You grew up in the Birmingham area, but now live here. What is the primary difference between the two communities?
The most obvious difference is the population -- 1.3 million people call Greater Birmingham home. Otherwise, the two cities are strikingly similar: Both are majority minority cities. Moreover, each city has industrial roots in manufacturing and textiles, a great community atmosphere and strategic urban revitalization efforts spearheaded by progressive leaders in government and business. It's no surprise that both areas continue to grow.
How did you come to be so active in the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals group?
I joined Young Professionals to gain exposure to my peers in Columbus. YP has been the best way for me to do that by far. Last year, I was asked to serve as vice-chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and this year I'm serving as a board member at large. I've always enjoyed leading. It's hard work, but it comes naturally to me and YP has given me an opportunity to do that. YP is the talk of the town for good reason. It has been a privilege to serve this organization, and I earnestly hope that privilege continues.
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Your nickname in the Young Professionals is "The Governor." Do you have political aspirations?
First of all, I love people. Second, the political process, though many dislike it, has real effects on the lives of everyday folks. Third, there is nothing I find more satisfying than working my heart out for a good cause. I believe that people are a good cause. They are worth working for and fighting for. I may run for office one day, but today is not that day. Today, I'm focused on being the best engineer I can be. When I'm not doing that, I'll be helping the elected officials I support, giving speeches and publishing articles through KelJackson.com.
Do you enjoy working as an engineer at Pratt & Whitney?
I do. It's extremely challenging. Pratt & Whitney builds engines that fly commercial and military aircraft all over the world, so it's critical that we get it right the first time. It's also rewarding. Not long ago, I took a flight that was powered by a jet engine that we work on right here in Columbus. I'm proud of that. Every day at the Engine Center is different. On some days, I find that I'm using project management and interpersonal skills more than any of the technical skills I posses. I like that. I think I would get bored otherwise.
What is the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?
The fishing here is very, very good. The river holds monster flathead catfish, longnose gar over 4 feet long and huge striped bass that fight like you wouldn't believe. The Chattahoochee River has a great variety of fish species for every angler from beginner to expert. My best catch out of the 'Hooch is a 17-pound flathead catfish I caught at the CutBait Rapids almost two years ago. Most folks are surprised that anything that big lives in the river. Trust me: There are monsters to be caught down there if your gear and skills are up to it.
Name: Kel Jackson
Job: Engineer, Pratt & Whitney
Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.
Current home: Columbus
Family: My family includes both of my grandmothers, both parents, one older sister and her husband. They all live in Birmingham. As for me, I haven't walked down the aisle yet, but I am very much spoken for.
Education: Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, Auburn University, 2011
Favorite book: "The Richest Man in Babylon" by George Clason
Favorite movie: "October Sky." "Training Day" is my second favorite.
Favorite restaurant: Either The Loft or Chili Thai. They're both just great.
Favorite quote: "Fortune favors the bold."
Best concert attended: Watching Kevin Hart do standup comedy at Auburn. He is hilarious. Does that count? It was awesome. I say it counts.