The city of Fairhope, the Baldwin Community and Economic Development Foundation and The University of Alabama (UA) recently announced the opening of Hatch, a downtown business resource incubator and tech hub aimed at providing guidance and linkages to statewide resources for local entrepreneurs in the early stages of forming a startup company.

The new center held a grand opening in Fairhope last Friday, Nov. 2.

“Since Fairhope’s beginning, the city has attracted entrepreneurs and independent thinkers,” Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson said. “Many cities spend considerable effort to develop ‘think tanks.’ We believe that Fairhope is the perfect place to launch Hatch and we are excited to support and partner with The University of Alabama and the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance on this initiative.”a

Hatch was created to assist in helping Baldwin County foster an entrepreneurial culture, develop a resource ecosystem and connect UA resources with emerging tech companies across the state. As part of Technology Villages, a program that assists communities in constructing and operating these storefront incubators to encourage growth of local technology-based businesses, Hatch has developed a list of program services for the entrepreneurial community.

Technology Villages is based on a five-year pilot conducted in five South Carolina cities by Clemson University under its Institute of Community and Economic Development. Programs in Bluffton and Rock Hill created an estimated 12 to 14 companies in the first 18 months and close to 70 new jobs, with an estimated payroll of $2.8 million.

The program’s structure is unique, operating as both a traditional incubator and a startup resource hub where entrepreneurs receive real-time distance entrepreneurial learning with hands-on consulting support. The program will link Fairhope and Baldwin County to intellectual property resources, seed financing and corporate partnering relationships.

Hatch has undergone renovations for the past several months to create a coworking space on the second floor of the BBVA Compass building on Section Street in downtown Fairhope.

Program services include risk evaluation and development, technology review, market and technology sector database access, high-speed internet and workspace opportunities, operations and business planning, networking, corporate partnering (marketing, research, manufacturing) and funding resources.

“I’m excited about the university’s strategic partnerships with Fairhope,” UA President Stuart R. Bell said. “One of our primary goals as Alabama’s flagship is to increase activities that drive economic development for our state. As we reach out to emerging tech businesses in these areas, we look forward to helping small businesses thrive and bolster their local economies.”

“Growing entrepreneurial companies has always been part of our strategy and Hatch now provides the place and hub to implement and deliver on that strategy,” Lee Lawson, president and CEO of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, said. “Hatch will be viable because of its channeled focus and partnership with UA. It is particularly important for a region that doesn’t have a heavy economic development footprint from a four-year university.”

Wilkins Miller named ‘Top 400’ firm

Wilkins Miller, LLC, a locally owned accounting and advisory firm with offices in Mobile and Fairhope, has been named a “Top 400 Firm” by Inside Public Accounting (IPA). Wilkins Miller came in at the 338th spot and was one of five Alabama firms named to the list, according to a news release.

“We are proud to be included with these fine firms as a Top 400 firm in the country,” Wilkins Miller managing partner Allen Carroll said. “Our firm has a great group of people that are committed to helping our clients succeed. We are excited to be recognized nationally.”

This ranking was developed by gathering information from more than 550 firms completing IPA’s Survey and Analysis of Firms. Many professional associations also aided in the search for firms to add to the list, which IPA plans to publish annually. For the most recent fiscal year, IPA Top 400 firms range in size from $4.55 million to $9.9 million, and from 20 to 80 in staff. The firms employ more than 4,000, in total, across the nation.

More than 50 years old, Wilkins Miller specializes in the accounting areas of auditing, tax, litigation, valuation, cost segregation, outsourced accounting and information technology consulting. The firm is located at 41 W. Interstate 65 Service Road, N., Suite 400, in Mobile and 56 S. Section St. in Fairhope. More information about the firm can be found on its website.

Gov. Ivey honored at BCA event

Business Council of Alabama Chairman Perry Hand, chairman of the board of Mobile-based engineering firm Volkert Inc., recently presented Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey with BCA’s Chairman’s Award for her support of pro-business initiatives throughout her career.

The ceremony took place at the BCA Chairman’s Dinner at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel Ballroom, where it is held each year to support BCA’s political action committee, ProgressPAC.

Hand said in a prepared statement that since Ivey took office, more than $8 billion has been invested toward business growth in Alabama, resulting in 16,000 jobs. The most recent figures on Alabama unemployment rates corresponding with Ivey’s first term in office, Hand said, are currently at their lowest recorded levels in state history.

“Gov. Ivey’s support of a thriving business climate has been key to landing coveted economic projects, including the new Toyota-Mazda plant and its 4,000 anticipated jobs to north Alabama,” Hand said. “Gov. Ivey supports a business environment which grows tech companies and she continues to be a strong recruiter of companies in the automotive, aviation, and aerospace sectors.”

“I’ve had a lot of help from many folks in this room throughout my career. I’m truly thankful,” Gov. Ivey said at the dinner.

The BCA Chairman’s Award is given to a recipient of the BCA chairman’s choice during the closing months of his or her tenure as the volunteer leader of the statewide business advocacy organization.

This story has been updated to correct Perry Hand’s role at Volkert.