HOOVER — During the Alabama Economic Growth Summit on Friday morning, a high-profile group of Yellowhammer State business leaders discussed ways to further create jobs and prosperity for all Alabamians.
Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Boyd Britt moderated the panel, which consisted of Zeke Smith, executive vice president of external affairs for Alabama Power Company; Jimmy Parnell, chairman, president and CEO of Alfa; Mike Kemp, CEO of Kemp Management Solutions; and Jimmy Rane, president and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving.
Points of discussion included public/private sector partnerships, workforce development, broadband, the Rebuild Alabama Act, the AIM Act and ways to better sell the state.
Smith also challenged attendees and leaders across the state to think about how they can work together to “build an even better Alabama.”
He stressed that the state has the potential to be number one in many areas — not just football.
His fellow panelists echoed this sentiment, focusing on the people and values that make Alabama unique.
This was first discussed when Britt asked the foursome to touch on the importance of diversity in the workplace.
“When we hear of diversity, a high percentage of us take that to be gender or race, but diversity goes well beyond that,” Kemp said. “It’s a diversity of thought, ideas, input, involvement and contribution. It’s a tremendous resource if it’s utilized properly.”
“Diversity of backgrounds, diversity of thought, diversity of experiences — all of that is so important,” Smith added.
Rane commented on the subject, too, taking the topic to a deeper level.
“To me, it’s a matter of everybody trying to find the common values — the values that supersede race, religion, ethnic origin,” Rane said.
“[W]hat I find is that we all have some things in common, and that’s what we ought to strive for,” he added. “At our company, we distill those values down to three words: duty, honor, country. And we rally around those three things.”
Rane stressed, “It’s about having a genuine respect, a genuine respect, for everybody irregardless [of differences]. The one thing I think everybody cherishes and values is liberty. Liberty — freedom. Liberty cannot exist without morality. For me, morality comes from God.”
That last statement drew a loud round of applause from the crowd, after which Rane continued, “So when you search for those common values, then you can be kind to everybody. … We don’t have a lot of the ugliness in Alabama that you see other places.”
He encouraged leaders in Washington, D.C. to return to a time when elected officials and politicians could disagree agreeably and put country over partisanship.
“I remember the time when Democrats and Republicans could … break bread together and talk about what’s best for our country — not what’s best for you and your party — what’s best for the country,” Rane remarked. “Put that first. Now, when we can get back to that, look out folks.”
Parnell later spoke to the quality of Alabama’s people as well.
“We’ve got people that can do anything,” he said.
Rane concluded with more of his thoughts on the subject. He implored everyone to look at economic development as a team sport, with everyone in Alabama rowing in the same direction as being key to success.
“I think everybody loves this state,” he emphasized. “We all [live here], have ashes of our ancestors here and there’s just a pride. I love Alabama, and I want to see it win every time.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn