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  • #MyMGM - IgniteMGM

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    Learn how several groups have come together to spark some creative ideas and fan the flames of innovation in the capital city. So who is behind IgniteMGM? The Downtown Business  Association, The Gumption Fund, Gumptioneers, the Five Points Cultural Commission and Title Sponsor, Bell Media.

    Every journey, no matter its length, begins with a single step. While forging a path forward can be hard, it starts with the simple decision to do it. That’s the mindset behind IgniteMGM, an event that’s essen-tially an idea competition – with the last round held live – that rewards the winning concepts with the fuel needed to make that decision, the money necessary to turn visions into realities.

    While the notion of live idea pitches isn’t new, it’s new in Montgomery. And the organizers believe it’s just one piece of a needed strategy to keep talent here. Clay McInnis, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, one of the groups behind the event, explained. “We feel like there is opportunity here, but we have to cultivate that,” he said. “We have to bring folks together to see that they can be successful here. That’s what this is about: really opening up a dialog, connecting people with ideas to resources and connecting our community.”

    McInnis is also a leader in The Gumption Fund, a group funded by donations from local businesses, that gives micro-grants to bring good ideas to life. When Simone Byrd, a communications professor at Alabama State University, offered the idea of a pitch competition for students that would encourage them to create something for social media that would ben-efit the city, McInnis saw the potential to go bigger. “We loved her idea, but thought we could go beyond students, open it up to the entire community and include other categories,” he said. 

    IgniteMGM invited anyone and everyone to partici-pate and vie for funds by submitting their idea for a project in one of three categories: Digital-Social Media, Community Impact: Art and Food Truck. Each had to have a strong positive community impact associated with it. The grant for the Digital-Social winner was $2,000, with $5,000 each going to the Food Truck and Art winners, for a total of $12,000 handed out.

    The process for all began by filling out an application that outlined their idea. Based on this information, the event’s judges narrowed it down to three top contenders in each category. These three squared off in the live event on January 28, held at the Sanctuary, a multi-purpose venue in Montgomery’s 5 Points area on the edge of downtown, where they presented their ideas to a panel of judges.

    To pull it all off, organizers brought in other partners, like Bell Media, whose CEO, Scott Bell, shared McInnis’ enthusiasm. “From the beginning, our feedback on this was really great. There was so much excitement around it,” Bell said. “We were at capacity for the live event weeks before, and for anyone who runs events here, they know what a big deal that is.

    ”On January 28’s sunny afternoon, an energetic crowd packed The Sanctuary and applauded the welcoming words of both McInnis and Bell. “I love Montgomery and want to bring people together to make things happen,” Bell said.

    The Arts category contestants went first, taking the stage in turns to deliver their two-minute (strictly timed) pitch to the judges sitting on stage with them. From an art walk to a series of murals that would only be vis-ible when wet, all three ideas had merit and got standing ovations.

    AND THE  WINNERS ARE… Here’s who stole the show and snagged the cash in each category:

    IDEA: Create a quarterly Art Walk event downtown where businesses partner with a lesser-known, non-traditional local artist and showcase their work in their business.

    IDEA: Create a weekly podcast that highlights the businesses that have stayed in the city’s South Central Business District and promote new businesses locating there all in an effort to encourage more investment and growth in the area.

    IDEA: Do the needed work on their food truck to get it up and running and then take their delicious South-meets-Pacific North-west flavors truly “on a roll” throughout the city’s newly designated food truck areas.

    Dream On

    The Digital and Social Media contestants were next, and the Food Truck folks ended the event on a tasty note. While the participants’ concepts were diverse, they shared a common thread: a sense of camaraderie and common purpose (to make Montgomery better) that outshone the competitive aspect. 

    And the winners earned more than money; they’re also getting support and expert advice from the individuals behind the event. “For the food truck winner, we’ve already been working with the city to help with the regulations and other things that it takes to start one that aren’t directly related to money,” McInnis said.

    For those who missed it, they can add their ideas or attend the event again next year. “It exceeded our expectations,” McInnis said. “There were so many great ideas. We’re really excited about next year.

    ”Both McInnis and Bell are Montgomery natives and passionate about their home-town’s future. They stressed the importance of initiatives like IgniteMGM. “There is such a need and demand in this community,” McInnis said. “Folks want an outlet for creativity and collaboration in all forms.” Bell agreed. “I want people in Birmingham, Huntsville and Atlanta to know what we are dong here. I want to get applications from people in those places in years to come, people who want to come here and invest here.”

    No. 1 SPOT
    Best Value Destination for travelers looking to explore Black History


    Montgomery was named the No. 2 “Best Value Destination” in the country for 2017 by  trivago.com, a popular hotel booking website. Determined by an exclusive algorithm that considers both hotel prices and guest reviews, the 17 destinations that top the list aren’t only easy on the wallet but also offer entertainment options for nearly every type of traveler. The city took the No. 1 spot in Best Value Destinations for travelers looking to explore Black History Month thanks to the significant role it has played in African-American history.

    Coming SOON - TACO TIME!

    The Lightning Line is bringing back one of its most popular (and tasty!) events this spring. Taco Libre is set for April 29 at the Yards at Western Rail, a new 40-acre outdoor venue on the edge of downtown, with more than 20 area restaurants serving up various interpretations of tacos for guests to enjoy. There will also be live music, Frios Pops and plenty of ice-cold beer. The folks of Lightning Line stressed why you don’t want to miss this year’s event. “There will be more food, bigger music acts on a bigger stage, and it’s all at this amazing new venue, where downtown is the backdrop. When the sun goes down, it lights up the skyline.”


    On January 19, MAX held its 14th Annual MAX Community Reception, an annual event that brings together business, political and community leaders to celebrate community successes and recognize organizations and individuals who have made a significant difference in the quality of life in Central and East Alabama.

    This year, MAX honored The Montgomery Chamber Convention and Visitor Bureau with the MAX Community Achievement Award for the broad work they do in Montgomery, working tirelessly to help “Imagine a Greater Montgomery.” Their work has unquestionably established Montgomery as a destination city. 

    Whether it is the rich history our city is surrounded by, or attracting world-class sporting events such as the ESPN Camellia Bowl, Montgomery is not only a place that residents are proud to call home, but it has also become a destination tourists are eager to visit. “We are thankful to have the opportunity to honor and recognize the Montgomery Chamber Convention and Visitor Bureau,” said Jessica Pigg, AVP Retail Marketing. “The great work of the Convention and Visitor Bureau provides unprecedented economic impact for the city of Montgomery—on average, visitors are spending a staggering $1.4 million each day through hotel, food, gas and entertainment. This boost to our local economy in turn helps to make Montgomery a greater place to live, work and play.” 

    Along with the MAX Community Achievement Award, MAX was also honored to present the Montgomery Chamber Convention and Visitor Bureau with a check for $2,500 to support its mission for the city of Montgomery.

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