Trip Pittman keynotes Spanish Fort Partnership Summit

SPANISH FORT – Business Council of Alabama and Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama partners met Tuesday in Spanish Fort for the third of four planned Partnership Summit meetings to discuss education, job creation, and economic development.

The Partnership Summit included business, chamber, civic, and elected leaders whose goals include making their local communities and Alabama better places to live, work, raise families, and operate businesses. Decatur and Tuscaloosa hosted the first two regional Partnership Summit meetings this year. The final meeting is scheduled Sept. 4 in Prattville.

Representatives from eight area chambers of commerce participated in a morning Best Practices roundtable discussion and 87 people attended the Partnership Summit luncheon at the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center here.

The BCA and CCAA created the Partnership 10 years ago. It includes about 125 chambers of commerce organizations and the BCA, Alabama’s largest and most-respected statewide business association. “It continues to grow every year,” said Jeremy Arthur, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.

The goal of the BCA and the CCAA is to build a stronger workforce, said Darrelyn Bender, president and CEO of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce. “We’re working for you,” said Bender, who introduced the Summit’s speaker, state Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose.

Pittman, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, briefed luncheon participants on  education funding, successful programs, and the role businesses play in providing jobs that pay income and sales taxes, both of which support education funding.

“We have a great table to set,” Pittman said. “The key to reaching our full potential is education.”

Pittman linked early education programs to later success in the workplace and in life. He said the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program initiates 4-year-olds to classrooms and prepares them for K-12 schooling. Pittman said being able to read at grade level by the third grade is probably the most important goal of early education as it prepares students for successful education and employment.

Pittman said there is a growing emphasis, which he supports, on career technical training as an alternative to college academic degrees. “The benefit is people are getting ready to work,” Pittman said.

BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said the unique 10-year partnership between the BCA and chambers of commerce promotes job growth and personal financial security. “We have made a difference,” Canary said.

He touted the importance of pre-kindergarten that the BCA supports. “We have a dream where every child who is 4 years old will be able to go to school ready to learn from day one,” he said.

Following the Partnership Summit, the ProgressPAC Area 1 Regional Advisory Committee met to discuss the 2014 election cycle. “We support pro-business candidates and hold them accountable,” said Harris Morrissette, a BCA board member, RAC 1 chairman, and president of China Doll Rice and Beans/Dixie Lily Foods of Saraland.

-Dana Beyerle