firm focusing on investments in technology companies. He has worked closely with some of Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing technology companies to help them formulate and execute their platform strategies. Prior to joining Foundry Group, Moody was GM and VP of Twitter’s Data & Enterprise Solutions business.
• Rice is incoming director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. The former Secretary of State has vast experience in the technology sector. The Hoover Institution is the nation’s preeminent research center dedicated to generating policy ideas that promote economic prosperity, national security and democratic governance. Rice is a founding partner at Rice|Hadley|Gates, an international strategic consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.
• Bill Smith is founder of Smith Ventures and the founder and former CEO of Shipt, a membership-based marketplace, enabling same-day delivery of fresh foods and household essentials across the U.S. Shipt was acquired by Target in 2017 for $550 million and operates as an independent subsidiary serving multiple retailers. Smith launched Landing, a startup offering flexible leasing memberships for long-term living.
• Jared Weinstein is general partner of Thrive Capital, a New York-based venture capital firm.The Birmingham native in 2013 founded the Overton Project, a social investment platform that has focused on scaling national best-in-class impact organizations to Birmingham – specifically Breakthrough Collaborative, Venture for America and Microsoft’s TEALS computer science program. Prior to Thrive, Weinstein spent seven years at the White House in various roles.