Ann Carr: A Passion for Building a New Economic Ecosystem in the Wiregrass Region

The newest addition to the HudsonAlpha Wiregrass team, Ann Carr, is driven to boost the Wiregrass’s economic opportunities by forging strong connections with area entrepreneurs and small businesses

By Lillie Mermoud

A little over one year ago, Huntsville’s HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and the City of Dothan launched HudsonAlpha Wiregrass, a partnership that aims to bring HudsonAlpha’s mission of genomic research, education, and economic development to the Wiregrass region in Alabama. 

Since then, HudsonAlpha researchers and educators partnered with local farmers, schools, and breeders to launch the HudsonAlpha WIREGRASS Peanut Project, a research project aimed at creating a new peanut line that is ideally suited to the Wiregrass region’s unique climate. This peanut line will also be more resistant to the region’s pests and diseases. 

Rendering of the future Wiregrass Innovation Center

This month, HudsonAlpha’s Educational Outreach is also kicking off HudsonAlpha U in the area. The series of free public education events aims to teach Wiregrass adult learners about STEM, genetics, and genomics. 

Soon, the HudsonAlpha Wiregrass operation will have its own physical home in downtown Dothan, as plans to build the Wiregrass Innovation Center were funded in part by the State of Alabama and the Wiregrass Foundation, and approved by the City of Dothan.

Ann Carr, Economic Development Associate for HudsonAlpha Wiregrass, joined the HudsonAlpha Wiregrass team earlier this summer. In her role, Ann is responsible for entrepreneur- and recruitment-based economic development efforts to benefit the Wiregrass region, with a focus involving the agriculture and agtech sectors.

Having worked a long career with the Alabama Department of Labor and served as the Director of Southeast Alabama Works, Ann has a strong passion for workforce and economic development in the Wiregrass region. Born and raised in the area, she believes that the Wiregrass has limitless potential because of its hard-working people, abundant natural resources, and thriving agricultural industry.

Here, Ann chats with Lillie Mermoud, HudsonAlpha Marketing and Development Specialist, about how her ties to the region drive her to play a part in helping it grow, what inspired her to join the HudsonAlpha Wiregrass team, and why she believes HudsonAlpha Wiregrass is uniquely poised to shape the future of the region.

Lillie Mermoud: You’ve had a successful career in workforce and economic development, particularly in the Wiregrass. What inspired you to work in this field?

Ann Carr: I’ve always had a strong desire to help people. If you can help someone change their own lives and the lives around them, that’s exciting.

After working in Birmingham, I moved back to the Wiregrass in 2008, right when the recession hit, and was unemployed. After some searching, I was offered a temporary job with the Alabama Department of Labor, working with people in the area who had lost their jobs and were in the same situation as me. Over time, that turned into a full-time position and steered the shift in my career toward workforce development. It sparked a passion in me because I was able to help people.

Ann Carr

LM: What about HudsonAlpha Wiregrass inspired you to apply for this position?

AC: Thinking about the impact HudsonAlpha will have on our community 20 years down the line by using our area’s natural resources, our people and our agricultural industry to improve the community was exciting. I like being a part of something challenging, and being a part of it at the very beginning is even more interesting.

I would say I have been a maverick when it comes to my career. I’ve never been afraid of change. I believe the old way is not always the best way, and if someone gives me an opportunity, I’ll find a way to make an impact. 

LM: What are some of your favorite projects you’ve been involved in so far?

AC: Dean Mitchell, Director of HudsonAlpha Wiregrass, Carter Wells, HudsonAlpha Vice President of Economic Development, and Alex Cate, HudsonAlpha Director of Entrepreneurship Programs, established some roundtables in Houston County to help area stakeholders discuss what made the Wiregrass unique, as well as share their dreams and goals for HudsonAlpha Wiregrass. I’ve helped coordinate some of those roundtables in other counties. I enjoyed making connections with people, who often were people I didn’t know.

I’ve also enjoyed working to identify local entrepreneurs or small businesses who have new ideas to become partners with HudsonAlpha Wiregrass. Those types of people are problem solvers and sometimes don’t realize how solving their problem could help someone else in the process, and we can help widen their reach. 

LM: How do you think HudsonAlpha’s mission coincides with the region’s goals and needs?

AC: The whole idea around HudsonAlpha is changing lives through genomic research. There is no limit to what HudsonAlpha can do. HudsonAlpha is always thinking about what more can be done or done better to improve others’ lives. Here in the Wiregrass, we care about each other and look out for one another. In that sense, HudsonAlpha seeks to serve others, and the Wiregrass does the same. 

LM: What are you most excited to see HudsonAlpha Wiregrass accomplish in the next few years?

AC: I don’t know a lot about science, but I know about people. In the past, there weren’t a lot of opportunities in the Wiregrass. An organization like HudsonAlpha that’s on the cutting edge in life and health sciences, two of the biggest industries in this area, will create new opportunities in the Wiregrass and have a big impact on our region’s families.

It gives people new options for themselves, their children, our schools, our entrepreneurs, and our community colleges and colleges. It will boost growing neighborhoods, attract more arts and culture, and draw new people to the area.

When one community does well, it gives momentum for communities around it to do the same. The growth and opportunities that HudsonAlpha Wiregrass will bring will take over this part of the state.