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Helping Innovators Grow Roots

June 20, 2024 · Entrepreneurs, Investors, News

A new day for entrepreneurs in Alabama: $98 million available for small businesses

Alabama is open for business and ready to welcome entrepreneurs and investors with real southern hospitality: friendly people, low cost of living, beautiful outdoors, thriving cities and now, nearly $98 million to pour into small businesses.

Beginning this year, Innovate Alabama will administer small business loans and venture capital programs, with a focus on historically underserved communities and individuals. Whether you’re a rural farmer in Alabama’s Black Belt, a veteran from Baltimore looking for the right place to relocate your small business, or a woman-run biotech startup in Atlanta, Alabama has the funding — and tools and talent — you need to succeed.

With a $97.9 million investment to spur activity in the state’s small business ecosystem, Innovate Alabama has launched the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). Alabama’s first statewide public-private partnership focused on entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, Innovate Alabama’s mission is to help innovators grow roots in the state. And, if you’re a small business owner, a tech founder or an investor looking for the right opportunity to sow your oats, Innovate Alabama has made sure the soil here is rich.

“The SSBCI program will have a tremendous impact on the small business landscape throughout the state,” said Innovate Alabama CEO Cynthia Crutchfield.

This program will catalyze entrepreneurship by making low-risk loans and investments possible for lenders and investors respectively. And SSBCI is not exclusive to tech or innovative small businesses but open to all small businesses.

Rodney Sampson, the manager for SSBCI’s InvestAL program, knows well the life-changing impact of meaningful investment for a small business.

“To the fund manager and the founder, this is capital,” said Sampson, an entrepreneur renowned for building inclusive economic ecosystems with organizations like 100 Black Angels and Allies. Sampson said people outside of Alabama need to visit and see what the state has to offer.

Innovate Alabama plans to launch the state’s SSBCI program in collaboration with SlossTech, the Southeast’s premier annual tech conference.

“In the context of the venture ecosystem, Sloss Tech is an incredible opportunity to come and check out Alabama’s startup ecosystem,” said Sampson, referring to the Southeast’s premier annual tech conference. As an example, Sampson pointed to a number of Alabama startups, including SHIPT, a delivery service founded and headquartered in Birmingham that was purchased by Target in 2017 for $550 million.

This public-private capital arrives at a time when investment opportunities across the U.S. are increasingly limited — with inflation and the threat of a recession.

“As Alabama signals that it’s open for business and has been open for business, it is crucial that we continue to contribute to the growth of the state’s economy through our small businesses. This is a sector that has played a pivotal role in defining Alabama’s history,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. “With the SSBCI program, we will demonstrate to all stakeholders that Alabama represents a sound investment opportunity.”

Alabama has long been known for its agriculture, but the state is also home to thriving cities, including Huntsville, a booming space and biotech hub; Birmingham, a tech and health care center; and Mobile, a longtime home for aerospace, marine and chemical industries.

Walt Postlewait, the manager for SSBCI’s LendAL program, admits he didn’t know what all Alabama had to offer before spending time here to help set up the program. Postlewait has worked in lending for more than 20 years, including with Oregon’s SSBCI program.

“There are so many positive things happening in Alabama,” Postlewait said. “It’s a well-kept secret.”

Postlewait said when he came to the state to work with Innovate Alabama on the SSBCI lending program, he was happily surprised to discover all the state has to offer: booming industries with diverse economic drivers, gorgeous parks and waterways, music venues with stunning views, award-winning restaurants and mostly, the kind people.

“And, if you want to talk about cost of living, it’s some of the most affordable real estate in the country and you’re not really giving up anything,” said Postlewait. No matter where you live in Alabama, it’s only a day trip to mountains with wonderful hiking trails, to the Gulf coast or to cities with some of the best food in the world.

For Crutchfield, the program is an impetus to realize the statewide vision for economic growth.

“Because of this program,” Crutchfield said, “it’s a new day for entrepreneurs in Alabama. I’m excited to see the long-term effects of this program, including catalyzing a self-sustaining, enduring investment pipeline.”

Alabama is a remarkable frontier of innovation — discover how you can grow roots here. Bring your idea. Your business. Your product. In Alabama, you’ll get the support of a community committed to seeing you succeed. Whatever it is, we’re in. To learn more about Innovate Alabama and the robust resources available for founders, researchers and students in Alabama, visit If you’re a small business looking for capital or a funder looking for low-risk portfolio additions, click here to learn more about Alabama’s SSBCI program.

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