Coffee With Melanie Bradford and Tad Snider

A conversation that ties care for the elderly with the economic development power of conventions, sports, entertainment and lodging would have to be far-ranging. That description covers this issue’s conversation between Melanie Bradford and Tad Snider, which took place at Octane at the BJCC’s Uptown.

Melanie Bradford is the executive director of Alabama Family Trust, a pooled special needs nonprofit 501(c)3 trust established by the state in 1994 to invest and protect assets of the elderly. Funds are invested at BancorpSouth Asset Management and Trust, typically by the family of those with special needs to cover costs above what is provided through core governmental benefits, such as Medicaid and SSI, and to give them the financial ability to improve their overall quality of life. Alabama Family Trust has 627 active trusts with a market value of $19.3 million. The average trust is $31,000, but the minimum to set up a trust is only $1,500. In 2014, the Alabama legislature passed a state statute that allows AFT to expand nationally, making the nonprofit one of only a few trust services in the country with such national capability.

Tad Snider is executive director and CEO of the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Authority, serving in that role since 2010. Responsibilities include the overall management, sales, marketing and operation of the facilities, overseeing a full-time and part-time staff of nearly 600 and an annual budget in excess of $70 million. The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is considered one of the most unique and diverse convention, meeting, performing arts, entertainment, office and retail center operations in the country.

What do you view as your business’s greatest opportunity currently?

Bradford: The ability to significantly improve the lives of seniors that need skilled nursing care.  We serve as a bridge between the senior, the nursing home and Medicaid. We enable seniors that are quickly dissipating savings on the monthly nursing home bill to preserve that money and use it for additional needs that improve the senior’s care and quality of life. Medicaid pays the monthly nursing home bill (assuming other eligibility criteria are met). This enables the senior to pay for things that would be impossible without the trust during the senior’s lifetime, such as hiring a caregiver to feed the senior or paying for a new pair of eyeglasses or dentures.

Snider: Recent wins such as the announcement of Topgolf as an expansion of the Uptown District, developing an outstanding partnership with Legacy Credit Union to enhance the profile of Legacy Arena and the success of the Westin Birmingham Hotel point to promising momentum we aim to grow and extend. The potential to renovate and modernize Legacy Arena, add an outdoor stadium to the BJCC area and significantly update our convention and meeting space create an outstanding opportunity. The possibilities are exciting, and I’m confident the results will lead to venues that will allow Birmingham to be a prominent destination for high-profile events for many years.

What do you view as your business’s greatest challenge currently?

Bradford: Making the public and skilled nursing facilities aware that we can enable seniors to use their remaining savings to pay for supplemental needs while in a skilled nursing facility on Medicaid benefits.  The public, generally, is unaware that this is possible; and very often, they are given false advice by well-meaning friends and neighbors. Our challenge is to educate seniors and their families that we provide the best solution for preserving assets and enhancing quality of life when the senior and family did not pre-plan for long-term care.

Snider: One of the greatest upcoming challenges facing the BJCC will be navigating the work that will be performed by the Alabama Department of Transportation during the project to rebuild the I 59/20 bridges through downtown. It’s a project of such scale and complexity that it will significantly impact the downtown central business district and the stakeholders directly bordering the bridges, including the BJCC. Informing the community regarding how the project will impact ingress and egress patterns to the BJCC during construction requires diligent planning, communication and outreach, and we’ve been working aggressively for some time to prepare so we can extend the successful years we’ve experienced through the duration of the project.