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About us

The Gateway Initiative

The Gateway Initiative is a rapidly evolving workforce development leader in Baldwin County, and is cutting edge, while still holding true to the core value of “business-driven programming”.  This initiative is recognized and highly respected within the State of Alabama, having a foundation based on collaboration within the business community.  The five-year initiative kicked-off in January 2018 as the “Gateway Initiative, One Voice, One Vision, Moving South Baldwin Forward.”  Three programs of work were initiated, each with a specific mission, detailed objectives, and projected outcomes, all guided by some of the top business minds of the region.

In July of 2019, leadership from the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber came together to expand the programming model.  Collaboration between businesses, educational organizations and local municipalities within the Tri-City area is at an all-time high, and largely due to the influence of the Gateway Initiative.  Workforce development, community betterment, entrepreneurship, advocacy, and business innovation are the foundational components of our program.  Guided by investors and key stakeholders, what the community needs NOW is provided by the Gateway team, and evolves as the economy demands.

Gulf Shores High School Job Fair

Why “Gateway”?

South Baldwin County has a proud history and has long been known as the “Gateway to the Gulf.” From what was once a stretch of two-lane road leading to a sleepy fishing village, our Tri-City area has grown to become the destination for more than 6.5 million visitors each year. Those visitors leave behind an economic impact of $4.6 billion and create thousands of jobs.

Sports Tourism in Foley, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach also bring thousands of visitors and millions in economic impact; both lead to job creation. Add the impact of OWA to the picture and the “shoulder seasons” that have hindered our year-round growth for decades begins to level off.

Prior to 2018, as Gateway was being developed, members of our business community were concerned about the future stability of our region. At the time, unemployment was at an all time low, at 3.9% in the County, and the top priority of the Gateway Initiative was to address the challenge of having an adequate supply of workforce to continue to serve those 6.5 million visitors as well as the local community. As well, stakeholders were adamant to provide ongoing advocacy and support for small businesses – the bedrock of the community.

In 2020, Gateway means and does many things: a “Gateway to a Career”, the “Gateway to Local Legislators”, a “Gateway to Innovation”, the “Gateway to Service Excellence”, the “Gateway to Professional Development”, and so much more.

An Invitation to Join Us:

Through the partnership between Baldwin County chambers of commerce, employers, educators, local and state government, and other key allies, the Gateway Initiative will continue executing business-driven programs of work to address the most critical needs in the region. Everyone knows with growth comes opportunity. We are now challenged with the price of that opportunity. This positive economic growth – in spite of the COVID-19 Pandemic – balanced with community well-being, requires a long-term strategy plus bold community leadership, and fierce commitment to excellence. We invite you to join us as we build for the future of existing and new businesses; to discover more opportunities and raise the quality of life for all citizens.

The Gateway Initiative Team

Greg Alexander

President & CEO
Coastal Alabama Business Chamber

Greg is celebrating twelve years in the Chamber world, having first served as the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO in his native South Carolina. The leap into the role came after serving in the finance industry for nine years.

 While certainly a change of pace from what he was used to, the art of being a leader is in Alexander’s heart and soul. After graduating from Presbyterian College in 1992, he joined the US Army, rising to the ranks of Captain. His service led him to Germany to assist in Operation Joint Endeavor in the former Yugoslavia where he was directly responsible for 215 soldiers.

Alexander’s work with the Laurens County and Hilton-Head Bluffton Chambers continued all the way to the summer of 2018 when a new opportunity came on the horizon.

Since beginning in the office, Alexander has helped lead the charge in bringing positive change to the Chamber through enhancing member benefits and strengthening existing programs. A major steppingstone includes forming a partnership with the neighboring South Baldwin Chamber, leading to the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber becoming a part of the workforce and business development program, the Gateway Initiative.

In June of 2020, the Chamber experienced an expansion as a second office was opened in Orange Beach through strong collaboration with Orange Beach local government. As this new opportunity and others arise, Alexander and his teams are eager to continue delivering results and solutions to members and investors alike.

Donna Watts

President & CEO
South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce

Donna has been the President of the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce since September 1997.

In addition, she is the President of the South Baldwin Chamber Foundation.

She serves on numerous Boards including G.U.M.B.O., Business Council of Alabama, past board member of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, and is currently a part of the Coastal Resiliency Coalition leadership team.

Edward Bushaw

Vice President of Workforce Development with Gateway Initiative

Ed holds the position of Vice President of Workforce Development for the Gateway Initiative, a collaboration between the South Baldwin and Coastal Alabama Business Chambers of Commerce.

