Bridging the Gap: A Series of Intentional Conversations

Join the Chamber of Commerce, the Diverse Business Council and the City of Tuscaloosa for a discussion via Zoom/Facebook Live. This is a series of discussions on race relations. Register for the next session here. 
Wednesday, June 10th
1:30 p.m.
Bridging the Gap Session 1: Community Policing

 Join the Chamber of Commerce, the Diverse Business Council and the City of Tuscaloosa for a discussion on community policing via Zoom/Facebook Live. This is session one in a series of discussions on race relations.

Mayor Walt Maddox, City of Tuscaloosa
Rep. Chris England, District 70
Jim Page, CEO and President of Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama
Ron Abernathy, Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Department
Brent Blankley, Chief of Tuscaloosa Police Department
Bishop L. Spenser Smith, Impact Nation Fellowship Church
Michele Coley, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama Vice Chair of Membership and Investor Relations, Allstate Coley Agency
Thomas Dedrick, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama Board Member, Dedrick Wealth Management Group of Raymond James
Mildred Black Hooks, Diverse Business Council Chair, People Optimum Consulting
Councilwoman Raevan Howard, District 2, City of Tuscaloosa

This will be a Zoom webinar. Upon registration, you will receive an email with login and dial-in information.


Wednesday, June 17th
1:30 p.m.
Bridging the Gap Session 2: Economic Opportunities

Join the Diverse Business Council Wednesday, June 17 at 1:30 pm for a discussion on economic opportunity via Zoom/Facebook Live. This is session two in a series of discussions on race relations. The objectives of this forum are to provide assistance and information to attendees on resources and guidance with respect to economic development and opportunities.

Caramyl Drake, Tuscaloosa Builds
Pastor Tyshawn Gardner, Plum Grove, Stillman College
Donny Jones, The Chamber & West Alabama Works
Paul Rollins, Jr., Rollins Mortuary
Karen Thompson, Temporary Emergency Services
Dr. Cynthia Warrick, Stillman College

This will be a Zoom webinar. Upon registration, you will receive an email with login and dial-in information.


Small Business Relief Fund Has Assisted More Than 260 Businesses


Following the latest round of awards, the Small Business Relief Fund has now disbursed $1,167,471 to local small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The partnership between the Chamber and the Community Foundation of West Alabama has assisted 267 local small businesses throughout the nine-county region.

“No other sector has been more hard-hit by the COVID-19 crisis than our small businesses in Tuscaloosa,” Mayor Walt Maddox says. “It’s my hope that through the City’s $1 million investment into the Small Business Relief fund through Elevate Tuscaloosa, that the promise of tomorrow will be regained for these businesses.”

The funding, which provided immediate relief to businesses, kept some from closing their doors permanently.

“Thank you so much for help and support from the Chamber to small businesses, like myself,” says Myca Bell-Mack of Myca Mack Beauty. “It makes such a huge difference to us all. We will forever be indebted to you all for your generosity during such uncertain times.”

Barkley Garrett, Vice President for Economic Development for the Chamber, noted there is still approximately $84,000 remaining in the fund available to businesses based in the city of Tuscaloosa and urged anyone interested to apply before the July 31 deadline.

“We at the Chamber, along with our friends at the Community Foundation, are thrilled to have been able to assist so many small businesses during this difficult time,” Garrett says. “We would like to encourage anyone who has experienced a financial hardship during the pandemic to apply for the remaining City of Tuscaloosa funds over the next week and take advantage of this unique opportunity.”

"It has been a privilege for the CFWA to partner with the Chamber and the City of Tuscaloosa to help our small business community,” says Glenn Taylor, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of West Alabama. “We have a very generous, caring community and it is in times like these that we are reminded of such.  We are proud of our community and glad to be a partner in the recovery."

To be eligible for funds donated under the City of Tuscaloosa’s Elevate Tuscaloosa initiative, a business must be located within the city limits of Tuscaloosa, must have experienced a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, must have 50 or fewer full time employees as of February 29, 2020, and must be in good standing with state and local government jurisdictions. The deadline to apply is July 31.

