Kay's Answer: Yes, times are tough these days. Credit has been tight, companies have not expanded, consumers have been cautious and the state is dealing with its highest unemployment rate in more than 20 years.
Governor Bob Riley is to be commended for the aggressive approach he has taken with industrial recruitment and for the results he has achieved or we could be worse off, like the state of Michigan.
Everywhere I visit and speak, people tell me we need jobs, jobs, and more jobs. Job development and job recruitment will be at the top of my list of priorities. I will encourage expansion of existing companies and I will have a plan to recruit new businesses.
I have the experience and know-how to serve as the state's leading economic developer. I once worked as Assistant Director of the Alabama Development Office and helped bring jobs to our state before. I helped author the "Prepared Cities" program, which is still in use across the state today.
Others can say "I want to..." or "I'm going to"... but only I can say I have done it. And I'm ready to do it again as your Governor.
Here are some of the ideas I will pursue:
1) I will elevate Workforce Development to a cabinet position. After doing so, we will develop strategies for multi-agency coordination and cooperation. We'll also organize the 12 Regional Councils, The Department of Industrial Relations, Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT), Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), Alabama Development Office (ADO) and the 2-year colleges under it.
After we have the right structure in place, we'll coordinate efforts so priorities can be funded and all energies focused and directed accordingly.
I'll reach out to chambers of commerce, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and others to create a shared vision.
2) We will encourage and support existing firms to expand with access to state incentives. These firms include our small, "home-grown" businesses as well as the larger ones.
3) We will recruit like-sized firms for like-sized areas. Every community isn't able to handle a Mercedes Plant or a Thyssen Krupp steel facility. But there are communities that would benefit greatly by landing a company that provides 50-100 new jobs.
4) I want us to diversify our industrial and commercial sectors even more. Instead of placing all our eggs in one basket, we need a variety of jobs. I'll go hard after opportunities in aero space, bio-medical and other knowledge-based areas that lead to high-paying wages and salaries and can't be exported to China, Mexico, South America or other foreign lands.
How you would benefit:
A more aggressive, coordinated strategy to recruit, retain and expand jobs in Alabama will help make our citizens and their families more prosperous and economically secure in the years ahead.