This past week the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) named Katie Boyd Britt its new president, an event that served as the culmination of months of work by the group’s executive committee led by its chairman, Mark Crosswhite.
Britt’s appointment to the top job in the state’s largest business organization is the first step in implementing Crosswhite’s vision for a return to the group’s core mission.
“Fundamentally, BCA exists to represent the business community and to help improve Alabama’s economy,” Crosswhite told Yellowhammer News. “We want to create jobs and support Alabama families making a good living here in the state. We want Alabama to be a place where our children and grandchildren stay to work.”
Perhaps no one is better positioned than Crosswhite to understand Alabama, its economy and the people who create and fill jobs in the state.
As chairman, president and chief executive officer of Alabama Power, Crosswhite runs a company that has 1.4 million customers and employs more than 7,000 people.
Crosswhite leads a company that counts homeowners, small businesses and large manufacturers as its customers, while employing its own diverse workforce.
And, all the while, Alabama Power and its employees are active in communities across the state. Through that type of outreach, Crosswhite’s company maintains its connection to the people it serves.
As a result, when Crosswhite took the lead earlier this year in identifying the need to improve Alabama’s approach to its economic priorities, others paid attention.
It is Crosswhite’s belief that, while things have been good in Alabama, there exists a need for continued evaluation and improvement from the whole of the business community.
“We have an outstanding business climate,” noted Crosswhite. “And we have had a number of leaders focused on cultivating and protecting the business climate. We want to push that forward and make it better.”
Crosswhite pointed out the fact that Alabama is not enjoying the same growth as some of its neighboring states.
“One of the things we would like to have BCA assess is why is that?” remarked Crosswhite. “How do we keep young people in the state, the best and brightest? How can we attract new business and expand industries and good jobs for the people of Alabama?”
During the BCA transition process, Crosswhite and his committee have been intentional in their emphasis on coalition building in the business community.
“We think BCA ought to be the organization that takes an umbrella approach and can bring the entire business community together on significant issues that affect the community at-large and the state of Alabama’s economy,” said Crosswhite.
As evidence of the group’s inclusive approach, Crosswhite pointed out that the BCA executive committee has reached out to more than one hundred business leaders, business associations, elected officials and others from across the state.
“One thing that we have gotten over and over is we need BCA to be a unifying force, one that can bring together businesses of all sorts,” he said. “Everything from big corporations to mom and pop drug stores. There is a desire to have a central voice. One where we can have policy-makers come and have one place where they can get a fair representation of the entire business community.”
According to Crosswhite, Britt shares that same approach to coalition building.
“We have a really strong leader in Katie Britt, and she will be looking to build bridges to other organizations to reach out to all the businesses in the state to make sure BCA is bringing value to the entire business community,” said Crosswhite.
Britt comes to BCA after a successful stint as chief of staff to Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and prior to that the leader of the state governmental affairs practice for Butler Snow.
That experience, for Britt, equips her well to handle some of BCA’s substantive priorities identified by Crosswhite, such as workforce development and federal and state advocacy.
“The entire BCA leadership group is terribly excited about having Katie Britt join us,” affirmed Crosswhite. “She has a remarkable track record and great story. We know that she is the person with the energy, vision and experience to lead BCA through this next chapter. We are very excited about having her at the helm. She has the complete confidence of the BCA executive committee and the BCA board of directors.”
The current composition of the BCA executive committee is a rare collection of accomplished leaders.
And, so, for Crosswhite, there is no better time to return BCA to its core mission and rightful place as the pre-eminent Alabama business organization.
“We are at the very beginning of that process,” he said. “We have looked at things and gotten an assessment. Now that we have Katie lined up and in the chair, look for BCA to establish a strategic planning process over the next few months to make BCA stronger and the voice of Alabama business.”
Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.