Regions partners with Operation HOPE to provide financial empowerment in Birmingham

Regions partners with Operation HOPE to provide financial empowerment in Birmingham
Winners named in Alabama Launchpads latest startup competition finale
Two Birmingham startups were named as winners in Wednesday nights Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition Finale held at the historic DeKalb Theatre in Fort Payne.

In the finale, six startups competed in one of two tracks – a concept stage for entrepreneurs launching businesses and a seed stage for entrepreneurs accelerating growth.

Winning the concept track, and a prize of $50,000, was AerBetic. AerBetic has developed a non-invasive, wearable alert sensor for managing diabetes. Co-founder and COO Eric Housh made the pitch that landed the $50,000 seed award.

The seed stage winner of the $100,000 prize was TriAltus Bioscience, which provides life scientists with improved tools for the production and purification of genetically engineered proteins. Co-founder and CEO Bob Shufflebarger made the pitch that landed the big award.

Angela Wier, vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), presented the respective checks to the two winners and wished them continued success. Wier also encouraged the startups that did not receive funding to work on feedback from the judges and apply for the competition again.

Also in attendance were Eddie Postell of the Alabama Department of Commerce, Mayor Larry Chesser of Fort Payne and DeKalb County Commission President Ricky Harcrow. A grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission helped the program reach DeKalb County.

Dr. Bennett D. Tucker, Jr. of the Northeast Alabama Community College emceed the event. Competition judge David Gibson of Bell Media moderated an entrepreneurship panel of Fort Payne-based companies, including Silvia Hernandez (founder of Go Play Therapy) and Randy McClung (president of Amazing Fruit Products-US).

Since its inception in 2006, Alabama Launchpad has invested over $4.5 million in companies that have created more than 500 jobs and raised over $70 million in follow-on capital and revenue. Alabama Launchpad is the most active early-stage investor in Alabama, according to PitchBook, which tracks the public and private equity markets.

Alabama Launchpad is a public-private partnership made possible through support from the business community, the states research universities, the Alabama Research Alliance, the Alabama Department of Commerce and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Now in its 28th year, the non-profit EDPA represents the private sectors contribution to economic development in Alabama. EDPA is supported by more than 60 partners from across the state and works to attract, retain and grow jobs, while also encouraging innovation through its Alabama Launchpad program.

BIRMINGHAM — A sizable crowd braved some icy road conditions and worse-than-usual morning traffic headaches on Friday morning to attend the grand opening of two new HOPE Inside locations in metro Birmingham Regions Bank branches.

HOPE Inside offices foster “financial empowerment” and provide free financial advice, guidance and education through your own expert “personal coach.” The new locations are based in the respective Regions branches at 9178 Parkway East in Roebuck and 5701 Valley Road in Fairfield. Financial counseling is available to anyone through HOPE Inside, regardless of whether the recipient is a Regions customer or not.

At the grand opening event held at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) new, state-of-the-art Collat School of Business, attendees heard from Regions head of community affairs Leroy Abrahams, Mayor Ed May of Fairfield, Operation HOPE financial wellbeing coach Shante Ross, Operation HOPE client Danita Porter, Operation HOPE founder, chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant and Regions Birmingham market executive Alan Register. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin was scheduled to speak but was unable to attend.

A few of the speakers touched on powerful messages regarding spiritual wealth, giving their testimony as well as information about the important partnership between Regions and Operation HOPE. In the keynote remarks, which can be heard in the video below, Bryant had the crowd responding, “Amen!” throughout. First up was Abrahams, who also served as the emcee for the event.

He gave a big picture preview of what the other speakers would get directly to, saying HOPE Inside means not only hope being inside the buildings that house the financial empowerment program, but “literally hope inside of an individual,” as well.

Abrahams explained that these two new locations would be the second and third HOPE Inside locations in metro Birmingham, after the Five Points location was founded in 2014. There are also Alabama locations in Montgomery and Selma, with Regions committed to supporting a total of 100 HOPE Inside offices by 2021.

Financial education leads to financial empowerment, Abrahams outlined. We started working with Operation HOPE in 2014, and we immediately saw the impact on people across Birmingham and beyond. There are people living in their own homes today because HOPE Inside showed them how to take charge of their finances and achieve their goals. There are people whose credit scores are over 700 today because HOPE Inside helped them reduce their debts, build their savings and manage their money in a more productive way. The result of Regions and Operation HOPE building on our partnership is that more people will have access to the tools they need for financial growth and success.

He added, “I know we’ve just been through a political season where you’ve heard lots of political hyperbole, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that people’s lives have actually been changed as a result of this. And so we’re very excited to be able to do this.”

The HOPE Inside model received the 2016 Innovator of the Year recognition by American Banker magazine, and Operation HOPE is the only nonprofit in the nation that operates within FDIC-accredited banks.

May, whose city is set to benefit from one of the two new locations, began his remarks by sharing his heartfelt testimony.

Mayor Ed May of Fairfield speaking now. Began his remarks by praising God, sharing his testimony.

“I’m glad that this a room that is open to testimony, because I always like to give honor to God for all of the lessons that He’s allowed me to receive in life,” May shared. “So, I always like to do that when I speak and acknowledge Him.”

The mayor then thanked Abrahams and Regions for bringing the program to Fairfield, before speaking to financial empowerment as the next hurdle in the civil rights movement. He also praised Bryant as a role model of his, adding that he loyally watches his videos on Facebook and Instagram.

Next up was Ross, who, as an Operation HOPE coach, began meeting with people at Regions Five Points South location in 2014. She started helping them develop their own roadmaps toward achieving financial success, and since then, Ross has counseled hundreds of clients and has seen firsthand the powerful difference the program can make.

This is about access and opportunities – and compassion, Ross advised. Through HOPE Inside at Regions Bank, were leveling the playing field. Were connecting people with the insights they need to reach their financial goals. And were doing this in a way thats welcoming, understanding and custom-built around individual needs. Its incredibly rewarding when we see people achieve financial security. For each person, the journey is different. But were committed to serving and supporting our HOPE Inside clients in every way possible.

Ross gave the example of one woman she coached who was working two full-time jobs as an in-home nurse. After Ross helped her examine her budget, she had $4,000 per month extra left over.

“She had no clue [about the extra money], because she had no budget,” Ross commented. “So we help people realize what they’re actually working with and help them create a plan to be successful.”

Ross then introduced one of her former clients, Danita Porter, who is a tremendous local success story for HOPE Inside.

After getting divorced, Porter shared that “she had no idea” of how to set a budget, explaining that she ultimately needed to buy a house. A career federal employee, Porter had a steady income but had never been educated on how to manage it.

Speaking of Ross, Porter said, “She gave me that hope that I needed to press forward. … She was an encourager.”

After eight months of Ross’ coaching, Porter had closed on a lot that was for sale and begun construction on her brand new home.

The closing date she chose – the date of her parents’ anniversary and her father’s death. This powerful symbol of rebirth was made possible by Regions and Operation HOPE.

After Porter concluded, Bryant sprang up to give his keynote, first giving Porter a hug and expressing how proud he was of her.

“We’re not human beings having a spiritual experience. We’re spiritual beings having a human experience,” Bryant remarked.

In his powerful speech, Bryant talked about spiritual wellness, teaching people how to fish and that financial hardships affect individuals of all races, saying green is the only color that matters.

“Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t, you’re absolutely right,” Bryant said.

Posted in Birmingham