In the wake of Billy Canary’s abrupt exit as president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, it is clear that the business community will chart its path forward by making significant changes.
For starters, many of Alabama’s largest employers are no longer members of BCA. Several factors will contribute to whether those large employers reconsider their memberships, and those factors involve revising the organization’s policies and approach to advocacy.
The existing membership of BCA has a difficult task ahead of them if they want to restore the group to its former strength. That type of restoration will be impossible without the participation of the state’s largest employers. Concessions will have to be made so that these companies feel comfortable that their ability to participate in the group more accurately reflects their contributions. That’s only fair.
At the same time, a strong group must also carry the interests of a broad spectrum of industries. Small businesses, manufacturing and professional services – just to name a few – will all need representation within the organization.
BCA decision-makers will have to strike a delicate balance in implementing these changes. But that’s not the only place where change will matter.
Choosing the correct person to lead the group is equally important.
The new leader will have to be someone who can unify the business community through their experience and leadership style. The BCA needs to sharpen its approach to governmental affairs, refocus their policy goals and retool its political operation. All of this will require a lot of adjustments before the legislature convenes in March 2019.
So, who might that person be?
Yellowhammer News has picked up on several names being talked about to potentially fill that role.
Jo Bonner – The former congressman from Mobile has spent a career building relationships with many of the key stakeholders in the business community. Bonner currently serves in a governmental affairs and economic development role for the University of Alabama. He has a long-standing friendship with Governor Ivey and relationships with business leaders across the state. Bonner is known for his statesman-like approach to politics.
Young Boozer – Should the BCA’s leadership prioritize business experience in the selection process, then Boozer would likely become a top candidate. Boozer has decades of experience in banking and finance with some of the country’s largest institutions. He entered politics in 2010 and has since served two terms as State Treasurer.
Philip Bryan – Bryan has enjoyed a meteoric rise in Alabama politics. Having started in political communications only a decade ago, and now running Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh’s legislative operation, Bryan has reached a point of permanent occupancy on any list of Alabama’s most powerful and influential people. Few people in politics share Bryan’s smarts and knowledge, and even fewer people have as much influence on the policy-making process. Bryan’s energy and ambition would be welcome additions to the position.
Allison Hosp – Currently serving as the Vice President of the Alabama Retail Association, Hosp has a strong track record of success working on the issues most important to Alabama’s business community. When BCA refocuses its policy goals, Hosp is someone who has the experience necessary to carry out an effective plan of advocacy. From fighting tax hikes to tort reform, she has proven she can be an effective advocate for the business community.
State Representative Bill Poole – No one knows if the Tuscaloosa lawyer would actually have an interest in giving up his powerful House Ways and Means Education chairmanship to take over at BCA. Nevertheless, Poole’s name has been bantered about heavily. Poole is that rare combination of policy wonk and political operator. He has a reputation as a straight-shooter who also navigates the treacherous waters of the statehouse with ease. Regardless of whether he lands at BCA, Poole will be a player in Alabama politics for many years.
Toby Roth – Roth is a trusted figure in Montgomery circles, and someone who transcends several cycles of political power. He began working on behalf of the business community in the 1990s during the appellate court and tort reform battles. Then Roth served as Chief of Staff during Bob Riley’s first term as governor. He has years of business advocacy on his resume, as well as the even temperament some may want in the next leader at BCA.
These moves and others will go a long way in determining whether the BCA, once again, becomes a viable entity in Alabama politics.
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