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Seek AL Website Showcases Alabama's Outdoor Recreational Opportunities

Alabama is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and opportunities to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. However, if you have little to no experience in the outdoors or you are moving to Alabama as an entrepreneur or member of the workforce, you are probably not familiar with the vast number of outdoor recreational opportunities available in the state.

A new website called http://www.seekalabama.com (Seek AL) is designed to be an endless resource where those aforementioned folks can find out what Alabama's outdoors has to offer, including an interactive map to explore locations for specific activities.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey established the Alabama Innovation Commission in 2020 to secure Alabama's economic future through the recruitment of businesses, companies and entrepreneurs to our great state. When the Commission issued its final report in 2021, Innovate Alabama assumed the task of fulfilling the recommendations in the report, which included cultivating entrepreneurship, creating jobs, building a talented and diverse workforce and supporting economic development opportunities.

As part of that report, a study by Stanford University's Hoover Institution concluded that Alabama's great outdoors was an underutilized asset that could accomplish the goals of attracting and retaining talent in the workforce as well as convincing new businesses and companies that Alabama would be a great place to build or relocate facilities.

Innovate Alabama then formed the Council on Outdoor Recreation to guide implementation of ways to take advantage of Alabama's diverse natural world to help realize Governor Ivey's goals. Alabama Department of Conservation and National Resources (ADCNR) Commissioner Chris Blankenship chairs the Council.

"Alabama has an abundance of beautiful landscapes and waterways, all featuring numerous outdoor recreation opportunities," said Commissioner Blankenship. "As the Outdoor Recreation Council brainstormed on the most effective way to get the word out about all we have to offer here, it became obvious that an inventory of all our outdoor recreational assets and a comprehensive website pulling all these offerings into one resource was badly needed. Marketing and public relations agency Big Com out of Birmingham recently completed that website and is launching a campaign to help promote Alabama's rich and diverse outdoors experiences."

Big Com's website creation, http://www.seekalabama.com, went live earlier this month. It gives people who are curious about what Alabama has to offer in outdoor recreation a convenient location to learn about the many features that make Alabama such a special place.

"The (Hoover) study identified several areas where Alabama really has this marketable advantage, and one of the strongest pillars of that was our outdoor recreation landscape," said Big Com's Janey Diuguid. "We have this unique landscape here. Outside of the usual biodiversity, we have these amazing, sort of other-worldly spaces that people can go and enjoy. And we just have this culture of people who are really passionate about the outdoors. All of that sets the stage to bring in the talent of tomorrow, who really value being able to access spaces where they can kind of catch their breath and be inspired.

"This is where those two points intersect – something Alabama does better than anybody else and what this innovation talent is looking for in their quality of life. The Seek AL campaign seeks to meet them there and talk about the outdoor recreation, not only the places they can go to get outside but also the cultural element and the community around that that evidences a place where these entrepreneurs and innovation talent can see themselves thriving."

T.C. McLemore, Innovate Alabama's Executive Director of the Outdoor Recreation Programs, said providing easy access to information about the abundant natural resources and outdoor recreational activities available in Alabama was high on the priority list for Innovate Alabama.

"Our founding Commission report points out that outdoor recreation and Alabama's natural assets were a big differentiator in the regional and national competition for talent," McLemore said. "That could mean entrepreneurs. It could mean tech workers or folks who work on innovation. When identifying a place to live, they consider whether they will have access to capital, will they have the talent to scale and can they have the lifestyle they seek out, which is often an outdoor-oriented lifestyle."

McLemore said the seekalabama.com website was established to showcase Alabama's natural assets that many people are unaware of.

"The website addresses that common phrase 'I didn't know that was in Alabama,'" he said. "Now, folks are going to know what is in Alabama, both Alabamians and those who are considering a move to Alabama."

This first rollout of the website is focused on many of the non-consumptive outdoor activities available in the state.

"We were looking for the activities that our core audiences are looking for in the state, like hiking, mountain biking, climbing, trail running and backpacking," McLemore said. "I think it's an opportunity to diversify how folks view the outdoors in Alabama. We obviously know how good we have it when it comes to fishing or hunting. But we don't really acknowledge that we have thousands of miles of trails or numerous waterways for paddling."

McLemore said the initial website content is focused on areas that don't get the publicity of Alabama's well-known fishing and hunting opportunities, but the traditional outdoor activities are not being neglected.

"Our goal is to have a good blend of both," he said. "While we will still have content on hunting and fishing, we will also focus on that core audience and the outdoor activities they might not be aware of. For example, we have fly fishing, which is sort of unique and strikes both sides of that. Our audience does seek that activity out, but it is a little different from the traditional bass fishing that Alabama is so well known for.

"This is very personal for me. I didn't know until I got to college that I could be in the woods without a treestand. It's actually a lot easier to go hiking than climb a treestand. So, this is about changing the perception that Alabama has a lot more to offer than anybody thinks when they talk about the outdoors."

McLemore said the geographic diversity in Alabama from the Appalachian Mountains on one end of the state to the Gulf of Mexico at the other is another huge selling point. He said a recent family excursion is an example of that diversity.

"My family and I were camping at DeSoto State Park," he said. "I'm from Fort Payne, and my wife is from Foley. We got finished with our camping trip, and she felt like going to the beach, so she and my daughter drove to the beach. In what state can you go from camping in the mountains to going to the beach in one day?

"We're just taking advantage of the assets that differentiate Alabama. A lot of states are trying to attract talent, innovators and entrepreneurs. When the Hoover Institution was doing their study, they saw how abundant our natural assets are and how, if we elevated and promoted those, that it would be a compelling aspect in attracting people to Alabama. And it's not just attraction but also retention. We're also focusing on retaining talent and companies that are started and remain in Alabama. We want our entrepreneurs and our students to fall in love with the outdoors in Alabama and stay here."

 

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