8 months ago

Lake Martin Innovation Center in Alexander City helps businesses get off the ground

Lake Martin has always been known for recreation, and now the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce is also making it a place for incubation.

In addition to being home to the chamber’s offices, the Lake Martin Innovation Center is a business incubator providing low-cost office space and support to young businesses.

The chamber moved into the former bank data center in February 2017 with big plans for the large space. Chief among them was a dozen suites for startup companies to set up and grow in Alex City. Chamber officials visited other business incubators throughout the state to discover best practices.

“So far, so good,” said Ed Collari, president and CEO of the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce. “Being in a rural community, we faced our challenges. Most of the facilities we toured throughout the state are in the backyards of four-year institutions, so being here in Alex City in rural Alabama we definitely had our issues. But so far, a year and a half in, it’s been a very solid success.”

Collari said the visits to other incubators helped the chamber with its “R&D – ripoff and duplicate” plan. They learned that successful incubators bring in tenants that have expertise in law, information technology and accounting so that they become an in-house resource to other tenant companies.

Lee Williams opened an Alex City office for Birmingham’s Nowlin & Associates Wealth Management in the Innovation Center.

“They’ve done a great job at trying to keep overhead low for new businesses,” he said. “To be able to come into a facility like this and have the resources we have is really, really nice for a company that’s just starting up.”

Williams said the intimate setting at the Lake Martin Innovation Center helps bring tenants together.

“It’s like a small family,” he said. “Even though we don’t necessarily work together, you almost feel like you do.”

Williams said he’s made good friends among the companies and chamber members.

“They’ve got a great group of tenants in here right now,” he said.

Having a business incubator program is uncommon in a town the size of Alex City, Williams noted.

“You could go to a lot of smaller towns and you’re not going to see anything like this. To be able to be a part of it is really special,” he said. “I think it was great timing and I think it’s something that for future new businesses is going to be a great stepping stone and a great platform for them to grow their businesses and get out into the community and be able to make a difference.”

Collari said Lake Martin is a key to the Innovation Center’s success. Not only does it offer the quality-of-life features that young entrepreneurs look for in a community, but it has an important resource that is not so obvious.

“Lake Martin is what we lean on,” Collari said. “We don’t have that four-year college, but what we do have is Lake Martin – not just the financial resources that surround the lake, but the retired executives, the CEOs or the vice presidents who have contacts that we’re able to lean on.”

Collari said a group within the organization includes retired or semi-retired former executives who live on the lake and offer advice on starting, scaling or expanding businesses.

“We utilize those folks with our entrepreneurs to help them grow their business as well,” he said.

Since the Innovation Center opened, seven plus the chamber companies have located within the facility and four spots remain. Those companies range from professional services firms to the local Servpro operator. The businesses have created 50 jobs.

“It’s been a pretty solid success for our community, for new business, for entrepreneurs as well as for our existing chamber members who are also allowed access to this facility,” Collari said. “So, overall, a big win for Alex City.”

In addition to the eight full-time tenants, the Innovation Center has 40 individuals and businesses signed up for co-working space within the facility. Chamber members love using the space for meetings, events and the holiday party this past year.

For a flat monthly fee, tenants get access to the center’s receptionists, the information technology within the facility, utilities other than a telephone land-line, security, cleaning and free coffee.

In addition to Lake Martin, Collari said the small-town atmosphere of Alexander City is paying off for the entrepreneurs in the Innovation Center.

“With the amount of traffic that comes in here from members to business leaders to city officials, they’re able to make relationships, make contacts,” he said. “They know they’re supported.”

Other than the coffee, which can be a big expense for caffeine-fueled entrepreneurs, Collari said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“Overall, it’s probably exceeded our expectations,” Collari said.

Lake Martin Innovation Center tenant companies

Angela J. Hill, Attorney at Law: Attorney focusing on family law, estate planning and criminal defense with a primary focus on children’s advocacy.

Beyond Home Care: In-home, nonmedical caregiving service focused on keeping patients as active as possible in their homes to promote overall health and well-being.

