Bentley: We need more jobs

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gov. Robert Bentley meets with members of the Star-News editorial staff Monday afternoon.

Gov. Robert Bentley said his administration is concentrating on education, making the state healthier, economic development, and improving the infrastructure in the state.

But the thing Alabama needs most, he said, is jobs.

“We’ve announced more than 5,000 jobs (in the state) since we took office,” he said, adding that he will announce “significantly more” today in Opelika. “We’d like to get to 10,000 by the end of the year, but that’s going to be close.”

Five thousand isn’t a whole lot of jobs when the state has 200,000 out of work, the governor conceded. But in a down economy, positive growth is a good thing.

The governor brought his Road to Economic Recovery tour to Covington County Monday, and met with members of the Star-News staff yesterday afternoon.

Economically, he and members of his team – originally led by Andalusia’s Seth Hammett – have a three-pronged approach that includes recruitment, retention and renewal.

The governor said he speaks with CEOs of prospective companies almost daily, and worked hard alongside Hammett, who was then serving as director of the Alabama Development Office, during the Paris Air Show. At present, there are 177 aerospace industries in Alabama, and Bentley would like to see that number grow.

“A lot of people think that (the air show) is a vacation,” he said. “Some people do make it a vacation, and that’s OK. But we worked.”

He said Alabama co-hosted a recruitment event with three other states.

“We were the only state whose governor attended, and whose U.S. senators attended. We had Sen. Shelby and Sen. Sessions,” he said.

He believes that gives Alabama a competitive advantage.

“When you get to that level of recruitment, the CEO is only interested in talking to the governor,” he said.

One of Alabama’s top selling points, he said, is its customizable training program, AIDT, which provides specific training to a pool of workers from which employers then make hiring decisions.

“No other state does it that way,” Bentley said.

Most job growth comes from expansion of existing industries, he said, adding that his team is working to foster that growth, as well as to nurture innovation, by working to see that research done at the state’s major research institutions is developed to the product stage here. He asked for $10 million in the education budget this year to foster that development. He only got $4 million, but he’ll take it, he said, and hope that it can be used as matching funds to secure grants.

Bentley started the day with the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce, met with elected officials, stopped at Larry’s BBQ for lunch – where there was such a large crowd to greet him that he never got to eat. After a stop at The Star-News, he met with representatives of LBWCC and with the Opp Chamber of Commerce.