MONTGOMERY, Alabama – In his State of the State address tonight, Governor Robert Bentley highlighted efforts to attract additional investment to Alabama and new approaches to assist small business and create new pathways to careers for students.
Governor Bentley told legislative leaders and top state officials that he is not content that unemployment in Alabama has dropped to a five-year low of 6.2 percent, the lowest rate in the Deep South. And even though Alabama has gained more than 59,000 jobs since he took office in 2011, Governor Bentley said more work is needed.
Strategic economic development efforts to attract investment from around the world represent one way to create new jobs. Two months ago, Governor Bentley recounted, he was in Tokyo on a trade mission, sitting on a bus next to the chief executive of Otsuka, the Japanese pharmaceutical giant that operates the Pharmavite vitamin plant in Lee County.
Governor Bentley told him about the groundbreaking bio-technology research done at UAB and Southern Research Institute. As a result of that conversation, Otsuka officials next week will be meeting with those Birmingham organizations to explore cooperation.
“Companies, like Otsuka, have quickly recognized, as others have, that we have a positive business climate and that our job training program is second to none,” he said.
ASSISTING SMALL BUSINESS
Governor Bentley announced that he is creating a Small Business Advisory Council to address the specific needs of Alabama’s small business owners. Nearly half of the state’s private sector workforce, he added, is employed by small businesses.
The Small Business Advisory Council will concentrate on making sure small business owners have the resources and support they need to expand their operations and create well-paying jobs, he said.
“We must create greater opportunity for Alabamians to acquire the skills needed for higher-paying jobs,” Governor Bentley said. “Companies are looking for and jobs are waiting for skilled workers.”
The Alabama Department of Commerce operates a small business division and is exploring new ways to help small business owners thrive. Alabama was recently ranked among the best states for small businesses, according to a national survey by Thumbtack.com and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Alabama ranked No. 2 for overall small business friendliness in the 2013 survey, trailing only Utah.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT FOCUS
Governor Bentley added that he is backing legislation that will call for the establishment of a Statewide Workforce Council that will help streamline job-creation efforts. The council will be comprised of business leaders from around the state who will advise top-level educators on the workforce needs of various regions of the state.
He said the effort could involve the expansion of dual enrollment programs that allow students to take community college technical training courses before receiving their high school diploma. In addition, expanding the number of Career Coaches in Alabama high school would help students better identify career paths.
The proposed Statewide Workforce Council stems from a recommendation from the Governor’s College and Career Ready Task Force, which unified members of the education community and business world in an effort to help students better prepare for successful careers.
Governor Bentley said thousands of high-paying, highly skilled jobs are being created across Alabama. In Mobile, Airbus will hire 1,000 people for its A320 passenger jet production center. Boeing is setting up a research center in Huntsville with up to 400 jobs. An expanding Mercedes-Benz is adding 1,400 jobs at its Alabama auto assembly plant.
He said the activity is a testament to Alabama workers.
“Without a doubt our greatest asset for any industry is our workforce, the men and women of this state who get up every day and go to work to produce, build and develop a product, a good or service that is Made in Alabama,” he said.