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Helping Innovators Grow Roots

December 1, 2022

Innovate Alabama forms Council on Outdoor Recreation to expand, promote and protect Alabama’s outdoor recreational landscape


1320 1st Ave N.
Birmingham, AL 35233



BIRMINGHAM, AL – Innovate Alabama recently established the Council on Outdoor Recreation to advise the board of directors on strategies to achieve three primary goals: expanding Alabama’s outdoor recreation industry, enhancing the state’s attractiveness for a skilled workforce and yielding substantial returns for both rural and urban communities for the enjoyment of current and future Alabamians. 

The Council is also supported by the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable comprised of 19 stakeholders who represent diverse and comprehensive perspectives from various regions of the state and outdoor recreation fields. The Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable, which met for the first time on Wednesday, Nov. 30, will provide recommendations for the utilization of Alabama’s recreational assets as innovative economic development tools. 

“Made up of some of our state’s strongest outdoor recreation experts, the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable brings together centuries of combined knowledge in the outdoors to provide strategic recommendations on the application of outdoor recreation to enhance Alabamians’ quality of life and support economic development in rural and urban communities.” said Commissioner Chris Blankenship, chair of the Council on Outdoor Recreation. “We are thrilled to welcome these advisory members who will ensure that all regions of the state and outdoor recreation sectors have a seat at the table as we develop these recommendations.” 

In 2021, Innovate Alabama joined forces with Alabama native Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution to conduct extensive research to foster a robust, inclusive economy and drive Alabama forward. This research, which culminated in a final report, highlighted the opportunity to leverage Alabama’s natural resources to help innovators grow roots here, thus the Council on Outdoor Recreation was formed.  

“A thriving business ecosystem is holistic. It considers the interest, hobbies and well-being of entrepreneurs and their families. People build businesses in Alabama in part because of our outdoor recreation assets and landscape diversity. Our natural resources – a true advantage that helps us continue to recruit and retain top talent – differentiates us from other innovation-forward states,” said Kellie Clark, CEO of AppThink and roundtable member. “As an outdoor enthusiast and innovation advocate, I am proud to serve alongside fellow subject matter experts who are all focused on creating inclusive, thoughtful solutions through the lens of outdoor recreation that will enrich our innovation ecosystem.” 

Innovate Alabama is leveraging the entire state’s outdoor assets, such as local and state parks, landscape diversity and other natural resources, in an effort to showcase and cultivate Alabama’s unique offerings. Further investment in these assets that make Alabama special in its own right will encourage entrepreneurs, whether they be homegrown talent or out-of-state innovators, to come grow roots here. 

“We are seeing great success by aligning innovation with our outdoor recreation efforts,” said John Kvach, Executive Director of Singing River Trail and roundtable member. “Thanks to Alabama’s unique outdoor landscape and outdoor recreation assets, we have the potential to strengthen regional bonds between rural and urban communities to create a thriving statewide innovation ecosystem.” 

Members of the Council on Outdoor Recreation and the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable include the following: 

Council on Outdoor Recreation 

  • Commissioner Chris Blankenship, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Council Chair) 
  • Bill Poole, Chair, Innovate Alabama Board of Directors 
  • Peter Inge, Private Sector Representative, CFO, NXTsoft 
  • Darrell Ezell, Private Sector Representative, Director of Diversity Equity & Inclusion, Hudson Alpha 

Outdoor Recreation Advisory Roundtable 

  • Amy Rauworth, Chief of Development and Strategic Partnerships, Lakeshore Foundation 
  • Sen. Andrew Jones, Alabama State Senate, District 10 
  • Chris Oberholster, Development Director, Alabama Audubon 
  • Emile Hughes, Co-Founder, Ride Resorts 
  • Fred Couch, Jr., Founder, Alabama Scenic River Trails 
  • Graham Sisson, Chairman, Alabama Trails Commission 
  • Mayor Jack Tibbs, City of Eufaula 
  • John Kvach, Executive Director, Singing River Trail 
  • Kellie Clark, CEO, AppThink 
  • Kruis Retherford, President, Glasstream Powerboats 
  • Rep. Kyle South, Alabama House of Representatives, District 16 
  • Michael Norman, Store Manager, REI 
  • Phillip West, Coastal Resources Manager, City of Orange Beach 
  • Preston Cauthen, Community Relations Manager, Alabama Power 
  • Rick Oates, State Forester, Alabama Forestry Commission 
  • Rusha Smith, Executive Director, Freshwater Land Trust 
  • Themika Sims, Director, Graham Farm 
  • Tim Lindblom, Dean, Jacksonville State University College of Mathematics and Science 
  • Tim Wood, General Manager, Central Alabama Farmers Cooperative 

Please direct inquiries about the Council on Outdoor Recreation and Advisory Roundtable to 


About Innovate Alabama  

Innovate Alabama is Alabama’s first statewide public-private partnership focused on entrepreneurship, technology and innovation with a mission to help innovators grow roots here in Alabama. Innovate Alabama was established to implement the initiatives and recommendations set forth in the Alabama Innovation Commission’s report, including smart policy solutions that will create a more resilient, inclusive and robust economy to remain competitive in a 21st-century world. With founding CEO Cynthia Crutchfield leading the charge, Innovate Alabama is also made up of a board of 11 innovation leaders appointed by Gov. Ivey, collaborating across sectors to advance industries, drive technology and facilitate an environment where innovation and entrepreneurship thrive. Learn more about Innovate Alabama at

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