In early February, the Board of Directors of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce announced President Randall L. George will retire effective April 1, and Chamber Executive Vice President Anna B. Buckalew has been elected President & CEO, effective April 2. “The Chamber has been richly blessed to have had Randy George leading this organization for the past 30 years as president, and, prior to that, serving for 16 years as head of economic development,” said Board Chairman Willie Durham. “After 46 years of leadership, Randy is known throughout the country in chamber and economic development circles as one of the best in the industry. He has led the Chamber through some of the most transformative years in our region’s history.”
“Working with this Chamber for 46 years has been an honor and a privilege,” said George. “I have been truly blessed to have worked with incredible business and elected leadership and the most talented and dedicated team of professionals any organization could hope for.”
Durham further explained the Chamber’s next steps. “Strong leadership succession is critical to the health of any organization. We were very fortunate that the strongest candidate to succeed George was already in place, and we will have a seamless transition.”
Buckalew joined the Chamber team in 1988 and was named executive vice president in 2014. During her time with the Chamber, she’s led multiple major Chamber divisions. As Chief of Staff and Executive Vice President, Buckalew has been responsible for staff direction, operations and strategic planning.
Buckalew shared her excitement about her new role and her appreciation for the strong support. “I am honored to be named the next President and CEO of the Chamber, and I want to thank Randy and the Board for the confidence they have placed in me to lead this trusted organization.”
INNOVATION CENTER OPENS IN HEART OF THE CITY
On January 29, MGMWERX, a new innovation hub that brings military, academia, government and industry together to solve key issues facing the Air Force, opened in downtown Montgomery. This unprecedent-ed partnership between region-al public and private entities is part of a joint effort between industry leaders to provide businesses the opportunity to grow and propel Montgomery forward as a city of innovation and collaboration.
National nonprofit DEFENSE- WERX operates the center, which serves as an incubator for broader innovation projects as part of a unique collaboration with Air University (the leadership-development center for the Air Force), the City of Montgomery, Montgomery County and the Chamber. DEFENSEWERX has success-fully deployed similar models in other areas, like SOFWERX, with Special Operations Com-mand based in Tampa, Fla.; and AFWERX, teaming with the Air Force out of Las Vegas.
As part of the grand opening, the center hosted an open house for potential partners to expose interested people to opportunities in working with MGMWERX to support Air Force challenges. The event also featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “MGMWERX has quickly flourished in supporting Air University initiatives. This grand opening is our opportunity to expose a greater audience to the meaning and value of the WERX ecosystem, show the power of innovation when immersed in a collaborative environment, and inspire com-munity involvement in championing new ideas and solutions,” said Steve Werner, MGMWERX Director.
As part of this partnership, the Chamber has donated office space for MGMWERX in the Chamber’s current building at 41 Commerce Street, in the heart of downtown Montgomery and near Air University. Offering the space to MGMWERX allows the Chamber the opportunity to diversify the regional economy and attract more technology talent to the area as well as pre-serve regional military programs already in place. The Chamber will also continue to improve the city’s quality of place, grow Montgomery’s image, and foster trust, communication and collaboration among elected leaderships throughout the River Region.
“MGMWERX is the latest milestone in our technology and innovation strategy that is focused on connecting and leverage Montgomery’s unique technology related assets – with IT talent being at the top,” said Lora McClendon, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Federal Affairs for the Chamber.” The hub will drive collaboration and innovation and will leverage talent from across sectors to come up with creative solutions.”
The MGMWERX collaboration space uses the Montgomery Internet Exchange and boasts state-of-the-art technology and equipment surrounded by a highly modifiable environment designed to provoke the collision of ideas – harnessing the best industry, academia and non-traditional collaborators have to offer to answer some of the toughest issues facing our nation’s warfighter.
MONTGOMERY LAUNCHES SMART CITY LIVING LAB
On January 16, the Chamber, along with Mayor Todd Strange, County Commission Chairman Elton Dean and Alabama Power’s Southern Division Vice President Leslie Sanders, announced the creation of a Smart City Living Lab in downtown Montgomery.
“Beginning with a ‘smart’ corridor from the Capitol to the riverfront, we are building a smart city from the ground up, using fiber and connectivity to seamlessly integrate into the existing environment, while providing a platform for the deployment of any number of smart city solutions,” said Willie Durham, Chair-man of the Chamber.
Montgomery leaders announced the smart corridor will be formalized through the creation of the Montgomery Smart Community Alliance, a public-private partnership focused on advancing smart city initiatives in the City of Montgomery, including several already underway:
- The City of Montgomery launched its Open Data Portal in January 2017.
- The Montgomery Internet Exchange (MGMix) is one of only four internet exchanges in the Southeast.
- The Chamber launched Phase I of the free public Wi-Fi network called “MGMWiFi” earlier this month, with plans to expand.
- Alabama Power is working to enhance energy infrastructure around the corridor and is also beginning the process of converting more than 22,000 street lights to LEDs to help improve public safety, increase uniformity and create more than$650,000 in savings over the next ﬁve years. Additional public safety and smart parking initiatives will follow.
2019 CHAMBER AMBASSADORS
The volunteers of the Chamber Ambassador program give their time and talents to the Chamber, participating in monthly events promoting the Chamber’s mission, representing their companies, who are also members of the Chamber, and supporting other area businesses.
THE CHAMBER’S BRC NOW PROVIDES SHRM CREDITS
As a result of its quality education programs, the Chamber is now a Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) National CEU Training Certification Authority. This important designation means the Chamber is now able to award SHRM Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for programs it offers that relate to the SHRM Body of Competency and KnowledgeTM (BoCK).
2019 EDUCATION CHAMPIONS ANNOUNCED
With The Montgomery County Board of Education’s new leadership and the State Department of Education’s intervention, Montgomery Public Schools have an unprecedented window of opportunity to transform our schools and therefore the lives of the students and families they serve. The Chamber’s 2019 Education Champions support the Chamber’s work to bring rapid improvement to the system with initiatives including conversion charter schools, expanded pre-K and reinforced learning activities in the areas of reading, math and science during the summer at various Montgomery Public School sites. This year’s champions are Alabama State University, Faulkner University, HMMA; SABIC, Southern Homes & Gardens and Trenholm State Community College.