To donate to the Small Business Relief Fund or apply, visit

Ivey Reappoints Chamber's Donny Jones to Alabama Workforce Council

Contact:  Amy Materson, (205) 391-0563


TUSCALOOSA, AL | July 10, 2020Governor Kay Ivey has reappointed Donny Jones, Chief Operating Officer for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and Executive Director of West Alabama Works, to the Alabama Workforce Council.

Formed in 2015 as an employer-led statewide effort to understand the structure, function, organization and perception of the Alabama workforce system, the Alabama Workforce Council facilitates collaboration between government and industry to help Alabama develop a sustainable, top-notch workforce that is competitive on a global scale. Since its inception, the Council has been committed to analyzing important issues related to workforce development and making sound recommendations that will help to create more and better opportunities for all Alabamians.

As director of West Alabama Works, Jones leads the team that supports the Region 3 Workforce Council. This regional workforce development system supports economic and workforce training activities throughout a nine-county area through both urban and rural outreach programs, and innovative initiatives.

“Donny has been a great asset to our West Alabama community in leading our workforce efforts that are a model for others around the country,” said Bobby Bragg, Chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors. “It’s great to see that Governor Ivey and the state workforce council recognize the West Alabama Works efforts and results, and continue to show confidence in Donny’s agile and effective leadership.”

Chamber President and CEO Jim Page said Jones is an excellent representative to the council. “I am extremely proud of Donny for serving on the Alabama Workforce Council,” Page said. “His passion, creativity and outstanding work ethic are major reasons why we’ve experienced so much workforce development success in Region 3. Donny is a true servant leader and will continue to be an invaluable asset to our state’s emerging efforts to put Alabamians to work.”   

 “I am honored to serve on the Alabama Workforce Council,” Jones said. “The state of Alabama must be prepared to face future workforce challenges by readying a new generation of skilled workers. The AWC is uniquely positioned to positively impact both workforce and economic development for the entire state of Alabama.”

2020 Transportation Summit Tackles Current, Future Projects



Local, State Elected Officials Provide Project Updates to Summit Attendees


Chamber members were updated on local, state, and federal projects during the 2020 Transportation Summit – held virtually – July 9, and sponsored by McGiffert and Associates, LLC.

Probate Judge Rob Robertson, who chairs the Tuscaloosa County Road Improvement Commission, kicked off the event with an update on infrastructure throughout the county, which has 1,600 miles of roads and 200 bridges to maintain within its borders.

In providing a TCRIC update to attendees, Judge Robertson noted the partnership with the Alabama Department of Transportation had been instrumental in resolving bottlenecks and moving forward.

“The Road Improvement Commission to date has returned over $24 million in tax money to the Tuscaloosa economy,” he said. “That’s a pretty big number.”

Northport Mayor Donna Aaron, who also serves as vice-chair of the Tuscaloosa County Road Improvement Commission, talked about how the TCRIC has benefited the City of Northport. “Northport has benefited, and will continue to benefit from the ongoing intersection improvements at Highway 69 North,” she said. “The planned improvements at Charlie Shirley Road will make the intersection far safer than it has been in years.”

Jarrod Milligan of the City of Tuscaloosa discussed several projects, including the University Boulevard/US 82 overpass bridge replacement, which is a project between the city, The University of Alabama, and ALDOT, and expected to let in the spring of 2021 under an INFRA grant.

The 10th Avenue Roadway Improvement project has been completed, with the contractor currently working on the punch list. A shared use path and new sidewalk has been added, along with lighting and landscaping.

With 500 miles of city streets to maintain, resurfacing projects are always a priority. Milligan said the 2019 resurfacing project is still underway, working to repave 12 miles of city streets. “We’ve had a lot of investment of repaving,” he said. “We’re preparing through Restart Tuscaloosa another 13 miles of street for repaving in that project at a cost of $3,500,000.”

Milligan also gave updates on projects that will prepare the area for future growth, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/Jack Warner Parkway project, which is in bridge design and utility coordination phase, and the McWright’s Ferry Road Extension, which is still in the design phase and property acquisition.

