MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said the state is competing for economic development projects with more than 11,000 jobs in key industry sectors such as automotive, aerospace, forest products and technology.
This promising pipeline of projects follows what has already been a strong year for economic development, Secretary Canfield told members of the Economic Development Association of Alabama at the group’s summer conference this week at Point Clear.
“We feel good about 2017,” he said. “We’re coming off some nice announcements this year.”
Aerospace has been one sector showing significant activity this year. Major aerospace-related announcements in 2017 include Blue Origin’s plans to build its BE-4 rocket engines in Huntsville, and a project by Leonardo that would locate a produce facility for T-100 trainer jets in Tuskegee. Together, these two projects alone would add more than 1,000 jobs and at least $400 million in new investment.
Secretary Canfield said the automotive and forest products industries also continue to expand in the state.
“The idea is great things are made in Alabama. It’s now time that they be researched, developed and designed in the state of Alabama.”Alabama Department of Commerce data show that the two industries have been making major growth moves in the state. In 2016, auto-related companies announced projects in Alabama valued at more than $900 million, with around 3,900 jobs. Forest product companies announced $1 billion-plus in projects, with 1,000 anticipated jobs.
Other sectors are poised for growth in 2017, including information technology, or IT, Secretary Canfield said.
“I think you’re going to see more IT come in 2017,” he said. “I believe we’re going to have a nice announcement sometime soon in that regard. I think the prospects look good.”
‘DEVELOPED IN ALABAMA’
Looking forward, Secretary Canfield said his economic development team is going to increase its focus on technology-focused jobs in advanced manufacturing and in fields such as engineering, research and development, and design.
“Knowledge-based jobs is really where our next focus needs to be,” he said.
The strategy will have far-reaching effects by complementing Alabama’s already strong manufacturing sector, which employs nearly 13 percent of all working Alabamians, he added.
“The idea is great things are made in Alabama. It’s now time that they be researched, developed and designed in the state of Alabama. We want to see more of that creative work, more of that brainpower, knowledge-based technical development work come to our state,” Secretary Canfield said.
“We believe if we do that, it will provide the right foundation to anchor those industry sectors and keep them in the state.”
Secretary Canfield talked to the Alabama NewsCenter about the state’s economic development priorities in 2017 in this video.