State thriving as nation dips
Johnny Mack Morrow
Historically, Alabama has at times been on the lower end of the economic ladder. When other areas of the country were experiencing high growth, Alabama seemed to lag somewhat in development and jobs.
The old joke was that during the Depression a national reporter was interviewing an Alabama farmer and asked about the downturn in the economy. The farmer told the reporter he never knew there was a problem.
Times have changed, and so have our perceptions of our state and the nation. We are as optimistic as we are busy.
We have the lowest unemployment rate in our state's history. Alabama's unemployment rate fell to 3.1 percent in October, besting the previous state record of 3.3percent from January, February and April of this year. For this entire year, the Alabama job market has outpaced national trends, averaging below 3.5 percent unemployment, while the national unemployment rate has averaged 4.7 percent.
There are signs that these trends will remain strong. Local small and medium sized businesses have been doing well, work is available, and orders at these companies have remained steady. Larger established firms such as our automotive companies Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Mercedes, are continuing right along in their Alabama plants. Goodyear in Gadsden is expanding. The technology sector in Huntsville is growing. Companies that have deep Alabama roots are doing well.
And new industries give every indication that our good economic times will continue. Steelmaker ThyssenKrupp has started construction on the largest industrial project in the United States, a state of the art mill in Southwest Alabama. The Canadian boxcar manufacturing company Alabama National is building the country's largest railroad manufacturing facility in Northwest Alabama. Military bases across the state are expanding due to base realignment. State government is on the constant lookout to see how to help companies locate and grow here, and our state's record of accomplishment is notable.
So how are Alabamians viewing all of our state's economic success?
The Capital Survey Research Center in Montgomery recently polled Alabamians and asked them what they think about state and national economic situations. The numbers show a historic shift-there is more confidence in our local economy than for the country as a whole.
62percent of Alabamians are satisfied with the way things are going in Alabama at this time. Those folks believe that the state economy is good and on the right track. Yet according to the poll, only 28 percent believe that the nation is on the right track. We look around and seepeople working and communities doing better than they were, but we hear stories of sub-prime mortgage problems, housing bubbles, and the fear of recession elsewhere in the country, and we get concerned. It is a historic turn of events. We are confident about Alabama and skeptical about the rest of the country when it comes to the economy. It goes to show you that we are making progress.
We now need to keep building on our success. Investing in education, building up our infrastructure, and doing what we can to support our business community are things we must continue to maintain our forward momentum. Let's hope that the rest of the country starts to gain some of the confidence and growth we have, so we as a nation can weather this uncertain time.
Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County.