Last year in this space we boldly predicted that gambling would take center stage during the 2015 legislative session. We would have been exactly right, were it not for the molasses-slow progress of the Legislature to produce a budget that ultimately pleased no one. Gambling hasn’t gone away, it’s just waiting in the wings, along with a few other ghosts of 2015. Here’s our assessment for the New Year.
The governor’s still not sold on expanding Medicaid. His Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force, meanwhile, has recommended moving forward “at the earliest opportunity to close Alabama’s health coverage gap with an Alabama-driven solution.” It’s a classic political strategy: Appoint experts, ignore them.
You could find an expert to back up nearly any theory you have for Wall Street in 2016, but Goldman Sachs analysts offered little optimism for investors. They forecast the year to end with the S&P 500 dialed in where it began, about 2, 100.
Huntsville’s new firearms manufacturer is required to have 680 employees on the payroll by 2016 to keep its $68.9 million in state and local incentives. Demand for their products spiked at the end of the year based on terrorist attacks around the globe.
The Alabama-based coal producer estimates its coal exports next year will rise to between 34-35 million tons, up from a 2015 total of roughly 28 million.
The first aircraft set for completion at the company’s new facility in Mobile will be an A321ceo destined for delivery to JetBlue in the second quarter of 2016.
Wind Creek Casino in Atmore offers gaming now, courtesy of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
When the governor took Attorney General Luther Strange off the case of enforcing the state’s gambling laws in November, giving the job to sheriffs and district attorneys instead, some saw it as a pro-gambling gambit. A plan by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh to create a lottery and add Las Vegas-style gaming at Alabama’s four existing greyhound tracks didn’t make it to the floor for a vote in 2015 but many think it or an alternate plan will arise this year.
Several big projects are scheduled to come online in 2016, but Alabama’s economy should also get a boost from small and mid-sized businesses. According to a fall survey compiled by Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group Inc., the number of Alabama business owners who plan to hire full-time employees in the next six months nearly tripled from 7 percent of respondents in spring to 20 percent in the third quarter.
Fledgling distilleries around the state plan to roll out new Alabama-themed brown liquors around the state, hoping to mimic the land-office success seen at craft breweries. The mandatory two-year aging process keeps this from being an overnight affair, but Big Escambia Spirits of Atmore, among others, says it will have premium bourbon that will come of age in 2016. Alabama law requires distillers to sell their products only to the state or in open containers on their premises.
Dave Helms is copy editor for Business Alabama.
Text by Dave Helms