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Annual summit seeks to increase economic potential, impact throughout Alabama’s rural Black Belt

September 13, 2019

Contact: Jacquelyn Carlisle, College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences

BTW statueAn annual economic development summit hosted by Tuskegee University Sept. 18-19 in Montgomery will provide individuals and business representatives with ways to maximize their entrepreneurial efforts while contributing to their communities’ overall economic development.

This year’s Annual Booker T. Washington Economic Development Summit — themed “Aligning Policies, Resources and Opportunities: Strengthening Small Business, Entrepreneurs and Communities” — will be held at Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Montgomery. Now in its 23rd year, the summit will feature a variety of programs with a specific focus on public policies and funding.

Dr. Raymon Shange, director of Tuskegee University’s Cooperative Extension Program, said the summit is a way the university can assist business development and entrepreneurship in the Black Belt.

“Booker T. Washington’s intention was for the university to elevate economic development not just here in Tuskegee and Macon County, but throughout the entire Black Belt,” Shange said. “We have invited partners from the surrounding counties and West Alabama to be a part of the summit so that, together, we can gain and share great knowledge to strengthen small businesses and these communities.”

New to this year’s summit will be a series of workshops about contracting and start-ups, which will feature guest presenters Andrea Rogers Mosley of the Alabama State University Small Business Development Center, Michelle Warren of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and business consultant Walt Ruffin. Other topics will include food business enterprises, with an emphasis of food trucks, young professionals (co-sponsored by Emerge Montgomery and presented by Anna Brumby of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center), and industrial hemp regulation, production and processing with Dr. Desmond Mortley of Tuskegee University, Assistant Commissioner Bob Plaster from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, and Katie Moyer of Kentucky Hempworks.

Another exciting feature of the summit will be the Small Business Expo. More than 35 businesses will be in attendance to showcase their products and offer insights and resources to future entrepreneurs and other summit participants.

Tuskegee-Macon County Community Development Corporation acting Director Tony Haygood — who also serves as mayor of the City of Tuskegee — stressed the summit’s importance to the city.

“Economic development enhances and improves your community,” Haygood explained. “The vitality of a thriving community is the success of the business. People in business have a passion and energy — they make sacrifices, and we want to provide them with the resources and information they need to strengthen their businesses, avoid pitfalls and be more successful.”

Other summit presenters will include Anita Archie, deputy director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADEC); Chris Beeker III, director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); and Rev. Clifford Jones, pastor of Greater Peace Baptist Church in Opelika. Entrepreneur panel presenters will include Martha Hawkins of Martha’s Place Buffet and Catering in Montgomery and Yolanda Lewis of the Mission Forward Strategic Consulting Group in Atlanta. Keynoting the summit will be Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III, senior pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, and founder of the Black Church Food Security Network, who will discuss food security.

Registration for the event is $25 per person. For more information — including an agenda and online registration links — visit

© 2019, Tuskegee University