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‘Innovate Alabama’ commission to hold virtual meeting today

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A commission formed to boost entrepreneurship and innovation in the state will hold its first virtual meeting today.

Formed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in mid July via executive order, the Alabama Innovation Commission, known as Innovate Alabama, is intended to be a platform for innovators to engage policymakers and exchange ideas to promote innovation in the state.

“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 at the announcement of the commission.

“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.”

According to a press release, the commission will examine existing policies to find ways to spur innovation and enhance technology accelerators, in addition to addressing the challenges and red tape that startup companies often face. The goal is to produce a policy agenda to the state agencies and the Legislature.

Representative Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, chairs the commission and Senator Greg Reed, R-Jasper, serves as vice chair.

“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. 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,” said Poole. “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.”

“Through this commission, we hope to tap into the potential for the state to become a hub for startups and technology-based companies,” said 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.”

Other commission members include:

  • Scott Adams, Executive Vice President and Chief Digital & Innovation Officer, Protective Life Corporation;
  • Greg Barker, President, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama;
  • Lindsay Rane Carter, Associate General Counsel, Great Southern Wood Preserving;
  • Rick Clementz, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Mercedes-Benz US International, Inc.;
  • Alabama State Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika;
  • Miller Girvin, CEO, Alabama Capital Network;
  • Abe Harper, CEO, Harper Technologies;
  • Shegun Otulana, Founder, TheraNest;
  • Peggy Sammon, CEO, GeneCapture, Inc.;
  • Alabama State Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier, D-Selma;
  • Arndt Siepmann, Deputy Director of Economic Development, City of Auburn;
  • Charisse Stokes, Executive Director, TechMGM; and
  • Neill Wright, President, Bronze Valley.

Innovate Alabama also includes a six-member advisory council of innovation leaders with Alabama ties. Alabama Power Executive Vice President Zeke Smith serves as president of the advisory council. Former secretary of state of the United States and incoming director of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, also 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.”

Additional advisory council members include:

  • Greg Canfield, Secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce;
  • Chris Moody, Partner, Foundry Group;
  • Bill Smith – Founder, Smith Ventures; and
  • Jared Weinstein, General Partner, Thrive Capital.

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