Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey told economic developers today that the state’s success in growing jobs and capital investment is the result of teamwork and more of it will be required to address the workforce challenges ahead.
“Alabama has hit record low unemployment rates and also we have more people working in Alabama than ever before,” Ivey told those gathered at the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s Winter 2019 Conference. “And jobs, y’all, are continuing to pour into our state. So, as we seek out companies to locate and expand in our great state, there remains a very clear need that we’ve got to prepare our men and women for the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow.”
Ivey said it is an area that requires attention.
“That’s why enhancing workforce development is vitally important and it’s a priority of mine moving forward,” she said.
Last year, Ivey established the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation.
“This will be led by Nick Moore and this office will focus solely on aligning our workforce development funding streams with our workforce development programs for Alabamians all across our state,” she said. “This entity within the governor’s office is working to increase our labor force participation to surpass our goal to better equip some 500,000 of our workers with a post-secondary degree, certificate or credential.”
It’s a needed element in a larger strategic plan to enhance workforce development that educators, leaders of business and industry and communities put together, Ivey said.
“I know that together we can get that done,” she said. “Alabama’s workforce efforts will be known worldwide and they will be effective. And, to put it simply, they will be known as the best.”
Ivey used her keynote address as a call to action.
“So today, my friends at EDAA, I charge each of you, each and every one of you, to show the world that Alabama’s workforce is a force to be reckoned with and that Alabama is the place to do business,” she said. “Let’s show companies that the ‘Made in Alabama’ team is one to join because with it, our future will be filled with growth and opportunity for everyone.”
Ivey’s address wasn’t all about the challenges. She did take time to celebrate the successes.
“Throughout my time as governor, we have proven time and time again that success is best found when we work together,” she said.
During her time as governor, Ivey said the state has seen $8 billion in new investment, 16,000 new jobs and several coveted economic development projects announced, along with strides to improve the state’s education system.
“Working together, we are achieving these results,” she said. “But what matters most to Alabamians is what are the next steps. How are we going to build on the success that we’ve had?”
Ivey said she and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield recently met with seven top U.S. site consultants.
“They made it very clear to me that they appreciate the teamwork that they see in our state,” she said. “They further said that they didn’t find that degree of teamwork in many other states.”
That approach has led to a revamping of the state’s incentives program that is paying off, she said. One area seeing a large payoff is the way the state brings economic development to rural areas.
“I’ve often said that we’re only truly successful when we are all successful together,” Ivey said. “That means also striving for economic growth is important for all 67 counties.”
The incentives created by the Jobs Act focus on targeted counties allowing companies to claim more tax breaks for establishing operations in those counties.
“Since I became governor, the targeted counties saw a success rate of over 70 percent by landing 10 economic development projects. This means that nearly $1 billion and some 1,200 new jobs have been created in rural Alabama,” Ivey said.
“The targeted county approach certainly has merit,” she added. “It works, and we need to take advantage of that and continue to be innovative and work hard to be sure that we have economic development of our rural areas as well. Rural economic development is absolutely a top priority of mine. When there is gain in rural Alabama, it’s a gain for the entire state.”