State agencies help with industrial expansion

Jobs are on everyone’s mind right now. Since the recession began in 2007, Alabama saw a tripling of the unemployment rate.  Thousands of Alabama workers lost their jobs or saw hours reduced. Unemployment has dropped from a high of 11.8 percent in January to 9.9 percent this past May, so we are finally headed in the right direction on employment, but job creation is not what it needs to be.

Creating jobs, sustaining jobs, and bringing more jobs to Alabama is “job one” for elected officeholders, state and local officials, and local chambers of commerce. To get our state economy going again we need to have more people working.  It is as simple as that.

There has been a recent string of good news on the job front. Mercedes just finished a major expansion of their Vance plant, investing $290 million into its facility and bringing more than 400 jobs along with it.

Hyundai, already Alabama’s largest auto manufacturer making more than 30,000 cars a month, just announced that it is bringing a heavy industries factory to the Montgomery area. They are building a 220,000 square foot facility to manufacture electrical transformers for the worldwide market, bringing hundreds of jobs.

Austal shipbuilding continues to grow in Mobile, opening a Modular Manufacturing Facility, with 700,000 square feet of manufacturing space with the ability to support the construction of six large aluminum vessels and 1200 workers. Shipbuilding is bright in the heart of Mobile.

Dozens of other manufacturers are coming to or expanding operation in Alabama. From ThyssenKrupp steel plant in southwest Alabama to Toyota in the Tennessee Valley and all points in between including our local communities, Alabama manufacturing is picking up, and jobs are being created along with it.

We have the industrial sites, a strong state government agency for industrial recruitment in the Alabama Development Office, and what many consider our ace in the hole: Alabama Industrial Development Training, or AIDT.

AIDT is rated one of the nation’s top worker training programs in the country. Part of the Alabama Community College System, this agency provides quality workforce development for Alabama’s new and expanding businesses, and it is a conduit for Alabamians looking for work and a career in manufacturing.

AIDT has led the nation in workforce development. It was the first state training organization in the country to earn international certification for its quality management system. As recently as last year AIDT received unconditional approval for its continued international quality certification.

AIDT works directly with manufacturers to recruit and train the skilled workforce needed in modern industries.  They can organize training of almost any kind, from marine welding to robotics maintenance. The program is offered at no cost to employers and to the trainees.

Training is conducted by AIDT staff or contracted instructors and delivered through classrooms at community colleges or in 38 Mobile Training Units customized to meet specific company needs.  These units go directly to the plant site to provide classroom and hands-on training.

The reason why Alabama has become a destination of choice for American and international companies to build new manufacturing plants is because of our workforce. It is also the reason why we are able to retain much of our existing industrial base.

State government must play a vital role in economic development in Alabama.

There is much more to be done. We have the infrastructure, a proven track record, and a real hunger to bring more industry to Alabama.

We will be working hard every day to bring in the next industrial opportunity, expand industries that are already here, and provide opportunity for thousands more Alabama workers.

Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County. His column appears each Wednesday.

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