State growth important
Guest Columnist Rep. Ronald Grantland
As the Legislature prepares to convene for the 2007 session, one of our biggest concerns is the availability of good jobs. Fortunately, Alabama has become a major player when it comes to economic development and job growth. From automobiles to aerospace, and from health care to biotechnology, Alabama is diversifying and attracting new industries.
Alabamians are hard workers, and our work ethic is paying off. In the last 15 years, Alabama has climbed from one of many southern states to worldwide economic prominence. In fact, for the last four years, our state has been named “State of the Year” by “Southern Business and Development” magazine for its record of industry expansion and job creation. Since this ranking began in 1994, no state had won “State of the Year” three consecutive years; Alabama was the first.
Companies from across the globe are beginning to learn what we Alabamians have known for years: when given the opportunity, our state’s productivity is rivaled by few.
Our state has a great track record when it comes to attracting major manufacturers to locate in our state. Companies are investing billions here and in the process, adding high paying and stable jobs to our economy. All-in-all, there were 58 deals announced in the state in calendar year 2005 with 200-plus jobs and/or $30 million in investment; only four states had more. Alabama was able to secure a variety of projects, including a large military base expansion in Huntsville and the Kronospan’s 700-employee wood products plant in Calhoun County to name a few.
2007 looks to be just as successful. From the Shoals to Mobile Country, right now Alabama is competing for the location of 10 plants across the state, including a 2700-employee plant by the German manufacturer, ThyssenKrupp, one of the world’s largest steel producers.
Alabama’s rise to national prominence began over 10 years ago when Mercedes-Benz opened a plant outside of Tuscaloosa. It was the German automaker’s first assembly plant in the United States and caused other manufacturers to take notice of our workforce’s productivity. Since then, Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota opened plants in Alabama and have created nearly ten thousand jobs, as well as billions in investments.
These new businesses are wonderful for our state and significantly influence our economic development. There is another way we can help spur economic development and keep jobs in the state—we must continue to support Alabama’s small and local businesses.
Small business is the true economic engine for Alabama and the heart of many rural communities across the state. Additionally, small businesses are resilient and can often weather the ups and downs of an economy. Large corporations are hit harder in economic downtimes and cannot adapt to changes in the market as well as small businesses can.
By only recruiting big corporations and basing a community’s economy around a few large job providers, the community is essentially placing all of its eggs in one basket, and can become more vulnerable to the winds of economic change. We must be willing to support small, local business in addition to providing job and technical training to prepare Alabamians for the jobs of the future.
Alabama will undoubtedly keep growing and diversifying, but it’s important to remember and support small local businesses, too. By doing so, we can ensure than jobs are available throughout our state for many years to come.