Accelerate Alabama, the strategic economic development growth plan that has driven the creation of more than 75,000 jobs since its adoption, is being updated with refined targets and tactics.
Accelerate Alabama 2.0, as it’s called, aims to amplify the success of the original strategic plan, which went into effect in 2012, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
Canfield unveiled Accelerate 2.0 today at the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s winter conference in Montgomery. The 95-page update has been in the works for nearly two years, in collaboration with consulting firm Boyette Strategic Advisors.
“Our goal with Accelerate 2.0 is to create a framework for sustainable growth and steer Alabama toward technology-focused, skill-based jobs that result in lasting opportunities for our citizens,” Canfield said.
“We’ve built a solid foundation, and now we want to speed up the progress across Alabama.”
A key feature of Accelerate Alabama, the state’s first-ever economic development growth plan, was the identification of 11 target sectors deemed ripe for expansion. Accelerate 2.0 streamlines this group to seven:
- Agricultural and food products
- Forestry products
- Metals/Advanced materials
Meanwhile, a new concept – “foundational targets’’ – has been introduced. These represent vital functions that cut across industry lines and are intrinsic to the core competencies of a wide range of corporate activities. These areas are also seen as ripe for growth:
- Corporate operations
- Data centers
- Information technology
- Research & Development
Accelerate 2.0 also seeks to build on the broad engagement that Alabama’s economic development team has developed with the state’s education community, Canfield said. The goal is to strengthen those bonds through closer collaboration with the state’s seven research universities and two major research organizations.
The report outlines the areas of research expertise present at these institutions and includes an extensive database detailing their specific technical capabilities. Economic developers looking for potential research partnerships can use this information.
“For the first time, we have a road map showing us the technical and scientific resources available at Alabama universities and research institutions,” Canfield said. “These organizations are powerful partners for the state’s economic development team.”
In addition, Accelerate 2.0 emphasizes important strategic goals as key economic development drivers for the state. Among them:
- Align workforce skills with needs.
- Foster entrepreneurship and innovation.
- Build R&D capacity.
- Ensure sites and infrastructure are available.
Gov. Robert Bentley created the Alabama Economic Development Alliance, led by Canfield, in 2011 to develop the plan that became Accelerate Alabama.
Between 2012 and 2015, economic development activities across Alabama attracted more than $20 billion in new capital investment through projects creating nearly 75,000 new and future jobs, according to Commerce data.
Figures for 2016 are not yet available but will push the totals from economic development activity higher.
During the Accelerate time frame, Alabama has seen massive growth in its automotive sector, which has added around 25,000 jobs and $7 billion in new capital investment, according to Commerce figures.
Aerospace, propelled by Airbus’ $600 million assembly plant project in Mobile, and other sectors such as forest products and steel/metals have also seen strong growth in this period, Commerce data indicate.
Read the full Accelerate Alabama 2.0 plan.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.