Alabama Commerce Department adding new division, revising state economic development plan

Alabama Commerce Department adding new division, revising state economic development plan
Gov. Robert Bentley with Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield at EDAA governor's luncheon.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield told economic developers in the state today the Alabama Department of Commerce will add a new workforce division and is preparing to present the revised state economic development plan to Gov. Robert Bentley.

Speaking to members of the Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA), Canfield said the most recent legislative session not only armed economic developers with better incentives to help recruit and expand industry and be more competitive with other states, but it also revamped the organization of the Department of Commerce.

Greg Canfield from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The new Workforce Development Division of the commerce department will be led by Ed Castille, the longtime leader of the state’s AIDT worker training initiative. Castille will become a deputy secretary of commerce and will retain his job as the head of AIDT.

“This is not about meeting institutional needs. This is about meeting the needs of business and industry,” Canfield said.

In addition to AIDT, the Workforce Investment Division and the Workforce Development Division of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs will move from ADECA to the new Department of Commerce division. The state’s 10 workforce development councils will realign from the Alabama Community College System to the new division.

“Workforce readiness is a key issue facing every advanced manufacturer in the U.S.,” Canfield told EDAA members. “We want to make sure the state is properly aligned to address this need.”

More change ahead

The realignment is one of many proposals the state is adopting from the governor-initiated Alabama Workforce Council, which is made up of leaders from the private sector and chaired by Zeke Smith of Alabama Power.

The Alabama Department of Commerce’s Business Development Division will continue to focus on recruitment and retention of industry, international trade, the state’s film office and other traditional functions of the department.

In addition to the new organization, Canfield said the Department of Commerce is in the process of updating Accelerate Alabama, an economic development plan adopted three years ago.

The plan identified the key industries the state is targeting in its recruitment initiatives, recognized areas for helping retain industry in the state and added a new focus on growing innovative companies from within while attracting research and development jobs to the state.

Forecast for economic growth

Since Accelerate Alabama was adopted, Canfield said the state has announced 55,736 new or future jobs and $13.2 billion in capital investment.

Canfield said Accelerate Alabama 2.0 will build on that by better aligning the state’s workforce training initiatives with those targeted industries. It will also seek to improve on AdvantageSite, the state’s site certification program led by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, by certifying those sites for specific industries.

Canfield said the plan will include ways for the state to work more closely with local communities to work with existing industry and will include ways to expand biomedical and life science industries in the state.

“We’re going to make our commitment to that field a little more robust going forward,” Canfield said.

In an interview after his remarks, Canfield echoed Gov. Bentley’s claim earlier this week that the new incentives are spurring increased interest in the state from prospective companies.

“The response from the private sector and from site consultants indicate to us we’re in the right place to be in terms of how we’re going to be able to incentivize projects going forward,” he said.

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