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Photo by: Workers at Hyundai plant in Montgomery.
Enterprise

Consultants rank Alabama a top state for business, Area Development says

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Site selection consultants surveyed by national economic development publication Area Development ranked Alabama a top state for doing business and gave high marks to the state for its labor climate and business environment.

Alabama placed No. 4 in Area Development’s 2014 survey of the “Top States for Doing Business,” the fifth consecutive year that state has scored in the top five in the publication’s rankings. Alabama also ranked No. 4 overall in 2013.

The consultants in this year’s Area Development survey also ranked Alabama No. 4 in the key categories of Business Environment and Labor Climate, which rate highly with decision-makers in economic development projects. Alabama ranked No. 1 in the sub-category of competitive labor costs.

“These high rankings mean that site selection consultants recognize that Alabama possesses the advantages that make the state attractive for companies looking to open new facilities or to expand their existing operations,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “We have the skilled workers, training programs, and the business climate that companies need to compete and succeed.”

Area Development said Alabama’s strong showing in the survey may be traced to “the strength of its significant and growing accomplishments in transportation manufacturing and the success of the state’s long-term economic development plan known as Accelerate Alabama.”

Accelerate Alabama, launched in 2012, targets 11 key industry sectors for growth and focuses on attracting new investment and the high-paying jobs that comes with it.

See Area Development’s ranking of top states here.

AUTO INDUSTRY ACCELERATION

Alabama’s auto manufacturing sector has been experiencing a steady growth spurt, which the state’s three assembly plants — Mercedes-Benz in Vance, Honda in Lincoln, and Hyundai in Montgomery — combining last year to produce a record 915,000 vehicles.

In recent months, Mercedes launched mass production of its C-Class sedan in Alabama, while Toyota moved forward with a $150 million expansion of its engine plant in Huntsville, Area Development noted. At the same time, the state’s auto-supplier sector added 2,300 new jobs in the year ended in June to meet rising demand.

“They’ve done a nice job in Alabama for Mercedes,” Sean McAlinden, executive director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told Area Development.

Business Facilities, another economic development publication, ranked Alabama No. 1 for automotive manufacturing strength in an August report.

AEROSPACE GROWTH

Area Development also said Alabama – “the traditional home of Saturn rocket manufacture during moon-shot days” — is poised for growth in the aerospace industry. It singled out the United Launch Alliance factory in Decatur, which turns out Atlas V and Delta IV rockets to carry an array of GPS, weather, communications, and surveillance satellites into space. (Read a story about the ULA factory.)

In addition, Alabama will become the U.S. production hub for Airbus, the global aircraft maker that will begin producing its A320 family of passenger jets in Mobile next year. The $600 million, 1,000-worker production facility, now rising at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, will add to the European consortium’s existing engineering presence in Alabama.

“It will also prompt development of a supplier infrastructure, joining Boeing’s operations in the state to make Alabama one of America’s air-transportation manufacturing leaders,” Area Development said.

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