MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The new president of the influential Business Council of Alabama has hit the ground running since starting in December.

President and CEO Helena Duncan is no stranger to the council or the business needs of Alabama. Before joining the BCA, she built a 35-year career as a banker in the Montgomery area, working with businesses to identify their needs — a skill she said transferred into her current role.

“I was able to convert that over here and take that knowledge and apply it to what BCA’s mission is,” Duncan said.

Duncan joined the BCA in 2020, eventually working her way up to president. Since taking the helm, Duncan said she’s spent time meeting with state leaders, pushing for funding to incentivize businesses to move to Alabama.

Alabama is open for business, and the companies that are here are growing and they’re thriving because of those incentives and because of the attention that the legislation is paying to the businesses in our state,” Duncan said.

Duncan said workforce development issues are a top priority, but she’s optimistic the tide is turning on that front as the state continues to report low unemployment and job growth. The state still has one of the lowest labor participation rates in the country, though.

“But again, there are things being put in place every day that’s going to help with that,” Duncan said. “I feel like the momentum is shifting where it’s still a top priority for all of us, but I do feel like it’s getting better.”

Duncan said working with leaders in Washington is also important. She said having Sen. Katie Britt in office — a former BCA president — is big.

“She is pro-business,” Duncan said. “She understands the struggle better than most and she understands what needs to happen here better than most, so having her there advocating for Alabama in any capacity, but especially for the business community is huge for us.”

Duncan said the council will be watching the legislative session closely and advocating for those economic incentives for businesses. Duncan is also the first Black president to lead the BCA. Before her leadership, Robin Stone was the interim director after then-president Katie Britt entered the U.S. Senate race.