Inspiring Entrepreneurs through Innovation

Library | 11/2/2020
The Lake Martin Innovation Center

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When the Russell Corporation left Tallapoosa County, Alabama, it took a lot of jobs with it. Residents of Alexander City were forced to look for employment out of town, hours away from their homes. In an effort to drive business growth in the community, The Alexander City Chamber of Commerce launched a collaborative space for start-up businesses. This was a challenge in their small city, but a partnership with Valley Bank, spearheaded by Mark Spencer, Senior Vice President of Retail Division for Alabama, and his team, allowed them to open the Lake Martin Innovation Center.  

“Valley Bank continues to be a significant Chamber supporter and their partnership has been instrumental in the sustained success of the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce,” said Ed Collari, President and CEO of the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce.

The Lake Martin Innovation Center is a business incubator, promoting entrepreneurship, workforce development and economic inclusion. Across the state of Alabama, business incubators are growing. They offer a range of support for small businesses and entrepreneurs including low-rent space, shared office services and access to funding sources. Since its opening in 2017, the Innovation Center has become the home to the Chamber of Commerce and host to 11 successful small businesses and 14 co-working individuals, generating a total of more than 50 local jobs.
lake martin innovation center
The Innovation Center was converted from a former Valley operations center and is cited as a model for bringing more jobs to the area by local economic experts. Valley’s technical assistance further spurs small business development. Although there are only four Valley branches within the area, associates contributed over 80 hours of volunteer service in 2018 and over 140 service hours in 2019, filling the Chamber’s staffing void. Bank employees provide technical assistance, phone support, fundraising activities and customer service to the nearly 500 Chamber members of the combined Lake Martin Innovation Center and Alexander City Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m proud of the work our local associates did to support the efforts of the Innovation Center. Through collaboration and commitment to community, Valley’s associates were able to make a difference and support local growth and development.” Stated Delpha Bartley-Jones, Vice President, Regional CRA Officer, Alabama. 

Through the Center, the Alexander Chamber of Commerce partners with the Gateway to Education Foundation and Benjamin Russell High School to teach young adults about entrepreneurship. The yearlong program is incorporated within middle and high school curriculum. Students learn how to write a business plan, pitch their it to potential "investors"—similar to ABC’s Shark Tank, obtain funding, legally register their business and actually launch their own business or social movement. Through field trips and mentorship, students can interact with business professionals and local business owners—including ones from the incubator.

Recently Valley was nationally recognized by the American Bankers Association Foundation for our partnership with the Lake Martin Innovation Center with a 2020 ABA Foundation Community Commitment Award.

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to help the communities we serve and make a difference,” said Bernadette Mueller, Chief Corporate Social Responsibility Officer. “We’re honored to accept this award for the Lake Martin Innovation Center.”

Valley 2019 CSR Report
Valley's Community Commitment

Valley 2019 CSR Report

Learn about Valley’s impact upon the people and communities we serve across the region.

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