The state of Alabama has created a new innovation corporation to support statewide entrepreneurship, rural businesses, research and development at existing companies, and access to advanced technical skills that will drive a future workforce.
Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed HB 540 and HB 609 into law, which establishes the Alabama Innovation Corporation (AIC) and creates a matching grant program for small businesses. The bills, which the Alabama Legislature approved May 6, task the AIC with making the state a hub for technology and innovation and supporting initiatives, projects and activities that will enhance this growth for the entire state.
“We do a great job in asking folks to come to Alabama to spend their vacation, but what about coming to Alabama to live and start a business?” said Sen. Greg Reed of Jasper who also serves as vice chair of the Alabama Innovation Commission. “The economic environment is great, the people are fantastic – all the weekend activities all the way from the coast to the mountains in north Alabama are things that many areas in the country don’t enjoy. We’ve got all of that in our state. There’s a lot of good reasons people are going to be convinced nationwide that Alabama is the place to be.”
The creation of the AIC is one of several suggestions presented by the Alabama Innovation Commission, also known as Innovate Alabama. The commission was created by Gov. Ivey in July 2020 as the state’s first commission focused on entrepreneurship, technology and innovation to develop and execute strategies that will drive innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as help attract and retain talent in Alabama.
“I’m appreciative of Governor Kay Ivey’s support of the Alabama Innovation Commission and our policy recommendations,” said Rep. Bill Poole of Tuscaloosa, who serves as chair of the Alabama Innovation Commission. “The establishment of the Alabama Innovation Corporation will be transformational for our state’s economy by making Alabama a hub for technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.”
The bills also allow the AIC to make matching grants of up to $250,000 to businesses and organizations that received federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants or Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grants.
“This is just a golden opportunity for our small businesses and our small startup businesses in Alabama to get a serious boost,” said Sen. Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham. “It provides jobs. It also allows for HBCUs and smaller universities to be economic engines. I’m excited.”
Innovate Alabama also brings together private-sector experts and policymakers to develop forward-thinking policies that will create a more resilient, inclusive and robust economy for Alabama. The AIC cements that public-private partnership.
“The commission continues to drive important policy discussions that will build the future of our state,” said Zeke Smith, president of the commission’s Advisory Council and Alabama Power executive vice president of external affairs. “Forward-thinking policies like the Alabama Innovation Corporation and SBIR matching programs elevate Alabama and attract and retain top talent and innovative companies to stay and grow here.”
Reed added, “I don’t think we could do it if it wasn’t a public-private partnership. Looking at all of the things the private sector brings to the table – all of the innovation they are associated with, that’s just what they do every day. Public-private is the answer.”