Lee Williams – Nowlin & Associates Wealth Management: Investment, insurance planning and financial planning firm focused on leading clients into the new economy with savings, income, investing and legacy strategies that succeed in unpredictable market environments.

Lowden Street Capital: Private equity firm that focuses on helping rural small business owners find an exit for their business. In only its fifth month of operation, LSC portfolio companies have reached break even and begun generating a small level of profitability.

Servpro of Chilton, Coosa, Tallapoosa and Chambers counties: Water and fire damage restoration, mold remediation, storm damage restoration, cleaning services.

VuePoint Diagnostics: Mobile radiology and diagnostics designed to make patient examinations and treatment faster, easier and more cost-effective.

WisePoint LLC: Document capture, content management systems, portals/intranets and custom programming.

This article originally appeared in Shorelines magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

University of North Alabama adopting new tuition plan

The University of North Alabama is switching to a tuition plan that officials say will result in increased costs for some students but not others.

Officials at the school in Florence say they are reducing the total number of student fees from seven to one, and fees will be included in the overall tuition cost.


A statement says students taking 15 hours will see a maximum increase in expenses of 4.1%.

But some could pay less, and costs will not change for others.

School officials say a lag in state funding is a continuing problem.

North Alabama’s vice president for business, Evan Thornton, says the school has deferred maintenance and capital needs totaling more than $160 million.

The school has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,200 students.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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5 hours ago

Nathan Lindsay joining governor’s office from BCA

Another high profile staffer from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is joining Governor Kay Ivey’s senior level team.

The governor on Monday announced that Nathan Lindsay will join her office as director of appointments effective July 1.

This position is charged with spearheading the meticulous work that goes into Ivey meeting her duty to appoint qualified, representative and appropriate people to positions on the state’s various boards and commissions.

A press release from the governor’s office outlined that Lindsay assumes the role with an extensive background in state government and the private sector, which uniquely qualifies him to advise the governor in this capacity.


Most recently, through his work in political and governmental affairs at the BCA, Lindsay interacted with members of the business community throughout the Yellowhammer State, which significantly adds to his ability to identify and select candidates for various appointed posts.

Additionally, Lindsay’s early career included time in then-Governor Bob Riley’s office where he served as aide to the governor from 2006 to 2011. Lindsay also worked in the governor’s communications office as deputy press secretary and advised Riley on education policy.

“Nathan brings to our team a wealth of knowledge that I know will serve the state well,” Ivey said in a statement. “In addition to his expertise and insight, Nathan is a man of character. The men and women of my staff must have a strong work ethic, a depth of knowledge and a heart for public service. Nathan certainly embodies all of these characteristics.”

Lindsay earned his bachelor’s degree from Faulkner University. During his time at Faulkner, he served as SGA president and later, in 2018, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“As governor, I have the important responsibility of appointing qualified individuals to serve on the more than 450 boards and commissions in our state. These men and women must not only be highly-qualified, but they should also be a true reflection of our great state,” Ivey added. “I am confident we will continue to find the best people to serve our state, just as I am certain Nathan will serve my Administration exceptionally well in this position. His experience speaks for itself, and he shares my goal of moving Alabama into a better future.”

This comes weeks after Leah Garner departed BCA to become Ivey’s communications director.

Mark Colson also left BCA to become head of the Alabama Trucking Association recently.

Update 5:55 p.m.:

BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt released a statement commending Ivey on the hire of Lindsay.

“Nathan’s background and expertise in political affairs combined with his political acumen uniquely qualify him to serve the governor and the state in this capacity,” Britt said. “I have no doubt Nathan will do an outstanding job, and I commend Governor Kay Ivey on this excellent addition to her staff.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Alabama listed as one of the top 20 most patriotic states in America

A WalletHub report released Monday revealed Alabama to be on of the top 20 most patriotic states in America.

Ranked 19 overall on the list, with a score of 47.43, Alabama ranked first for the “Civics Education Requirement.”

The report “compared the 50 states across 13 key indicators of patriotism” and “ranges from share of enlisted military population to share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.”


