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Condoleezza Rice reflects on Innovate Alabama’s achievements – ‘I am blown away’

Last month, Innovate Alabama held a celebration event of its early success in bringing a culture of innovation to the state of Alabama.

The creation of Innovate Alabama was based on recommendations by a Commission on innovation that Governor Kay Ivey appointed. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice played a prominent role on that commission.

Rice spoke at the event and sat down with with Capital Journal’s Todd Stacy.

“Clearly this is not just going to have legs it is really going to have an impact and its already had an impact so congratulation for that,” Rice told the group.

“So, I grew up in Birmingham until I was 12. We moved to Denver and so when I got a call from Governor Ivey saying we have this commission on innovation, would you serve? I said Well, you know, Governor, I haven’t lived in Alabama for a while and she said that’s okay — when you are from Alabama you are always from Alabama. So, I thought, well that’s true. I was delighted to be part of it.”

Rice served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. Today, she’s the Director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

RELATED: Innovate Alabama awards $9.3 million to first class of designees

“The Hoover Institution is a policy institute — a policy thinktank of about forty very senior academic researchers tenured faculty also people many of whom are jointly appointed at Stanford University as I am for instance,” Rice explained.

“To add to the work we do on national security, the economy, K-12 education, on technology as you might imagine because of where we sit we have added a state and local practice because we believe that a lot of the innovation a lot of the economic development has to take place at the local level. There are things that Washington can do; but what it takes to innovate in Alabama or California, Texas, or Delaware is different, so the states are going to be the level of government where it is done.”

Rice said she was impressed with how much Innovate Alabama has already achieved.

“Well, I am blown away by how much has been achieved really because the Commission recommendations of course then created innovate Alabama to give it legs to give it staying power,” Rice said. “I have said that I have been on a lot of commissions where the report ended up on somebody’s dusty bookshelf. That is clearly not the case here.”

Innovate Alabama has been able to raise $43 million in capital for startups and small businesses in Alabama. In its first year, it created 192 jobs.

One aspect Innovate Alabama focuses on is how to best attract and retain professional talent. Part of that is fostering a lifestyle that young people want to be a part of. The Commission has identified outdoor recreation as a key strength for the state to further develop.

RELATED: State of Innovation Day brings together top Alabama business, political figures

“These folks really value their lives as well as their livelihood,” Rice explained. “They value being able to be in the outdoors and to explore. They hike. My godsons they are just out of college, and they hike, they fish they love to be in the outdoors and Alabama has incredible natural endowments whether it is the beautiful lake structures or the beautiful hiking trails or the beautiful rock formations these are really attractive to young folks.”

Rice said Innovate Alabama is, “Centering around important pillars like talent development and access to resources for entrepreneurs and finally the lifestyle attracts people to Alabama because it is a great place to live, This is going to be a set of initiatives that will last for a long long time.”

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