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BlueCross BlueShield leaves BCA, general counsel resigns: What it all means

BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama has terminated its membership in the Business Council of Alabama, and longtime official, Fournier “Boots” Gale, a senior vice president and general counsel for Regions Bank, resigned as general counsel according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

BlueCross BlueShield is now the fourth major company this week to formally leave the BCA. Alabama Power led the procession out the door on Monday, while Regions Financial Corp. and PowerSouth announced their departures soon after. A lack of confidence in BCA’s leadership and direction drove each company to their respective exits.

Some key implications of these events stand out today.

No viable business organization in Alabama can exist without these companies.

There will always be a place for single industry associations that represent smaller sectors of the economy to deal with specific issues such as the construction trade, auto sales or the practice of medicine. However, any group seeking to drive public policy on the larger issues of economic development and industrial recruitment must count these companies, Alabama’s largest employers, among its membership.

These companies cultivate and maintain an unmatched grassroots presence across Alabama.

These companies touch millions of Alabamians in communities across the state. Together, they have employees, offices or consumers in every county.

The ability to engage policy-makers on the local level and address issues for the good of the state’s jobs and economy is essential to the process. Proper advocacy involves having a good feel for the pulse of communities. Linemen, bank tellers and administrative personnel are active in their communities and elected officials care what they think. It is impossible for any group to replicate the type of reach these companies enjoy.

The financial health of BCA is now in peril.

The Yellowhammer Multimedia Executive Board has written about BCA’s financial health. Even before the exit of these major members, expenses had gone up and revenues down.

These four companies carry a significant portion of the load when it comes to operational funding, sponsorships and political action and education advocacy contributions. One estimate places the loss from these members leaving at 25 percent of BCA’s annual budget.

Billy Canary has to vacate BCA immediately.

Businesses do not operate well in conditions of uncertainty. So it follows that Alabama’s largest business organization should also not operate under its own looming uncertainty of leadership.

In a letter Monday, BCA Chairman Perry Hand indicated for the first time that Billy Canary would be leaving his current post at some undetermined date before the beginning of next year. BCA’s own news organization also wrote vaguely about a leadership transition.

The details surrounding Canary’s departure, and the extent to which he will stay involved with the group, remain nonexistent. BCA has seemingly enacted the first ever transition plan without any actual transition.

None of this is good for its membership, and none of this is good for Alabama’s economy.

The first step back is a clear and decisive change at the top.

The Yellowhammer Multimedia Executive Board is comprised of the owners of the company.

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