Representative Bill Poole, sponsor of the Rebuild Alabama Act, joined attendees to provide updates from the statewide level. In addition to discussing the RAA’s indexing structure, Poole talked about the major projects approved for FY20 resulting from the act. The project in Tuscaloosa approved is the McFarland Boulevard (US 82) from Rice Mine to SR-69 expansion project.

“Investing in infrastructure pays off for generations,” Poole said. “I think it is very significant that we do not let our infrastructure fall further behind that it already has.”

Poole discussed the number of projects underway that will prepare our community for the future. He said he wanted to recognize ALDOT’s role in challenging and frustrating projects, and noted our community finally has a unified voice in prioritized projects. “No other community in the State of Alabama will achieve an equivalent level of transportation infrastructure upgrades during this period,” he said.

Brad Darden, Pre-Construction Engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation’s West Central Region, discussed current and future projects.

Kicking off with the Interstate 59/20 project, Darden talked about the benefits of the Single Point Urban Interchange that is currently under construction along with the curved arch bridge.

Other projects Darden touched on included SR-69 lane additions, US-82 lane additions, AL-69/US-11 intersection improvements, US-82/University Boulevard interchange improvement and bridge replacement, and the US-11 Daimler-Benz Boulevard improvements.

Darden said the Lurleen Wallace Boulevard Project, under construction since July 2018, is now 95 percent complete. “This is a very complicated project to construct,” he said. “About 72,000 vehicles per day – the highest traffic count in the West Central Region – use this corridor.”

Wrapping up the summit was Dr. Allen Parrish of the Alabama Transportation Institute, who gave an overview of ATI’s role in collaboration with the State of Alabama and ALDOT.

The 2020 Transportation Summit was presented by McGiffert and Associates, LLC.

Gold Sponsors for the event were Southland Transportation Group and the Tuscaloosa County Commission.

Table Sponsors were the Alabama Transportation Institute; Building & Earth Sciences, Inc.; Sam Phillips Allstate Agency; The University of Alabama College of Engineering; West Alabama Regional Commission; City of Tuscaloosa; and JamisonMoneyFarmer PC.

Mayor and Councilor Team up with Chamber for Small Business Relief Fund Check Distribution



City's Elevate Funds Help Small Businesses Across Tuscaloosa


Following the latest round of awards, the Small Business Relief Fund has now assisted local small businesses with $854,661 in relief funds.

On Friday, June 19, Walt Maddox, Mayor of the City of Tuscaloosa; Councilor Eddie Pugh, District 6; Bobby Bragg, Chair of the Chamber's Board of Directors; and Jim Page, President and CEO of the Chamber visited Tuscaloosa Tumbling Tides, Hudson-Poole Fine Jewelers, and Loosa Brews. These businesses received funds made possible from a $1 million donation through the City of Tuscaloosa's Elevate Tuscaloosa initiative, which was proposed by Mayor Maddox and approved by the City Council in an effort to help small businesses hurt by COVID-19.

LuAnn Nix with Tuscaloosa Tumbling Tides said she cried when she received notification of the award, and was grateful for the support.

The Small Business Relief Fund is a collaboration between the Chamber and the Community Foundation of West Alabama.

To donate, or to apply, visit


Forerunners Program Graduates 2019-20 Class

Congratulations to the Forerunners Class of 2019-20, who overcame great challenges during the nine-month program to complete West Alabama’s premier leadership program for high school students.


The objective of Forerunners is to help meet the community's need for informed, responsible, and effective leadership, and the class is made up of 11th grade students from across West Alabama, who are selected through an application and interview process conducted by Leadership Tuscaloosa alumni.