With one as “Most Patriotic” and 25 as “Average,” Alabama received the following rankings:

  • 5th – Average Number of Military Enlistees per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 30th – Active-Duty Military Personnel per 100,000 Civilian Adults
  • 17th – Veterans per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 1st – Civics Education Requirement
  • 12th – Share of Civilian Adult Population in Military Reserves
  • 10th – Share of Adults Who Voted in 2016 Primary Elections

Alabama also ranked eight overall for ‘Military Engagement.’

The report, which compared red states to blue states in terms of patriotism, found that red states were more patriotic. Red states received an average rank of 23.67, while blue states received an average rank of 28.25.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

6 hours ago

Brooks: ‘Really dumb’ for Democrats to elect candidates mainly on ‘skin pigmentation or their chromosomes’

In an interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show”on Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) lamented that many Democrats have become more interested in racial and gender identity politics than the welfare of America.

Coming off of her much maligned comments comparing American immigration facilities to “concentration camps,” host Dale Jackson asked the north Alabama congressman if he believes that Democrats in Congress will allow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to continue to serve as their “de facto face and leader.”

“Yes,” Brooks answered succinctly, promoting a follow-up request for his reasoning.


“Well, she is where she is,” Brooks explained. “She’s got a lot of political power. She’s got a lot of support — surprisingly.”

“There are large, large numbers of American citizens who have bit off on this socialist stuff, who have bit off on this victimization stuff, who have bit off on thinking that the most important criteria in determining whether to elect someone is their skin pigmentation or their chromosomes — which is really dumb, OK,” he continued. “We oughta be electing people based on their character and based on their public policy positions.”

“But, notwithstanding that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the face of the Democratic Party in many different respects, and she does have great influence as evidenced by the presidential candidates on the socialist Democrats’ side who are trying to cultivate her support,” Brooks added. “They want her endorsement.”

Listen, starting at the 8:25 mark:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Democrats hope it’s 2017 all over again, Republicans just want the nightmare to end

In 2017, Roy Moore won a Republican primary run-off against an extremely flawed Luther Strange. Strange wasn’t just a regular candidate — he had the cloud of his appointment, and he was dogged by former Gov. Robert Bentley’s investigation, impeachment and resignation.

Alabama Republicans, outside of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), were reluctant to criticize Roy Moore because they knew doing so would hand the Senate seat to now-Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

But this is different.


State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Montgomery Advertiser that he blamed the GOP establishment in 2017, but still thinks Moore can’t win in 2020.

He stated, “I do not believe, with the numbers I look at, that Roy Moore at the end of the day can get the nomination.”

State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) dismissed Moore when asked about the candidates, saying, “If you look at the candidates, you got Roy Moore. I don’t think we need to say more there.”

Later, he all but endorsed U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) by saying Byrne “would do the best job.”

Secretary of State John Merrill, a potential future Moore opponent, believes Moore has an uphill battle against Jones.

“I think it would be extraordinarily difficult for Judge Moore to be successful in a general election campaign against Senator Jones,” Merrill outlined.

He added, “I also think it would be difficult for Judge Moore to secure the Republican nomination.”

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who endorsed Moore in 2017, has already endorsed State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and is on record saying former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions would be a favorite.

“I do believe that Jeff Sessions would clearly be number one in the poll rankings, based on his having been such a great senator on three principle issues: free enterprise versus socialism; deficit and debt; and border security,” he explained.

Say what you will, but you do not usually see these kinds of pronouncements from Republicans in the middle of a primary.

Democrats hope 2017 is going to be repeated in 2020, but there are many different factors that will matter.

Roy Moore is already fatally flawed as 300,000+ Republicans voters abandoned him in 2017 and stayed home. Many of those voters will vote in the primary in 2020, but will not vote for him.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) expressed a similar sentiment on CSPAN last week.

“I personally don’t think Roy Moore is going to be our nominee, but whoever our nominee is will prevail in November because you’ll have the full complement of Republican voters turning out turning out to vote,” he said.

This is not 2017.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.