Legislators to focus on job growth in 2016

Published 2:25 pm Monday, February 1, 2016

By SLADE BLACKWELL / Guest Columnist

The Alabama Department of Labor’s latest job report released last November showed an increase in employment throughout the state.Shelby County, Alabama’s fastest growing county, is among those making strides to put more of its residents back in the workforce. This central Alabama area has emerged as a top business destination due to its close proximity to I-65, an ideal location for distribution and manufacturing.

Alabama is historically rich with iron and steel production, and was once considered a targeted “hotspot” in the southeastern region for manufacturing plants. This dates back to 1846, where Shelby Iron Company, located just three miles west of Shelby, was the first mill to manufacture merchant iron and for many years was the largest operating charcoal furnace in the country. Shelby County eventually lost its slot as the leading industrial location in the U.S. around the same time this iron powerhouse ended production in 1923.

It’s said that history repeats itself, and just as the early ‘20s saw a decline in manufacturing, the industry is currently facing a new set of challenges. Although 900,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in the past six years, this doesn’t come close to servicing local workforce demands. Shelby County manufacturing professionals have found themselves jobless due to the decreasing number of Alabama’s active manufacturing plants. Since 2001, our state’s manufacturing industry has lost more than 98,000 jobs and at least another 41,300 jobs need to be created to reach a full recession recovery.

In the next few weeks, the elected leaders representing hardworking Shelby County residents will join others in Montgomery for the first legislative session of the new year. In preparation for this session, I invite Alabama lawmakers to join me in keeping our constituents’ best interests in mind. Job creation and workforce development initiatives like manufacturing revitalization must remain a priority.

As Alabama elected officials come together to build up one of Alabama’s more prosperous industries, I call upon the presidential candidates to pay special attention to the dire need to rebuild both the Alabama and national manufacturing workforce. On the cusp of Alabama’s upcoming primary, we need candidates who will develop critical and effective policy solutions that will better the manufacturing industry.

I am eager to partner with like-minded leaders to develop tangible strategies that improve the state of Alabama’s economy and support a strong, vibrant workforce.


Slade Blackwell is a Republican state senator representing portions of Shelby County.