Series aims to keep students in Alabama after graduation

By Emma Newell
Staff Writer

The University of Alabama hosted the first of its “Hired in Alabama” series on Thursday, an initiative that aims to keep college students in Alabama after they graduate.

The series will feature five cities across the state—Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Mobile, Huntsville and Birmingham—and will conclude with a career fair with only employers in Alabama.

The first installment featured Tuscaloosa and a panel of professionals and alumni in the area who discussed the workforce, quality of life, entertainment and the opportunities afforded to local young professionals.

“One thing that’s great about Tuscaloosa is that young people have a seat at the table immediately,” said Jim Page, director and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. “You will not be a little fish in a big pond if you call Tuscaloosa home, because you can really make a difference right out of the gate.”

The many young people who are in elected positions or on the boards of various organizations in the city set Tuscaloosa apart, Page said. Jessie Gardner is one of them, as she serves as the chair of Young Tuscaloosa, an organization for young professionals to network, serve the community and develop skills to grow in their careers. 

“When people get involved in Young Tuscaloosa, they always say, ‘I didn’t realize this many young professionals live here,’” said Gardner, the assistant director of athletics at UA. “But there are, so it’s a great way to stay connected and continue to thrive after your college experience.”

Tuscaloosa has a real focus on entrepreneurship as well with resources like the EDGE, an incubator and accelerator for supporting entrepreneurs, Page said. Jackson Carpenter agreed, as that was the reason he stayed in Tuscaloosa to start his own business, Tankr, after he graduated from UA. 

“What an awesome place to grow a business if you’re an entrepreneur,” Carpenter said. “Tuscaloosa just has so much opportunity, energy and excitement when it comes to entrepreneurship that it’s an area I couldn’t leave.”

Though Tuscaloosa has seen rapid growth over the past few years, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is eager to see even more.

“It’s not just about how far we’ve come, but how far we’re going to go. The growth we’ve seen is amazing, but our goal is to dominate the decade,” Maddox said. “We certainly want students to become part of the fabric of our city.”