Meet the businesses, organizations and individuals making meaningful differences in Montgomery and proving that actions speak louder than words.
EVERY COMMUNITY HAS THEM: the people and groups who change something for the better. They have innovative ideas, fresh perspectives and new ways to tackle challenges, and they don’t keep them to themselves or simply post them on a social media comment thread. They share them, explain them, fight for them and roll up their sleeves to make them happen.
Montgomery’s got plenty of these people; when we asked the city to let us know who they were for the inaugural MGM Impact Maker awards, we got scores of names across multiple categories. Each and every one of the nominees is worthy of inclusion, but we had to narrow it down.
So meet the finalists for the 2018 MGM Impact Maker awards. With their attitudes and through their actions, these people, businesses and organizations have had multiple powerful and positive effects on the capital city and the River Region beyond.
Bob Parker, Dreamland BBQ & Railyard Brewery
As one of the first to invest in downtown and relocate a business in the heart of the city as well as bringing microbrewing to Montgomery, Parker can be credited with greatly improving the quality of place in the capital city, a benefit to both residents and visitors.
Tammy Knight Fleming, Montgomery Airport Authority
Through tireless work and outspoken advocacy, this Montgomery native and ASU grad has been a driving force pushing Montgomery’s airport to new heights, which in turn has greatly bolstered the area’s economic development efforts.
Kim Traff, RSVP magazine
Fueled by her passion for all things social and for the betterment of her city, Traff is a vocal and vibrant cheerleader for Montgomery. By spearheading events like the Pub Crawl that brought thousands of folks downtown and local businesses together and through her magazine, RSVP, she’s made MGM cool. She’s also helped the city attract and keep young professionals here by highlighting their accomplishments in The List, featured in each issue of RSVP.
Dr. Katherine Webb, Wynwood Consulting
For the last two decades, Webb used her position at AUM to improve the region’s non-profit landscape and its public education offerings. She and her team have consistently provided exceptional consulting and training programs, including the Educational Leaders Conference, Boardrooms to Classrooms (a collaboration with Montgomery Public Schools and local business leaders,) and other strategic planning and employee selection programs. She’s also the immediate past president of the board of the River Region United Way and is currently president of the board of Medical Outreach Ministries. She recently retired from AUM.
Suzanna Wasserman, The Shoppes at EastChase
Showing leadership and vision beyond her years, Wasserman has transformed The Shoppes at EastChase into more than just a shopping destination. The young professional has enhanced the sense of community on the east side of town, improving the quality of place with multiple diverse events that connect residents, visitors and small businesses. And that’s just her day job. She’s also been heavily involved with the good work of Junior League and Child Protect.
Brown Studio Architecture
Brown Studio Architecture has a 40-year legacy of meaningful work in Montgomery, including pro bono civic engagement, community service and philanthropy. Its work transformed the redevelopment of the riverfront and the entertainment areas with more than 50 projects downtown, including the Downtown Master Plan, Riverwalk, the Amphitheatre, Riverwalk Stadium, Alley restaurants, streetscapes, signage and landmark historic renovations. Team members have headed historic neighborhood associations, organized the effective Cloverdale design charrettes, developed ordinances for historic designation, designed the Bark Park, developed E.A.T South structures and designed and built the Air Corps Tactical School Memorial as well as other projects at Maxwell-Gunter AFB.
ELSAJA for Kress
Putting its considerable energy and effort behind the renovation and transformation of the abandoned Kress department store to Kress on Dexter, ELSAJA has already racked up a long list of honors, including the 2018 ABC Award for Best Historical Restoration In America. In bringing one of the city’s historical gems back to life, it has created an entrepreneurship incubator, as home to Prevail Union Coffee (recently awarded Best Coffee in Alabama by Food & Wine), the Chop Shop and I Am More than Tours. The spot is also a platform for community engagement and education with its Remembering Monroe Project, its “This is Where You’ll Find Me” art exhibition and its story booth and podcast studio.
Fleet Feet Montgomery
This locally owned store does what you think: It sells running shoes, clothing and other gear, but it does so much more too. Its team works to build personal confidence, self-esteem and community by partnering with local non-profits and charities for fund raising; providing walking and running programs for all ages through programs like Girls on the Run; and investing in the community through shoe collection drives and providing the shoes to the needy.
Goat Haus Biergarten
Housed in the 1888 Victorian era “Mills House” on Clay Street, this business boasts an alluring exterior, but its purpose is equally impressive. Goat Haus Biergarten is on a mission to bring to market local art, music, food and beer. In addition to reviving three historic homes, establishing a new business district on Clay Street, and creating several new jobs, the business has helped dozens of entrepreneurs and emerging artists, musicians, chefs and brewers.
In just a short time, JDB Hospitality has made a noticeable positive mark on Montgomery’s hospitality industry. The public relations company has trained restaurants, tourist attractions and event venues on branding, audience development and social media marketing. And the company recently brought a nationally recognized culinary competition, Culinary Fight Club, to Montgomery, which qualified locally owned restaurants to compete in the World Food Championships. This win for the city’s culinary scene is only one example of JDB Hospitality’s dedication to boosting Montgomery’s tourism image and appeal.
Sandra Nickel Hat Team Realtors
This longstanding business has been practicing what it preaches for decades. All of its actions stem from one core belief: When we all take a vested interest in the community, and neighbors work diligently to make it the very best it can be, then Montgomery reaps the benefit and becomes more than just a place on a map, but a place that people are proud to call home. Since 1993, the Hat Team has committed to community revitalization through both fair housing-based home sales and promotion of an area the media once called “the Inner City,” giving residents pride and strengthening property values.
