Archived Story

Russellville firm envisions growth through public and private partnerships

Published 1:22pm Friday, October 18, 2013

While the economy remains gloomy for many businesses in North Alabama and news of the upcoming International Paper plant closing threatens thousands of local jobs, one Russellville-based company is taking a different approach – enabling business growth through collaborative public and private partnerships.

Dick Hoffmann, president of Business Growth Ventures, Inc., headquartered in Russellville with offices in North Carolina and California, said he hopes to turn the economic tide in the Northwest Alabama area through his company.

Business Growth Ventures, Inc. (BGV) is a regionally-focused business consultancy combined with a web and mobile application development company.

According to Hoffmann, the result they offer to clients is a unique approach to “technology-enabled business performance and growth in the age of the Internet.”

“We’re working to repeat a model in the Shoals area that has worked extremely well in Silicon Valley, in the Raleigh/Research Triangle area of North Carolina and in dozens of other cities throughout the country,” Hoffmann said.

“The model we’re repeating is one of collaboration between local businesses, large corporate sponsors, universities, investors and government entities to create business and innovation ‘incubators’ – collaborative networks of support that enable business ideas to grow.”

The Silicon Valley area of Northern California is famous for its collaborations between Stanford University, Santa Clara University and U.C. Berkeley teamed with local business and government support to create the powerhouse that has been the Silicon Valley experience since the 1970s.

Likewise, the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina was created in 1958 by collaboration between IBM, local government and the three major universities: Duke, UNC and NC State.

That collaboration helped put the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area on the map and led to one of the most important centers of technology and biotechnology in the country.

“There is no reason why we can’t create another area like that in our section of Northwest Alabama,” Hoffmann said. “What makes those areas work more than anything else is that they’ve created a ‘culture of expectation’ – they expect to succeed and innovate, and they do it. The educational, business and government community supports them and nurtures that expectation. That is the goal of our initiatives.”

Hoffmann spent the majority of his 30-year career working for Silicon Valley software companies serving Fortune 500 companies with technology-based solutions, and he believes this experience will allow him to offer a unique perspective when it comes to business expansion and growth.

“My business partners and I have been lucky enough to work for and with some of the largest and most successful companies in the world,” he said. “Now we’re bringing what we’ve learned from those experiences to small and medium-sized businesses and to regional markets like the Shoals area.”

According to Hoffmann, smaller companies can now access global resources and compete with the largest corporations. “The Internet gives you access to people, talent, resources and funding from anywhere on the planet like no other time in history,” Hoffmann said.

“Ours is the first time ever in history when a person can start a small company in Russellville, Ala. and reach a billion people with a product or service. Technology and the Internet enable that kind of reach and that kind of growth. It’s a very exciting time.”

Hoffmann’s company is already working with the Computer Science and Information Systems department of the University of North Alabama on an important first initiative.

The graduating class of computer science majors working under the guidance of UNA’s CIS professor, Dr. David Nickels, and in collaboration with Hoffmann’s company is designing an electronic commerce database system for a local manufacturing company.

“This project gives our students a view into the cutting edge of how products are marketed and sold on the Internet,” Nickels said. “They receive real world commercial experience to add to their resumes and UNA is able to help a local company at the same time. It’s a clear win/win for the university and for the Shoals area business community. We’ve already expressed interest in working on additional projects together.”

Another key component of the company is deep expertise in the field of “collaboration” – the art and science of enabling people, teams and organizations to work together toward a common goal.

It is this last piece that Hoffmann said is a key to enabling public and partnership collaborations to work.

“It’s not easy getting different types of organizations and people with diverse talents to work together, but we’ve been very successful creating a model for success on very large, complex projects,” Hoffman said.

“A kind of magic happens when this kind of collaboration is successful – one plus one begins to add up to three, four or five when you have multiple organizations contributing their talents and resources to a common purpose.”

The idea for the “Shoals Area Business Integrator” (SABI) grew out of this collaborative approach. With its regional focus on areas like Northwest Alabama, the goal of BGV and its partners is to create models for growth that are unique to the local area and culture while incorporating the collaborative power of public and private partnerships.

“It is often said that there is a unique spirit to the Shoals area,” Hoffmann said.

“Most often that is related to the music industry, the river areas and the phenomenon of ‘the Shoals Sound’, but the cities of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia and Russellville each have unique character and pools of talent in many areas of business, art, education, technology, entrepreneurship and local government.  We seek to harness that energy and use it to drive economic growth in this area, with a unique Shoals twist.”

Local politicians and leaders in economic development roles in the area are in support of this approach.

In last year’s redistricting, the Florence area and UNA were added to Sen. Roger Bedford’s congressional district, so the collaboration between UNA and a Russellville company touches his constituent base in several ways.

“Raising the economic tide in our area is something that we all have a vested interest in supporting,” Bedford said. “Tapping into the resources of UNA to help the productivity of a local business makes perfect sense. I’m delighted to see an approach that has worked well in other areas of the country put to work in our area.”

Hoffmann, who has deep roots in Franklin County through his family’s successful business Distinctive Designs International, Inc., said entrepreneurship is in his blood and he is ready to put that to use in the place he calls home.

“We just want to give the people of this area some hope that they can have a successful business or career right here in the Shoals area and in Franklin County,” he said. “This area doesn’t have to be stagnant when it come to business growth.

“All it takes is the right type of connections, collaborations and networking, and we hope Business Growth Ventures can be a big part of that.”

If you would like to talk with Business Growth Ventures about the growth of your business or project, or to work with the Shoals Area Business Incubator, contact them at growth@business-growth-ventures.com or 866-726-0249.

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