Some of the most influential organizations in the Tuscaloosa area are launching a new internship program to keep talent local after they graduate from area schools.

The new program, called Fuel Tuscaloosa, is part of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama’s talent retention and attraction program Fuel Alabama.

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Tuscaloosa will become one of nine Alabama communities participating in the program, which will offer interns professional development opportunities, chances for charitable service and social events, all aimed at making participants fall in love with the area.


The cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport, the Tuscaloosa County Economic Development Authority, Visit Tuscaloosa and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama announced Tuesday that they will form a coalition and all participate in this new concept.

“We know that young professionals are drawn to communities that have not only an abundance of amenities like restaurants, a thriving nightlife and music scene and outdoor recreation, but also places that offer high quality jobs and opportunities give back through service," said Kelsey Rush, President and CEO of Visit Tuscaloosa. "Our aim is to expose the FuelAL participants to a side of Tuscaloosa County that they might not have experienced outside of a short radius of campus.”

Area leaders have long wondered how to keep more graduates from the University of Alabama, Stillman College and Shelton State in the area after they earn their degrees. The FuelAL program will seek to convince more of them to stay.

The key lies in answering a core question - why choose Alabama?

“My question would be ‘Why not Tuscaloosa and West Alabama?’" said Donny Jones, executive vice president and chief workforce officer for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. "Students have already chosen to come here for their education. But there are a multitude of reasons – economically, professionally, and socially – that make Tuscaloosa and West Alabama an attractive place to call home and to start a career."

Interns participating in the new program will get a local's perspective on what makes Tuscaloosa such an attractive place to live and experience the area outside of their university or college bubbles.

“Many people may not know that Alabama has long been home to innovators. Everything from inventing the first operational windshield wipers to conducting the genomics research that is improving the human condition all over the world, it all happened, and is still happening, in Alabama,” said Justice Smyth, executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Economic Development Authority. “What we want to show is that Tuscaloosa is a place where opportunity exists for the next generation of innovators to dream big, play hard, and live comfortably.”


College and University students looking to participate in the Fuel Tuscaloosa program can apply here until May 31st. It will be free to participate, and those selected will be invited to a kick-off celebration on June 8th.

Any Tuscaloosa-area companies or professionals who are interested in serving as mentors for Fuel Tuscaloosa participants can sign up to do so here.

According to the press release announcing the program, similar concepts will also be launched in Anniston, Auburn, Birmingham, Baldwin County, Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery.

For more on the program as it is developed, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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