Alabama’s innovation economy sees strength in inclusion

Alabama’s innovation economy will only reach its full potential if it is inclusive.

That was the message from Alabama Chief Financial Officer Bill Poole. He was chairman of the Alabama Innovation Commission and now chairs the board of the Alabama Innovation Corporation.

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Poole spoke last week with members of the Women’s Foundation of Alabama’s Women’s Policy Institute during their visit to the state Capitol. The Alabama Power Foundation hosted the meeting.

Poole said the innovation economy needs input from women and other groups to ensure that all ideas are captured and represented as the state pulls in unison to develop in the fields of entrepreneurship, technology, research and development and the knowledge-based economy in the broad sense. .

Alabama CFO Bill Poole chats with Alabama Innovation Corporation with Alabama NewsCenter’s Khadidah Stone on Vimeo.

Poole urged anyone with ideas about growing Alabama’s innovation economy to bring them to the Alabama Innovation Corporation.

“I think within a few months the new entity will formalize more and have an executive director and staff,” Poole said. “In the meantime, bring them to me or any member of the Innovation Corporation board of directors. Get these ideas on the table. We can’t turn an idea into reality if we don’t know it.

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Once the Innovation Corporation is staffed, it will begin to implement programs and advocate for policies. Some of them have been identified through the work of the Innovation Commission. Others will appear through the work of the Innovation Corporation.

“There’s a series of recommendations from the commission that talk about that, but we need to turn that into action,” Poole said.

“We know we want to put in place a pretty strong mentorship program.

“It’s one thing to have an idea. It’s another to see it through,” Poole added.

Assistance with business planning, access to capital and training, processing grant applications, and commercializing technology are expected to be other initiatives of the Alabama Innovation Corporation.

The company’s board of directors has two women, including Alabama Governor Kay Ivey. Condoleezza Rice, a native of Alabama, former U.S. Secretary of State and director of the Hoover Institution, served on the advisory board of the Alabama Innovation Commission and was instrumental in shaping the recommendations of the committee.

Ensuring women have a voice during this pivotal time is critical, said Melanie R. Bridgeforth, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Alabama (WFA).

“Advancing systemic change that accelerates economic opportunity for women and creates a more equitable workplace requires a holistic approach with the public and private sectors at the table. Alabama Power lent its voice and support to the Women’s Foundation of Alabama as we launched the Women’s Policy Institute Fellowship Program and equipped community leaders across the state to advocate for public policy solutions grounded in the common sense, non-partisan and community-oriented,” she said. . “Support from the business community makes WFA’s work possible and accelerates our vision of a state where power and opportunity are not limited by gender, race or location.”

Quentin P. Riggins, senior vice president of government and corporate affairs at Alabama Power, serves on the WFA’s board of directors. Houston Smith, vice president of government affairs at Alabama Power, spoke at the event in Montgomery. He said an inclusive attitude shows that the state and others have learned from past mistakes.

“When our company was founded, women couldn’t vote,” he said. “If anything has changed since our company was founded, it would be that now, more than ever, we are actively advocating to create equitable opportunities for all in Alabama, understanding that an inclusive Alabama is a stronger Alabama. We cannot move Alabama forward unless we collectively work toward that goal. That’s exactly why we’re here tonight to talk about the public-private partnership called Innovation Corporation created with that mission in mind.

RELATED: What’s Next for Alabama’s Innovation Economy?

Poole said there are a number of ways Alabama can grow the innovation economy, but one of the main goals will be to convince more college graduates to stay here.

“In Alabama, we do a great job of exporting. We export a lot of timber, we export a lot of cars, we export a lot of poultry and we export a lot of talent – ​​we export a lot of university graduates,” he said. “So we’re going to be working very hard on talent retention, talent recruitment, building pipelines through education with programs and mentorships in technology, in entrepreneurial-type areas.”

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