Jefferson County Commission

Not So Fast: JeffCo Tables Support for Innovation Depot

JeffCo Commissioner Steve Ammons is disappointed that the commission delayed funding for Innovation Depot. 4.6.23 (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Commissioner Steve Ammons expressed disappointment after the Jefferson County Commission tabled a proposal of more than $1.6 million to support Innovation Depot.

The commission voted 3-2 Thursday to table the matter until May 25, with Ammons and Commissioner Sheila Tyson voting no.

“I am disappointed because it puts it off that much longer,” said Ammons, the chair of the commission’s economic development committee. “Innovation Depot is working on a new strategy and their ability to get at it sooner than later is important. I understand that commissioners have questions; they need to be answered.”

Ammons presented the resolution saying the county would give Innovation Depot $400,000 in each of the next four years to bolster entrepreneurs in Birmingham’s Switch District and $2 million contingent on Innovation Depot successfully partnering with a developer and using 50% of leasable space for Innovation Depot graduates.

Innovation Depot CEO Brooke Gillis in JeffCo Commission meeting 4.6.23, (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Tuesday’s committee meeting included a question from commission President Jimmie Stephens about what the city of Birmingham had done to support the business incubator. CEO Brooke Gillis said Innovation Depot had not asked the city for money in more than three years.


“We have it on the docket for April 17 and we moved it up to immediately after the meeting on Tuesday,” she said. “We were able to move that meeting up, and I’m very confident that we will be able to get funding from them.”

Gillis noted that since the city’s fiscal year begins in July, this matter, if approved, would be part of the city’s 2024 fiscal budget. Commissioner Lashunda Scales expressed concern that the city is not yet committed to supporting Innovation Depot while the county would have a four-year commitment if the matter passed.

Commissioner Joe Knight said he still lacked answers to questions he had and asked that the matter be tabled.

As the money sought from the commission was to help keep businesses that graduate from Innovation Depot in Birmingham, Scales used the occasion to renew her push for more county support of the Magic City Classic. She was told recently that economic development funds are for bringing in new business, not retaining business that’s already in the county.

JeffCo Commissioner Lashunda Scales in the April, 6, 2023, commission meeting. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

“As of today, the Alabama Sports Council contract has not been signed and that’s related to this Magic City Classic,” the commissioner said. “Everybody knows what I’m talking about when I say retention on this dais. I just wanted to bring it to the attention of this body publicly. They still haven’t signed because they’re waiting on the county’s participation moving forward.”

Following the meeting, Ammons said he’d like to see funding for Innovation Depot to move forward and not continue to stagnate.

“We’ll wait until the end of May and see what they have to say then,” he said, “and what answers we can get for them that will help make them more comfortable with the project.”