Ed’s business experience includes Acquisition and Development with the Statler Hotel Corporation and the Western New York Hotel Management Corporation. Bushaw left the industry to accept a teaching position in Hotel/Restaurant Management at SUNY Jefferson where he rose to the position of Business Division Chair and Associate Professor.

In 1994, Ed accepted a position with Faulkner State in Gulf Shores and retired from the college in 2018 as Division Chair and Campus Director. For the past 15 years, Bushaw has held the position of President of the consulting firm – Hospitality Innovations Group.

Ed holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from SUNY Geneseo and a master’s degree in Technical Education from SUNY Oswego. Ed’s wife Kristy is an associate broker with ReMax Paradise in Orange Beach and they have three children Jacob, Caitlyn, and Regan

Penny Hughey

Vice President of Education
Coastal Alabama Business Chamber

Penny is a Northwest Georgia native who spent most of her adult life living in Chattanooga, TN but dreaming of one day living on the coast. She relocated to Gulf Shores in 2018 with her youngest daughter Anna Kate who is currently a freshman at Gulf Shores High School and involved in the NJROTC program there. Penny also has two older daughters; Alex, who is 27 and lives with her husband & 6-month-old baby girl on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, NC and Kinsey, who is 21 who recently graduated with her degree in Communications and currently works for Habitat For Humanity in Charleston, SC.

A graduate of Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC whose motto was “While we live we serve”, Penny exemplifies that lifestyle and has raised her daughters to do the same. Penny graduated with a dual degree in Business and Music and began her career as a Management Trainee in the Banking world. She spent more than 20 years in that industry working as everything from a Teller & a Branch Manager to Vice President of Commercial Lending; her favorite part about being a banker was getting to help people with their financial goals.

In 2011 she transferred into the nonprofit world and for the next 7 years, she worked as a Career Coach and Mentor helping to guide both students and adults through career planning. Throughout her own career, Penny has always been a public servant in a variety of community volunteer leadership roles with organizations such as the Mayoral Women’s Council, Communities in Schools, and Junior Achievement.

She was a founding member of the Chattanooga Women Mean Business chapter, graduated from the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute’s Women Mentoring Women program, and has graduated from two different Chamber of Commerce Leadership programs.

After being an active and award-winning Chamber member and volunteer for more than 25 combined years, Penny considers it an honor and a privilege to serve as the Vice President of Education and Programs for the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber.

She enjoys working with all types and ages of people and you will always find her with a smile on her face and doing everything she can to make those around her smile as well. Positivity is contagious and she believes life is too short not to have fun and enjoy what you do and she loves her job!

When not at work, you will most likely find her poolside in her outdoor kitchen whipping up a gourmet meal & fun drinks for family and friends. Good Food & Drink + Good Friends = Great Times!

Tyler Morgan

Director of Career & Business Development
The Gateway Initiative

Tyler joined the Gateway team in March 2021 assisting and championing the Gateway Initiative.

A Montgomery native, she grew up vacationing on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf Coast like many Alabamians. She has a B.F.A. from The University of Mississippi (Hotty Toddy!) and a M.A. Ed. from Auburn University – Montgomery.

Tyler’s experiences and skills in the education world were a key factor in the team’s decision to bring her on board; however, her background in the fine arts and years of event planning experience also brings an edge to the initiative.

She taught junior high school for six years, managed events and sales for Perdido Beach Resort for three years, and later joined the Mobile Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, gaining additional experience in corporate, association, convention, and lodging sales with a market that expanded all over the country. “I am passionate about our ever-growing community, and truly understand why educating the workforce and employing our businesses with strong, sustainable, career-minded individuals in South Baldwin county is so important for the future,” said Tyler.

She lives in Foley with her husband and two fur babies, Mia and Stevie. In her spare time, she manages her own event planning business, enjoys working in her art studio, taking her dogs on adventures, and loves to cook while spending time with her family and friends.

Kaitlyn O'Neal

Communications & Marketing Manager | Gateway Initiative Team

Kaitlyn joined the Gateway Initiative team in November 2021 as the Communications and Marketing Manager.

Kaitlyn brings a wealth of experience and proficiency in the areas of social media, graphic design, and content creation. Kaitlyn’s experience includes Pink Fish Marketing as Account Manager, a position with the Perdido Beach Resort as Marketing Coordinator and Graphic Designer and Social Media and Content Creator for Compass media. Kaitlyn’s experience demonstrates a creative approach to develop, plan and execute engaging marketing strategies that drive Gateway’s brand identity and growth while telling our story through content creation and design.

 Kaitlyn holds a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Alabama with a major in Marketing and a Minor in art. She received her Master of Science degree in Marketing and Creative Advertising from Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom.

Kaitlyn is a Foley native, loves animals, art, working out and enjoying all of the beautiful trails along the Alabama Gulf Coast.