This year's class members are:

Audrey Boozer, Tuscaloosa Christian; Jesse Brand, Capitol School; JP Brasfield, American Christian; Kayla Brown, Brookwood; Destini Davis, Bryant High; Julia Dominguez, Tuscaloosa County; Ava DuBose, Hillcrest; Caedan Faulkner, Tuscaloosa Christian; Anna Mills Fleenor, Tuscaloosa Academy; Elli Garcia, Hillcrest; Katie Goolsby, Brookwood; Kelly Green, Tuscaloosa County; Jason Hall, Northside; Will Hinds, Tuscaloosa County; Sarah Hinton, Hillcrest; Brandon Hubbard, Tuscaloosa Christian; Caitlin Johnson, Holy Spirit; Evan Jones, Holy Spirit; Tanner Jones, Tuscaloosa County; Kate Kilgore, Northridge; Parker McDaniel, Tuscaloosa County; Jordan McNair, Holy Spirit; Mary Gibbons Miller, Northridge; Patton Miller, Tuscaloosa Academy; Karli Mims, American Christian; Jentzen Moore, Holy Spirit; Rohan Peramsetty, Holy Spirit; Monae Rainer, Bryant High; Natalie Sanders, Tuscaloosa Academy, Madison Scott, Hillcrest; Maria Sealy, Tuscaloosa Academy; Lily Sims, Tuscaloosa County; Tyler Skinner, Tuscaloosa County; Sarah Smalley, Hillcrest; Nadia Smith, Central; Lauren Smith, Tuscaloosa County; Grace Spencer, Tuscaloosa County; Jade Stewart, Holy Spirit; Mickey Suttle, Tuscaloosa County; Jordan Suttles, Hillcrest; Joshua Trimble, Northside; Drew Verzino, Northridge; Zymri Whittington; Tuscaloosa County.


Click Here to View Gallery

Chamber Partners with U.S. Chamber for Inequality Initiative


National townhall event to take place June 25


The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to address inequality of opportunity, with an initiative to kick off with a national townhall event June 25.


During the townhall, business and community leaders will discuss concrete actions that can be taken by government and the private sector to address inequality through education, employment, entrepreneurship, and criminal justice reform. As a partner on this initiative, the Chamber will host local dialogues to continue to move the discussion forward.


“As business leaders in our community, we must strive to make West Alabama a place for economic prosperity for us all,” said Jim Page, President and CEO of the Chamber. “The benefits of diversity and inclusion for our workplaces and our community at large cannot be overstated, and we are excited to partner with the U.S. Chamber to develop a plan to further this important work.”


The Chamber has long worked to provide opportunities for minority entrepreneurs through the organization’s Diverse Business Council, which works to foster the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses in West Alabama, including providing a network of support for advancement, educational opportunities, and financial resources. The Chamber’s regionally-recognized workforce development initiative, West Alabama Works, promotes diversity and inclusion by helping West Alabamians find meaningful, competitive jobs. Through community outreach events in rural and inner-city areas, West Alabama Works directly serves individuals by providing job training and tuition assistance.


U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark said the organization was proud to partner with the Chamber. “The moral case for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is indisputable, and there’s overwhelming evidence that greater diversity benefits the economy, businesses, communities, and employees,” Clark said. “We are proud to partner on this initiative and help develop a robust plan of action.”

Apply Now for Leadership Tuscaloosa Class of 2021


Premier leadership program now accepting applicants for next class


The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama is now accepting applications for the 2020-21 class of Leadership Tuscaloosa, West Alabama's premier leadership program.

Through the nine-month program, participants gain increased knowledge of West Alabama's economic, social, historical, and political issues and needs. It is the intent and goal of Leadership Tuscaloosa to provide a foundation of such knowledge that potential and future leaders can use to aid their involvement and success in community endeavors.

Each participants leaves the program more aware of and sensitive to the wide range of needs and opportunities in the community through shared experiences with a cross section of highly capable fellow citizens, and the program has shaped many individuals inclined toward making our community a better place to live work and play.

The deadline to apply is July 24. Applicants will participant in a virtual interview reviewed by members of the Leadership Tuscaloosa Alumni Association, and successful applicants will join a class of up to 40 participants. Click here to apply. For more information, contact Jill McDonald.

Gov. Kay Ivey to Speak at State of the State, June 18


University of Alabama System to present virtual conference


Governor Kay Ivey will serve as the featured speaker at the Chamber's annual Chamber in Session: State of the State event, held Thursday, June 18 at noon. Presented by the University of Alabama System, the event will include an update on Alabama's issues and challenges for the future.

To adhere to social distancing requirements, the event will be held via virtual conference, and will include networking prior to the Governor's remarks. Upon registration, event attendees will receive a lunch voucher to be used at a participating Chamber member restaurant that can be used the day of the event, or up to 10 days following the event.

