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Northwest Alabama EDA Secures Innovate Alabama Network Designation and Grants for Business Development

Fayette County, Lamar County, and Marion County, Alabama – The Northwest Alabama Economic Development Authority (EDA) has achieved the Innovate Alabama Network designation, accompanied by funding aimed at fostering innovation in the region. This designation integrates Northwest Alabama into a network of communities, nonprofits, and educational institutions statewide, bolstering Alabama’s entrepreneurial landscape.

Innovate Alabama stands as the state’s pioneering public-private partnership dedicated to nurturing entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation, implementing initiatives that fortify Alabama’s innovation ecosystem.

“Through the Innovate Alabama Network, we’re focused on developing a statewide network for innovation programming and catalyzing entrepreneurship in all of our communities, large and small,” said Cynthia Crutchfield, CEO of Innovate Alabama. “The program has become extremely competitive in this second round, with record-breaking engagement. As we continue to expand the Innovate Alabama Network, we’re eager to build on this momentum and create more resources that help foster connections among the designees.”

In addition to earning the Innovate Alabama Network designation, Northwest Alabama EDA received grant funding to enhance its recently launched TIME Program. TIME, an acronym signifying Talent, Innovation and Technology, Manufacturing Modernization, and Entrepreneurship, aims to catalyze innovation in Fayette, Lamar, and Marion counties.

The TIME Program’s initiatives include a small business plan competition, with the winner receiving $7,500 for business-related expenses (alongside a $2,500 youth award). Furthermore, building owners can access matching grants of $1 for every $1 invested to enhance commercial building facades. Innovate Alabama Grant funds will also facilitate business networking platforms and events. TIME will partner with the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network and Bevill State Community College (BSCC) on entrepreneurship programs.

“We’re grateful for Innovate Alabama’s dedication to rural innovation, advanced manufacturing, and entrepreneurship in Alabama,” remarked Tom Wisemiller, President and CEO of Northwest Alabama EDA. “Becoming a part of the Innovate Alabama Network is an exciting opportunity. We look forward to collaborating with other innovative entities across the state.”

To advance manufacturing modernization, TIME will use Innovate Alabama Grant funds to collaborate with local companies, high schools, and BSCC on industry/educational partnerships. With a skilled manufacturing base and unemployment rates as low as 2.9% to 3.3%, the Northwest Alabama EDA region is primed not only to endure but also to flourish in transitioning to advanced manufacturing leveraging automation and robotics.

The region benefits from having two BSCC campuses, with recent investments to upgrade welding booths and other workforce training facilities in Hamilton. Participation in BSCC’s dual-enrollment programs among high school students is on the rise, while the college’s health sciences programs enjoy high rankings.

“Bevill State has long championed economic and workforce development in our communities,” stated Dr. Joel Hagood, President of Bevill State Community College. “We believe that the Innovate Alabama Network designation will create economic development opportunities for our students and communities, aligning with Bevill State’s mission to enrich lives intellectually, economically, and culturally.”

The Innovate Alabama grant funds will additionally bolster STEM and technology education initiatives, taking advantage of the changing dynamics in rural regions, where the presence of high-speed fiber networks like 5G/10G Freedom Fiber is drawing in skilled remote workers. Efforts to increase access to four-year universities are lauded, but economic and community leaders in Northwest Alabama also acknowledge the potential for rural students from agricultural and manufacturing backgrounds to pursue careers in IT, cyber, and computer sciences through alternative educational pathways.

In addition to introducing fresh programming, TIME will furnish cutting-edge technological resources to educators and economic development allies. One of those resources is YouScience®, a leading college and career readiness platform that was recently piloted in five schools in the region. The program utilizes YouScience® Aptitude & Career Discovery, an award-winning career pathways tool that utilizes proprietary technology to uncover student aptitudes and align them with suitable careers and educational opportunities.

YouScience is already used in other districts across Alabama. Anonymized data from over 50,000 Alabama students using the YouScience platform revealed a high aptitude but low interest for in-demand career fields like: (1) Advanced Manufacturing and (2) Computers and Technology. This grant will help students identify their aptitudes earlier, in middle school or high school, and connect them with real-world career opportunities.

“I’m excited to see the results of uncovering student talent specifically for Northwest Alabama,” said Milea Haner, Alabama Territory Manager at YouScience. “This region of our state has a lot of untapped potential. I believe the strategic efforts of the EDA empowered by this grant will have a lasting impact on student success and talent retention.”


About Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance (EDA)
C3 of Northwest Alabama, Inc./Northwest Alabama EDA is a cooperative marketing effort among the cities and counties in Marion, Lamar and Fayette counties in Alabama. This alliance was formed to foster and promote the region’s advantages to new and existing businesses. Northwest Alabama EDA is the “go-to” organization for business owners, investors, site selection consultants, and entrepreneurs who are exploring new or expanded development opportunities in the region. Learn more at

About Innovate Alabama
As Alabama’s first statewide public-private partnership focused on entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, Innovate Alabama implements programs and policies that support Alabama’s innovation ecosystem. Through these efforts, Innovate Alabama empowers entrepreneurs, business owners and students to build a business, a career and a life in Alabama.

About YouScience
YouScience® is the leading technology provider dedicated to solving the skills gap crisis for students and employers. Its end-to-end platform, YouScience® Brightpath, connects education with career applications designed to help students unlock their potential for future pathways. YouScience leverages proven research, artificial intelligence, and industry input to help individuals identify their natural talents, validate their skills and knowledge, and get matched with real-world educational and career pathways in high-demand occupations. YouScience is the preferred choice of individuals, parents, educators, and counselors to guide and support educational and career pathways, currently serving more than 7,000 educational institutions and approximately 2.2 million users nationwide.