Unsung Hero Spotlight: Buddy Palmer

Buddy Palmer

To you, what is an Ecosystem Builder?

An ecosystem builder contributes time and resources to the development of a supportive environment related to a specific industry, economy, or issue.

What motivates you as an ecosystem builder?

I work for an economic development agency focused on create industries. I’m energized by the talents, passion and resourcefulness of the artists, designers, makers, film and kitchen crews, and other contributors to Greater Birmingham’s authentic local flavor.

What is the most successful/impactful program/event/thing you do/have done in your ecosystem?

Our agency has made two significant moves that have supported new businesses and job creation in our areas of focus: (1) For 5 years, we’ve been a CO.STARTERS licensee and we’ve supplemented that stellar curriculum with additional resources to assist venture starters and (2) we launched Film Birmingham, a regional film office that has played an instrumental role in growing an industry with potential for significant growth and employment.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an Ecosystem Builder?

Birmingham’s mayor, Randall Woodfin, says that Birmingham’s story, to borrow from Dickens, is a tale of two cities. There are areas in which we’ve shown tremendous growth and, still, many of our citizens are lacking basic financial security. We’re a small agency, and we’re challenged with the slow-but-essential work of developing relationships, building trust and then providing resources in neighborhoods that have been underserved for too many decades

What is your biggest frustration as an ecosystem builder?

I wish the small business ecosystem had something equivalent to the angel investor networks that support technology startups. Imagine what the diversity of ownership and in the workforce would look like if people with the means to invest would care as much about social and human return on investment as they do about potential profit.

What ecosystem building skill/knowledge do you want to gain?

I’d like to be a more skilled collaborator.

What are the most important things that need to happen to advance the field of ecosystem building?

I don’t think we can have an honest conversation about advancing ecosystem building without constantly addressing racism and sexism and the barriers to the American Dream intentionally created and maintained by traditional power holders.

What others are saying about Buddy

Buddy has transformed a traditional arts agency into a robust economic development and ecosystem building force that supports creative entrepreneurs in their city. But thinking about his work and mission differently, he is impacted and helped hundreds of entrepreneurs and help them find their way forward.


Anika Horn

Anika Horn is an ecosystem builder for social change, social enterprise advisor and storyteller. She is on a mission to equip ecosystem builders with the insights, resources and community to lead fulfilling lives and purpose-driven careers. Learn more about her work at SocialVenturers.com and AnikaHorn.com.

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