Cost to attend the event is $30 for members and $40 for non-members. Click here to register.

Chamber in Session: State of the State is presented by the University of Alabama System.

Gold Sponsors are Embassy Suites Downtown Tuscaloosa and Whitesky Communications.

Silver Sponsors are Paragon HM Wealth Management, Parker Towing Company, and the Tuscaloosa County Commission.

Bronze Sponsors are Home Instead Senior Care and Warrior Met Coal.

Small Business Relief Fund Awards Reach $200,000

Chamber, Community Foundation fund benefits 95 local businesses


Following the latest round of awards, the Small Business Relief Fund has now disbursed $200,000. The partnership between the Chamber and the Community Foundation of West Alabama has assisted 95 local small businesses financially impacted by COVID-19.

“We are thankful for the Chamber and the Community Foundation for the opportunity to apply, and we were excited to receive funds under this program,” said Riley Voce, co-owner of Northport-based food truck Blenz Bowls. “It came at a perfect time for us and literally put us back on the road.”

Voce said they heard about the program from others in the food truck community, as they are cooperating to find appropriate locations to serve customers during COVID-19 restrictions and the closure of the University of Alabama. Each day, the food trucks inform their customers of their location via social media.

“The support means a lot to us, and it’s great to know the community backs you,” Voce said.

Lynda Kees, a massage therapist based in Tuscaloosa who also received funds through the SBRF, echoed the sentiment. “I am deeply grateful to these organizations for creating and administering this relief fund for local small businesses like myself,” she said.  “I would also like to express gratitude to everyone whose generous contributions have made this assistance possible.”

Bobby Bragg, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Chamber, said he was pleased at the level of help the SBRF was able to provide for West Alabama’s small businesses.

“There have been a variety of resources directed at small business, but we wanted to ensure our local businesses had funds available quickly,” Bragg said. “Using this funding to take care of immediate needs such as rent and utilities have made a big difference for some of our small businesses.”

Jim Page, President and CEO of the Chamber, said he was thrilled with the SBRF’s progress, but noted there is more work to be done.

“Thanks to the great folks who live and work in West Alabama, some businesses that would have faced extreme hardship have been able to take advantage of the Small Business Relief Fund,” Page said. “With more applicants in the pipeline, we hope to be able to assist even more of our small businesses.”


Kathy Townsend, owner of A Cutting Edge Caterers, a catering company based in Moundville, said she was so appreciative of the funding, but unsurprised the organizations stepped up quickly to assist not only their members, but the entire community.


“Jim and his staff work tirelessly and are so fair minded,” she said. “The work they do benefits not just their members, but the entire community.”

To donate to the Small Business Relief Fund or apply, visit

Small Business Relief Fund Awards Top More than $140,000

Sixty local businesses benefit from Chamber, Community Foundation fund


Following a third round of funding disbursement today, the Small Business Relief Fund has now awarded $140,000 in funds to 60 local businesses. The fund, a partnership between the Chamber and the Community Foundation of West Alabama, is designed to provide immediate relief for small local businesses financially impacted by COVID-19.

“Providing immediate help to small businesses in this challenging time was top of mind for everyone involved in this process,” said Bobby Bragg, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Chamber. “We’re so pleased so many businesses have taken advantage of this fund.”

Jim Page, President and CEO of the Chamber, said he was appreciative of the donors who helped make the fund a success.

“We are fortunate to live in a community with such great corporate citizens, as well as generous individuals,” Page said. “Our donors for this fund stepped up right away and asked how they could pitch in and be of service.”

Audrey Vermilyea of Monarch Espresso Bar, a downtown coffee shop that received an award through the SBRF, said the fund proactively provided relief for the business community.

“For many small businesses, these uncertain times are trying,” Vermilyea said. “Funds like these help us weather the storm and are an encouragement to us and our team. It's a tangible reminder that the community is behind us.”

Additional funding is needed, Page said, and donations can be made via the Chamber’s and the Foundation’s website. 

To donate to the Small Business Relief Fund or apply, visit