Launched last fall, The Alabama Collective is led by the Chamber’s TechMGM and TechBirmingham. The two organizations have joined forces to build on existing infrastructure while also developing the necessary ecosystem to accelerate growth in the region’s innovation, entrepreneurship and tech sectors, with a focus on elevating minority talent and entrepreneurs. And they’ve enlisted help. Other key partners include The City of Montgomery, The City of Birmingham, The Lab on Dexter, Montgomery TechLab, EdFarm and Bronze Valley.
The Collective’s efforts are anchored by a series of community conversations designed to engage those considering entering a career in technology (or are already in one) or looking to make a mark as a startup. Often times hosted alongside popular and historic HBCU football activities like Alabama State’s Turkey Day Classic, these events spotlight numerous tech titans, other area business leaders and HBCU students, alumni and entrepreneurs who are doing meaningful work in the innovation economic development space.
Held last February, the Collective’s black history conversation event titled “Transcendence” brought in mayors from Jackson, Mississippi; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Montgomery’s Mayor Steven L. Reed to discuss how city leadership can attract, retain and recruit minority talent and entrepreneurs to their communities.
And that’s turning out to be the Collective’s superpower: its emphasis on collaboration. The two dynamos at the helm of TechMGM and TechBirmingham elaborated.
A GROUP. A GATHERING. Individuals joining together to create a whole, its sum much greater than its single parts. A collective is all of these things. THE ALABAMA COLLECTIVE IS EVEN MORE.
COMING SOON: More is on the way from the Alabama Collective. Look for announcements and details on upcoming community conversations focused on topics like artificial intelligence, data science and machine learning at thealabamacollective.com.
BIRMINGHAM - DEON GORDON, TECHBIRMINGHAM
What is TechBirmingham’s role in the Collective? We are representing the interests of our city but also putting forward the idea that we are stronger together; that’s the real driving force. Birmingham and Montgomery have different tech and innovation strengths, so by combining our assets with Montgomery, we can do something much grander, greater than either of the cities could have done individually.
Why is the Collective’s work important? The pandemic changed everything, but even before then, we began to understand how key it is for cities to lean into tech and innovation. Today, cities have to be a lot more sophisticated and a lot more aggressive in the approach they take toward this work. If we want to compete, we must work together. I hope other cities look at what we are doing and see us as a model to answer the question, “How do we not just survive the innovation economy, but how do we thrive in it?”.
Why is your organization choosing to partner with TechMGM and other groups in the Collective? Alabama’s greatest strengths are our history and our diversity. We hear time and time again about the need for a more diverse workforce and talent pipeline, specifically within tech companies. So, it makes sense for both cities that played such major roles in the civil rights movement to be the same cities increasing the opportunities for black and brown populations, those who have traditionally been cut off from those resources. We have such a compelling narrative; I’d argue that our two cities are the only ones who can authentically tell that story. And from a strategic standpoint, merging the industry the two cities have makes sense; it puts us at the intersections of military, defense, healthcare and finance.
MONTGOMERY - CHARISSE STOKES, TECHMGM
Why is the work the Collective is doing important for the city and its future? The city of Montgomery can’t make forward progress alone; we need to collaborate with other organizations to ensure we are developing a competitive workforce and ecosystem that welcomes entrepreneurs and encourages innovation. Collective events that have already happened and the programming planned for the coming year will expose our community to the art of the possible and increase the density of tech talent and entrepreneurs.
How is The Alabama Collective elevating minority and tech talent in our area? The Alabama Collective has facilitated several events to educate and expose our local community to individuals, organizations and opportunities for tech talent and entrepreneurs to excel. We’ve hosted panel discussions, networking events and a black history program that highlighted government and industry leaders that are both influential and impactful for minorities in the community.
How does this contribute to a strong regional tech ecosystem? These events provide resources, tools and touch points for individuals, industry and organizations to prosper in technical fields and in entrepreneurship. In addition, it allows us to leverage the strengths of each community, expand across the region and provide support to other areas. Our ability to collaborate with one another is significantly increased and it encourages greater innovation across the ecosystem.
Want to get in on the Alabama Collective? Connect with one of these people:
- CHARISSE STOKES, TECHMGM: email@example.com
- DR NICHOLE THOMPSON, LAB ON DEXTER: firstname.lastname@example.org
- CHARLES JACKSON, MONTGOMERY TECHLAB: email@example.com
- DEON GORDON, TECHBIRMINGHAM: firstname.lastname@example.org
- HALEY KENDRICK, BRONZE VALLEY: email@example.com
- WAYMOND JACKSON, EDFARM: firstname.lastname@example.org