Local official weighs in on State Address

Published 3:00 am Thursday, March 5, 2015

Some key plans outlined by Gov. Robert Bentley during his state of the state address met with favorable response from local economic development officials.

“It was very exciting to hear the Governor state that his Accelerate Alabama Jobs Incentive Package will increase incentives for new projects that locate in rural areas,” said Marsha Gaylard, president of the Pike County Economic Development Corporation.

Bentley shared his state of the state address on Monday, outlining what he called bold steps needed to correct Alabama’s budget shortfalls. He cited “one bold move” that changed economic impacts of Alabama.

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In 1993, Alabama economic developers pushed to have Mercedes Benz locate its first American plant in the state, and Bentley said that had the largest change on “Alabama’s economic status as well in other areas of the southeast,” Bentley said. “Last year nearly 1-million automobiles were made by the skilled-hands of hardworking Alabamians. Our great state produced nearly $6-billion dollars worth of vehicles last year alone. Since that first Alabama-made SUV rolled off the assembly line 17 years ago, vehicles have remained our State’s number one export.”

Bentley said that over the last four years he had the chance to travel to every county in the state and visit with constituents, affording him the opportunity to see the direct impact of state government on small town Alabama communities.

In order to outweigh the $240 million shortfall in the Alabama General Fund budget, Bentley has proposed a number of tax increases including those that he said will move the state toward equal taxing for all of Alabama’s corporate residents.

Gaylard said her agency often markets Pike County and Alabama as a business-friendly place to locate. “We do this during the initial recruitment phase by letting them know they can enjoy a low tax structure, a low cost of doing business and a very low cost of living, but at the same time enjoying an outstanding quality of life,” Gaylard said. “They can also expect to find an abundant and quality workforce.”

Along with equal taxing across the board for Alabama’s larger corporations, Bentley proposed incentives for moving into smaller, more rural regions of the state.

Bentley used the City of Vernon in Lamar County as an example of building up local economies. Vernon, a small town, made up of not more than 2,000, opened K & S Lumber and provided the town with 11 jobs. Bentley said while it may not have been the largest endeavor the state took on, it was a prime example of the ability and drive of Alabamians to create jobs.

Gaylard said that for years a committee based around bolstering rural areas had pushed for these sorts of incentives.

“Several years ago, we divided our state into rural regions, I am currently the chairman of our rural region,” Gaylard said. “We have been meeting on a regular basis and incentives on rural areas have been high on our priority list.”

Gaylard said the committee had wanted to make sure Legislature was on board with trying to create incentives for these sorts of endeavors, but now Gaylard said they are excited to hear of what could be coming. “We’re not sure right now exactly what those incentives will include,” she said.

Gaylard said one of the largest issues the Rural Regions had dealt with was encouraging companies to come and grow roots in Pike County.

“One of the issues that we have been working on was to encourage and develop incentive legislation that would make rural areas a little more competitive when competing for industrial recruitment projects, so the governor’s statement was very encouraging,” Gaylard said.