Economy is still issue No. 1

By CAM WARD / Guest Columnist

With the recent news of an International Paper plant shutting down in Courtland, costing our state 1,100 jobs, we should all be getting a jolt that the economy is still not totally recovered from the financial meltdown of almost five years ago.

What we are seeing in many cases such as the Courtland Plant is third and fourth order effects of a changing economy. The officials at the plant said there was no amount of incentives the state could have given them to make up for the fact that the world uses less of the product they make.

All of us need to keep these types of things in mind when we talk about creating jobs and a sustainable economy for Alabama’s future.

Education and jobs go hand in hand. That is why we must do all that we can in the legislature and in our school districts to teach students the skills necessary for a 21st century workforce and to recruit the types of industries that are forward-looking in terms of the jobs they bring.

This is also illustrative of why economic development is so vitally important to our state. In the last legislative session, I sponsored the Alabama Commercial Aviation Improvement Act, which should help our state locate the second and third tier suppliers of the Airbus plant in Mobile. We believe this could lead to 5,000 new jobs in the state.

Closer to home, we have been growing both retail locations and supplier and warehousing jobs for such retailers. Hibbett Sports built a distribution center in the Shelby West Corporate Park after looking at several other locations. The CEO said the determining factor was our workforce and community. This facility will employ 150 people, and they are already considering adding more employees and a second shift.

And proving that in capitalism, competition makes us all better, Dick’s Sporting Goods is opening a new shop at South Promenade before the end of the year. Local officials worked hard to make sure the environment was right for such a large chain store.

Like in life, sometimes it will be one step forward and two steps back, but I will continue working with local and state leadership to keep fighting for new jobs in our area.

Cam Ward is a state senator from Alabaster.