With companies across the globe looking to make big-dollar investments into communities and accompany those investments with high-paying, high-quality jobs, Alabama has an opportunity to take the bull by the horns and become one of the top states that companies look towards to invest.
But currently, Alabama is falling behind other states such as Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia when it comes to a competitive supply of quality industrial sites, which companies depend on in order to build manufacturing facilities and plants.
This can result in companies interested in investing in our state instead taking their jobs and economic impact elsewhere. But if our state’s leaders make the right investments now where they count, this problem can turn into an opportunity.
There are thousands of jobs on the line, and we need to make sure that companies looking to establish manufacturing bases choose Alabama to set up shop.
Last year I chaired the Joint Legislative Study Commission on Economic Development Incentives, which identified the need to increase the state’s number of sites to lure more industry and create more jobs for our state.
That’s why we recommended legislation, called the Site Evaluation and Economic Development Strategy (SEEDS) Act, which the Legislature unanimously passed, and the governor signed into law, that would allow Alabama to close the gap with our competitors. We now need to fully fund that program so that it can be successful.
Other states recognize this need and have continued to invest millions into preparing industrial sites for future development. Alabama is going to be left behind if we don’t act now to secure a future of economic success.
A declining manufacturing base can be absolutely fatal for communities. Look at Detroit, Michigan, as an example. As their automotive manufacturing sector began to diminish, so did the city, which at the time was thriving. Look at it now.
While losing a manufacturing base can destroy a community, a growing manufacturing base can literally change the trajectory and future of a community for decades. States across the country recognize this.
For example, in Virginia’s 2022-2024 budget, which Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed in June 2022, the state allocated $150 million for its site development program, of which $90 million in grants were announced in January 2023. Youngkin has also proposed that this program receive an additional $350 million in new site development funding in fiscal year 2023.
If approved by the Virginia Legislature in its 2023 legislative session, the new allocation would bring the state’s total recent investments for site development to $500 million. Alabama should follow that example.
Alabama needs to be a leader in economic development strategy and work to be the most business friendly environment in the country. As companies are fleeing states with disastrous economic policies like California and New York, we need to be able to make a compelling case to those companies that they should choose to relocate here.
If Alabama can make the investments needed for those companies to see that Alabama has industrial sites with the utilities, infrastructure and other assets needed to be successful, the sky is the limit for what our state can achieve.
To create an environment where Alabama is one of the first states companies consider when looking to locate, we need to step up and fully fund our economic development programs enacted under the SEEDS Act. Hindsight is 20/20, and it would be a shame for the leaders of our state to look back in 10 years and see the investments that could have been made here in Alabama, instead paying off in dividends in competing states.
Let’s create an environment where our state is heading in the right direction, instead of retreating in the wrong direction like California and New York. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity to lure companies fleeing those states to make Alabama home. Let’s pave the way for a future where Alabama communities will have more jobs and economic opportunities than ever before.
That’s a future for our state that I believe in — let’s invest in that future.
Alabamians depend on our state’s government and elected leaders to get real results that benefit their communities and families. The best way to do that is to deliver high-quality jobs and economic investments that lift communities up and give Alabamians the future they deserve.
Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth was elected to his current position in 2018. Prior to that, he served in the Alabama House of Representatives. He currently owns Ainsworth Real Estate and Ainsworth Homes, as well as a commercial cattle operation.