Innovate Alabama leverages outside recreation to bolster financial system


Innovate Alabama formed a council to take full advantage of Yellowhammer’s many outdoor recreation opportunities.

The organization’s Council on Outdoor Recreation will advise its board on strategies to achieve three goals: growing the state’s outdoor recreation industry, attracting a skilled workforce, and improving the quality of life for both urban and rural communities.

Assisting the council will be the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable, which will consist of 19 stakeholders representing a unique set of perspectives from across the state and outdoor recreation areas.

The roundtable, which held its first meeting Wednesday, will recommend how best to use Alabama’s recreational assets as innovative tools for economic development.

Commissioner for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Chris Blankenship, who serves as chair of the Council on Outdoor Recreation, hailed the organization’s mission to bolster economic growth efforts.

“The Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable, composed of some of our state’s strongest outdoor recreation experts, brings together centuries of combined knowledge in nature to provide strategic recommendations for applying outdoor recreation to improve the quality of life of Alabamians and support economic… Rural development and urban communities,” Blankenship said in a press release.

“We are very pleased to welcome these advisory members who will ensure all regions of the state and outdoor recreation sectors are seated around the same table as we develop these recommendations.”

In cooperation with dr. In 2021, Condoleezza Rice of Birmingham and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution conducted extensive research to foster a resilient, inclusive economy and move the state forward.

SEE: Alabama Innovation Commission is partnering with the Hoover Institution led by Condoleezza

The research culminated in a final report that highlighted the opportunity to leverage Alabama’s natural resources to help innovators start their businesses in Alabama.

Kellie Clark, CEO of AppThink and a member of the Roundtable, claimed that part of Alabama’s business appeal is due to the state’s tremendous recreational opportunities.

“A thriving business ecosystem is holistic. It takes into account the interests, hobbies and well-being of entrepreneurs and their families. People are building businesses in Alabama in part because of our outdoor recreation opportunities and scenic diversity,” Clark said. “Our natural resources – a real asset that helps us continue to attract and retain top talent – ​​set us apart from other highly innovative nations.

“As an outdoor enthusiast and advocate for innovation, I’m proud to work alongside other subject matter experts, all focused on creating inclusive, thoughtful solutions through the lens of outdoor recreation that will enrich our innovation ecosystem.”

Innovate Alabama will seek to leverage local and state parks, scenic diversity and other natural resources to highlight Alabama’s vast and unique offering. Through this, the organization will seek to encourage domestic and foreign investors to gain a foothold in Alabama.

John Kvach, executive director of the Singing River Trail and a member of the Roundtable, said the state has had “great success in balancing innovation with our outdoor recreation efforts.”

“Thanks to Alabama’s unique outdoor landscape and outdoor recreation resources, we have the potential to strengthen regional ties between rural and urban communities to create a thriving statewide innovation ecosystem,” said Kvach.

Members of the Council on Outdoor Recreation and the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable include:

Advice on outdoor recreation

  • Commissioner Chris Blankenship, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources of Alabama (Council Chair)
  • Bill Poole, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Innovate Alabama
  • Peter Inge, Private Sector Representative, CFO, NXTsoft
  • Darrell Ezell, Private Sector Representative, Director of Diversity Equity & Inclusion, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology

Advice round table on outdoor recreation

  • Amy Rauworth, Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships, Lakeshore Foundation
  • State Senator Andrew Jones (R-center), Alabama Senate, District 10
  • Chris Oberholster, Director of Development, Alabama Audubon
  • Emile Hughes, co-founder of Ride Resorts
  • Fred Couch, Jr., Founder, Alabama Scenic River Trails
  • Graham Sisson, Chairman of the Alabama Trails Commission
  • Mayor Jack Tibbs, City of Eufaula
  • John Kvach, Executive Director, Singing River Trail
  • Kellie Clark, CEO, AppThink
  • Kruis Retherford, President, Glasstream Powerboats
  • State Representative Kyle South (R-Fayette), Alabama House of Representatives, District 16
  • Michael Norman, Branch Manager, REI
  • Phillip West, Coastal Resources Manager, City of Orange Beach
  • Preston Cauthen, Community Relations Manager, Alabama Power
  • Rick Oates, State Forester, Alabama Forest Service
  • Rusha Smith, Managing Director of Freshwater Land Trust
  • Themika Sims, Director, Graham Farm
  • Tim Lindblom, Dean, Jacksonville State University College of Mathematics and Science
  • Tim Wood, General Manager, Central Alabama Farmers Cooperative

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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