EDPA launches new initiatives to aid in Alabama economic development

Fresh off the success of the Alabama Experience (ALEX) at The World Games, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA) has established the Alabama Business Intelligence Center (ABIC) to aid in the recruitment and retention of industry in the state. EDPA unveiled the initiative at the Economic Development Association of […]

Fresh off the success of the Alabama Experience (ALEX) at The World Games, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA) has established the Alabama Business Intelligence Center (ABIC) to aid in the recruitment and retention of industry in the state.

EDPA unveiled the initiative at the Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA) Summer Conference in Point Clear Monday.

“We feel like it’s really, really important to do a great job of business intelligence to start with,” said Greg Barker, EDPA president. “In fact, we think that will change the way we’re going about doing economic development in Alabama. Every other industry that you can think of is using business intelligence in a much, much more aggressive, intentional way than the economic development community, or at least it kind of feels that way.”

Barker views ABIC as pivotal to changing the way the state approaches economic development.

“We feel like we can really change the narrative about how Alabama uses intelligence in the short term, but also in the long term,” he said.

EDPA announces Alabama Business Intelligence Center from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The Alabama Business Intelligence Center will ensure the state has a firm grasp on the sectors, companies and leaders that are driving Alabama’s economy at any given time.

“We feel like with the Business Intelligence Center, if we are proactive in our due diligence on sectors, companies, executives and Alabama’s value proposition, we will a lot earlier identify risks and/or opportunities facing Alabama and use that to develop proactive strategies to either address the challenges or mitigate the risks or realize the opportunities,” Barker said.

Lauren Hyde was introduced as the first ABIC executive director.

“Success for the Alabama Business Intelligence Center looks like success for our partners,” Hyde said. “ABIC will utilize a risk-return framework of thinking when analyzing opportunities. We are committed to long-term investment in Alabama. It’s not just dollars, incentives or time. It’s jobs and infrastructure. And we’re here to generate the actionable data insights needed to encourage this investment.”

Lauren Hyde is executive director of the new Alabama Business Intelligence Center. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

ABIC will work to:

  • Increase business development leads.
  • Strengthen partnerships through intelligence and resources.
  • Collaborate with allies and partners to unlock insights from the combination of quantitative and qualitative information.
  • Position Alabama as a partner for business growth and investment.

ABIC also aims to be a thought leader on Alabama business and industry trends. It will augment the current work of EDPA partners and further position Alabama’s value.

ABIC will work with the EDPA business development team and be a resource for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

ABIC will also support Opportunity Alabama and its statewide partners to generate data-informed interventions to build economic resilience in underserved communities, as they recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Alex Flachsbart, founder and CEO of Opportunity Alabama, said ABIC will be a critical partner in the implementation of this initiative. Opportunity Alabama is funded by a corona virus relief grant received in 2021 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

“In order to execute substantive, place-based strategic interventions, we need to understand local communities in a data-driven way, and ABIC will allow us to do just that,” stated Flachsbart. “We are fortunate to have someone of Lauren’s caliber providing actionable business intelligence statewide, and grateful to the Economic Development Administration for supporting this effort.”

ALEX is an “immersive, firsthand, interactive experience” designed to entertain, inform and empower visitors while using virtual reality to give participants a look at what it’s like to live and work in Alabama. (Billy Brown / Alabama NewsCenter)

ABIC comes as EDPA is celebrating ALEX at The World Games. The virtual reality tool takes users into an experience of what it’s like to live and work in Alabama. More than 11,400 people visited ALEX during The World Games in Birmingham. Now, the emphasis is on taking ALEX statewide.

“We have a commitment to take that and roll that out in the other six workforce development regions in Alabama,” Barker said. “We’re going through the process now of saying, ‘OK, what really worked well at The World Games that we definitely need to keep and duplicate in other places? And what are the things that we need to tweak? And what are the things that we need to rethink?’ I’ve never been more excited about a tool to generate pipelines of people, potential applicants for jobs, than I have been ALEX. It’s been wildly successful and we’re going to continue to grow it as we move forward.”

As if that wasn’t enough, EDPA has spearheaded a collaborative effort aimed at research.

“For traditional economic development type of research – about labor force and buildings and existing industry and those kinds of things – we’ve had pockets of excellence in Alabama, but what we’ve never had is overall sustainable success,” Barker said.

That led to the creation of the Alabama Economic Development Research Council, which brings together economic development researchers across the state to share best practices and tackle larger issues.

The group has been meeting for about a year and is considering taking on its first statewide project – a comprehensive industrial database in Alabama that can be updated closer to real time and be more accurate and useful than other current tools.

EDPA is a private, non-profit organization supported by more than 60 corporate partners, including Alabama Power.

Learn more about Alabama Power’s Economic and Community Development initiatives at AmazingAlabama.com.

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