The Waters - New Waters Realty
This company doesn’t just sell real estate; it puts time and energy behind building up its community too. Starting out as a small boutique real estate agency, it is now one of the premier real estate agencies in the River Region. It continually uses the opportunities its success provides to further invest in the area through both volunteerism and its philosophy of kindness and always going the extra mile.
Jerry Kyser Builder, Inc.
For more than 50 years, Jerry Kyser Builder, Inc. has been one of the area’s leading contractors, helping both small businesses and large corporations design and build their ideal storefront. In addition, JKB has proven its commitment to the growth and progress of Montgomery through various developments, including shopping centers leased to mainly locally owned businesses, and by being one of the first developers working in the revitalization of the Downtown Alley Entertainment District. Its latest project includes a 100-plusroom hotel, Staybridge Suites, in downtown Montgomery.
Partners Realty has grown from a tiny two-man team in 2008 to a 30-person agency in a mere 10 years and while it has grown, so has its dedication to bettering the River Region. The company has broadened the area’s horizons by helping Montgomery families buy and sell homes, by drawing businesses to downtown, and by taking on HOA management and fostering the beautification of many neighborhoods. This multi-disciplined firm manages more than 1,000 units and nearly two million square feet, as well as marketing and selling untold acres of recreational and industrial property.
Faulkner University Jones School of Law
In addition to producing practice-ready attorneys, Faulkner University’s Jones School of Law molds its students to serve in the spirit of Isaiah 1:17, to yearn to serve their neighbor and seek justice for the most vulnerable among us. Its students take advantage of Faulkner Law’s nationally ranked advocacy program and its annual Mockingbird Challenge, a national invitational mock trial tournament, plus three award-winning legal clinics that provide legal services at no cost to those in need in the River Region. Faulkner Law students also show their commitment to community throughout the year by providing thousands of volunteer service hours.
Beasley Allen Law Firm
Beasley Allen Law Firm (BA) has long been a key booster of the local economy and downtown revitalization efforts. For 11 years, BA has hosted the state’s largest legal conference, bringing in an estimated $1 million each time. The firm’s revitalization efforts total multiple millions of dollars, including three office buildings located at 218, 234 and 272 Commerce Street; partial ownership of the West Jefferson “T-warehouse” (home to AL.com and Dreamland Bar-B-Que); public parking; Alley Station (home to the three entertainment venues and two restaurants); and Escapology. BA also serves on the Chamber board and supports numerous local philanthropic and nonprofit organizations.
Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc.
Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc. (GMC) is one of the largest architecture and engineering firms in the Southeast, with more than 375 employees in offices throughout the five-state region. Whether designing schools, parks, hospitals and other commercial developments, or providing clean water, safe streets and protecting endangered environments, GMC takes great pride in serving its communities through the transformative work it does. Every project is guided by the foundational concept that communities are built by people, not companies, and the company strives to serve its communities with quality, integrity, creativity and care.
Wind Creek Montgomery
Wind Creek Montgomery (WCM) has been a member of the local business community since 1985. Recent additions have enabled WCM to contribute to more than entertainment, and the property’s impact now encompasses diverse job creation (it paid $25 million in salaries and wages to 529-plus employees in myriad industries); attracting visitors to help make MGM a vibrant tourist destination; and giving back in the form of more than $950,000 awarded to local organizations and events through sponsorships and Make A Change programs.
Brantwood Children's Home
Since 1917, Brantwood Children’s Home has been providing a safe, stable, structured environment for abused, neglected and other “at-risk” children. Brantwood serves children and youth ages 10-21 by providing for their needs in education, health, communication and social adjustments to help them cope with and succeed in society. By protecting children from traumas of the past; providing a place conducive to emotional growth; and through counseling, spiritual direction, instructional support and love, Brantwood creates an environment in which the heart can heal and important relationships can blossom.
Catholic Social Services
CSS is an organized expression of the Church’s concern for social justice and wellbeing, extended to all, regardless of one’s race, creed or background. Its ministries include Direct Aid to the needy, St. Margaret’s Services for the elderly, immigration assistance, prison ministry and adoption services. In 2017 alone, the organization provided assistance to more than 3,100 clients, making a significant difference in their lives.
The Family Sunshine Center
The Family Sunshine Center offers the communities it serves immediate response and a safe haven by providing 24-hour access to information through its crisis line and emergency shelter for victims of family violence and/or sexual assault. It also offers crisis intervention services in partnership with legal services; advocacy, counseling and support; trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy to children; outreach services to increase awareness; prevention education; and empowerment so clients can lead safe and violence-free lives.
Health Services, Inc.
No one needing care is turned away by Health Services, Inc. (HSI), a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) providing access to affordable and comprehensive preventative and primary healthcare services to residents in the River Region. Recently celebrating 50 years of service, HSI currently operates 10 clinical facilities in five counties in Central Alabama, along with two Wellness Centers and a mobile unit. Its services are offered to patients who have medical insurance, are underinsured or uninsured. In 2017, HSI provided outpatient services to more than 34,731 patients.
Triumph Services provides a holistic approach to life after high school for youth with disabilities, while also promoting independence with its transition program. For adults with disabilities, it provides weekly outings and social events to encourage active socialization and fun. Its life skills program teaches participants important executive functions. And its employment program helps these individuals use their unique talents and gifts to gain employment.