Bruce Crawford Steps into the Lead Role as Chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
As the Montgomery CEO of BBVA Compass, A. Bruce Crawford will do his part to try and increase business meetings here and thereby deliver more dollars to the local economy.
He said one of the bank’s larger customers will be bringing executives to Montgomery for their annual meeting. Crawford, who is chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors this year, is encouraging his fellow executives to hold corporate meetings here. “I would anticipate working on some regional-type meetings here,” Crawford said. “I think that would make a lot of sense.”
That’s one of the advantages of having a banker with a large institution leading the Chamber, and he is the first one in 11 years. Crawford said that he does have “an analytic side,” but more important is that in “being a banker, you are exposed to businesses of all nature and size and different industries as well as different locations across our community.”
He said that he is more from the “business development and community development side.”
All chairmen have their own way of doing things, and Crawford said that by watching, he “picked up on some things that I plan on trying to incorporate in the year.” Some of those things “are going to be surprises,” he said without divulging any secrets.
Increasing corporate meetings is just one of many priorities for Crawford, who has lived in Montgomery since the early 1980s. “For businesses to continue to grow and prosper, there needs to be opportunities out there,” Crawford said. “Economic development is at the forefront. I love the saying that a rising tide lifts all boats, and if the local economy is growing, everyone gets the benefit of being a part of it.”
Of course, creating and preserving jobs is the Chamber’s mission – everything is built on economic development. This year marks the final year of the Chamber’s five-year strategic plan called Imagine a Greater Montgomery II. A committee will be formed of Chamber Board members, business, community and political leaders to help determine if there is an Imagine III strategy or if Imagine II is updated, according to Crawford. “There will be a new strategy,” he said. “We will come up with what are the key components that we want to look at and then compare those to our peer cities and (try) to make sure we are moving in the right direction with the needs of our community.”
Talent development is another priority for Crawford. “We have to make sure that we have people in place to take advantage of jobs when they become available, and many of those are trade-related,” he said. Crawford said that the school district’s Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies (MPACT), H. Councill Trenholm State Community College and other organizations such as Alabama Industrial Development Training, Alabama Technology Network and the Montgomery Regional Workforce Training Center will play key roles in talent development.
“We need to identify the students that have that desire (technical education) and make sure that they’re in the proper place so they can take advantage of MPACT and dual enrollment,” he said.
He also would like to improve the quality of life to retain and bring back young people who have left to go to school or for a job, or attract people here for the first time. “We’re already blessed and fortunate to have a strong arts foundation here, which certainly is a direct quality of life,” Crawford said. “If you have the right things going for you – people are attracted to the city first and then they look for a job rather than getting the job first.” Crawford cited a “tremendous amount of growth” in the downtown and Cloverdale entertainment districts that “helps attract the younger set.”
Cyber could be a game-changer for the area, Crawford said. “It is a top priority and it does attract a higher-income level.”
His list of top priorities includes diversity and inclusion with a shout-out to the Chamber’s annual Diversity Summit, which he said has drawn “national acclaim.”
The area’s partnership with Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex “is absolutely vital,” Crawford said.
There is no success without the critical partnerships with elected officials, Crawford said. He praised the relationships with Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, Montgomery City Council, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton N. Dean Sr., state legislative delegation and the congressional delegation. “The Chamber, elected officials and community leaders all work well together with a common focus and a common goal,” Crawford said.
Air service is another top priority and Crawford said that Montgomery Regional Airport needs to be “highly competitive and successful.”0
‘A Really Big, Cool Thing’
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
It would be a gross understatement to say that the 2016 Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board of Directors is excited about his new one-year role.
When asked if it was a big deal and if it was really cool, Chamber Chairman A. Bruce Crawford said, “It is really a big, cool thing. It’s absolutely huge for me. I am extremely honored and very appreciative of the opportunity.”
Is it also one of those things where there is pressure not to mess up? “Everything you do at certain levels – there’s always pressure,” said Crawford, who is the Montgomery CEO for BBVA Compass. “I refer to it as adrenaline and adrenaline is good. I see it as an opportunity to make some sort of a small, positive impact on the community. You always want to try to leave things better than the way you found it. If I can help to do something that achieves that – that will be a good thing and that’s what I’ll be working for.”
That’s what a successful year for Crawford would look like. “We could sit down (in December) and list what would be a true success, but I firmly believe that if you leave it better than the way you found it, (that’s success), and hopefully that will occur. I will be working hard to achieve that.”
For Crawford, being the Chamber chairman is a way to give back to the organization that he said has been very supportive. “The Chamber has been extremely good to me throughout my career here,” he said, referring to trips for auto shows; meetings with the state’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.; and a visit to Austin, Texas, which was identified as a model city.
“Whether you’re talking about being in business – like in my position with the bank – or you’re talking about the Chamber, you always want to get started off on the right foot in the right way,” Crawford said. “You will suddenly realize that January turns to April and April turns to Labor Day and then you’re handing the baton off, so you really need to start fast.”