BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Alabama Governor Robert Bentley told state economic development officials that a strong alliance of the business and education communities is key to fostering economic development and alleviating poverty across the state.
Bentley, speaking Tuesday at the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s winter conference at the Riverchase Galleria’s Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, said the organizational structure Alabama has put in place for economic development has been effective.
The strategic Accelerate Alabama economic growth plan targets 11 industry sectors for growth in the state such as aerospace, automotive, biosciences and others. Last year, Business Facilities magazine said Accelerate Alabama is already positioning the state to land more jobs in coveted sectors like automotive and aerospace.
“When we put together a strategic plan and try to follow that plan, I think it really makes a difference,” Bentley said.
In the next few weeks, Bentley said he expects to deliver several more “good announcements” related to economic development projects bringing new jobs to Alabama. Whether it’s a big announcement in an Alabama metro area or one about a few dozen jobs in a small town, all projects are important to get the state to what he considers to be a “full employment” level of 5.2 percent, Bentley said. In December, the state unemployment rate was 6.1 percent – the lowest it’s been since October 2008, when it was 5.9 percent.
“Fifty jobs in one small Alabama town is just as important as an Airbus in Mobile,” he said.
In addition to the Accelerate Alabama plan already in place, Bentley last month called for the establishment of a Statewide Workforce Council to help streamline job-creation efforts. The council would bring together business and education leaders from across the state to address various workforce needs across Alabama.
When asked by an audience member if there are any plans to create new incentives to recruit business to the state, Bentley said there are some ideas to discuss. Thanks to existing laws such as the 2012 passage of Amendment 2, Alabama has the ability to refinance existing bonds and issue new ones to fund future industrial incentives to recruit companies such as Mercedes-Benz and Airbus. But, he said, the state is also looking at other ways to make it and its businesses competitive.
“We want to find something that will sustain us for several years down the road,” he said.
During his remarks, Bentley named GE Aviation as one of the companies that found “something special” about Alabama. The company in April announced plans to build a $75 million facility in Auburn and create as many as 400 jobs to make jet engine components. He said company officials told him that they liked how government officials and economic developers – both at the state level and the local level – worked well together.
“Not every state is that way,” Bentley said. “They’re really not.”