Economic development is off to a good start this year, and the state’s leading economic developer said Alabama is in a position to add more than 11,000 jobs with projects in the pipeline.
Automotive, aerospace and aviation are leading the way, but forest products and IT are also industries interested in Alabama, Commerce Secretary Greg 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.”
The presentation focused on the successes, including:
- Since starting the Accelerate Alabama plan, between 2011 and 2016, Alabama added $28.5 billion in capital investment and 107,000 in new and future jobs from new and expanding industry.
- In 2016 alone, the state added $4.2 billion in capital investment and 14,700 anticipated jobs with announcements.
- Last year’s leading industry sectors were automotive (3,000 jobs, $900 million), aerospace (2,000 jobs, $260 million) and forest products (1,000 jobs, $1.1 billion).
- Companies from more than 17 countries invested $1.6 billion and accounted for 3,200 jobs in 2016.
Canfield said the state has put in place Accelerate Alabama 2.0, which makes important changes to the master plan guiding how Alabama targets and recruits new industry to the state.
The new plan, Canfield said, will modernize the state economy to make it more robust and diverse.
“For so long, Alabama has been doing an excellent job attracting advanced manufacturing, and that’s important because there are a lot of disruptive technologies that are disrupting basic manufacturing,” Canfield said. “So our focus on advanced manufacturing is embracing those companies and those industry sectors that are already embracing technology.”
To better diversify, Canfield said the state needs to add to advanced manufacturing.
“Knowledge-based jobs are really where our next focus really has to be,” he said. “Our idea is, great things are made in Alabama; it is now time they be researched, developed and designed in the state of Alabama.
“We want to see more of that creative work, more of that brain power, knowledge-based technical development work come to our state. We believe if we do that, that will provide the right foundation to provide the anchor for those industry sectors and keep them in the state in a real healthy fashion,” Canfield said.
Birmingham is poised to see that type of growth in the innovation economy, he said.
“The Birmingham region is absolutely hands down a great economy and a great ecosystem to support innovation,” Canfield said, citing UAB, Southern Research, Innovation Depot, the University of Alabama System, pharmacy research and other attributes.
“The next step is going to be to take and move Birmingham into a direction where not only is it growing its financial footprint but also growing the IT footprint,” he said. “IT and the technology that comes with it is evolving every day. I think Birmingham is uniquely situated with lots of assets to help foster growth in that arena.”