Alabama likely set economic development records in 2022

Capital investment in Alabama topped $9 billion and likely set a record in 2022, according to preliminary figures, Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield told business developers Monday.

Canfield delivered the opening remarks at the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s Winter 2023 Conference in Montgomery.

After the pandemic slowed the economy, foreign capital investment and trade, Canfield said the state returned in 2022.

Milestone projects such as the Novelis announcement in Baldwin County, Airbus adding another final assembly line in Mobile, automotive industry expansion and electric vehicle innovation, and unprecedented developments in rural communities in Alabama helped mitigate Alabama’s statewide economic downturn.

“Hopefully, Alabama will have a shallow and short recession,” Canfield said.

If so, it will be thanks to the hard work of a number of organizations. These include the Alabama Department of Commerce and the Office of the Governor, human resource development efforts led by AIDT, and a focus on growing the state’s economy in new ways through the work of Innovate Alabama. Some highlights:

  • AIDT worked with 144 projects in 42 districts to fill approximately 30,000 positions.
  • Rural economic development efforts have resulted in more than $3.5 billion in new capital investment and more than 4,800 jobs since 2020.
  • Incoming investment in Alabama is likely to hit a record when the 2022 totals come in.
  • Alabama set an employment record in December with 2,120,500 jobs.
  • December numbers are expected to show a new annual record for exports from Alabama.

The announced expansion of the Airbus plant in Mobile was one of the highlights of the country’s economic development in 2022. (Airbus)

The positive news in 2022 would be consistent with preliminary estimates from Alabama Power. The company is one of the largest private sector economic development organizations in the state and has worked with state and local officials on new and expanding projects that added an announced 7,307 jobs and $6 billion in new investment last year — both the largest numbers the company has had in a year year records. Alabama Power serves approximately two-thirds of the state.

Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (which includes Alabama Power and other private companies), said his organization has seen 49 leads turning into 21 projects in 2022. The state’s agricultural and forest products industry is identifying new leads and focuses on recruitment turning into more active projects in 2023.

EDPA is working with Innovate Alabama to ensure new targeted incentives become the kind of domestic growth companies that legislatures support.

Barker said Alabama is beginning to see the kind of geographic and business leadership diversity that has been envisioned in recent legislative efforts. He and Canfield said these achievements underscore the need to renew and expand incentive programs like the Alabama Jobs Act and Growing Alabama.

Officials will break ground on the Novelis Baldwin County plant in October 2022, another bright spot in the state’s economic development over the past year. (Hal Yeager / Governor’s Office)

The Alabama Jobs Act incentivizes new and existing industries based on job growth and wage increases. Growing Alabama incentivizes the private sector to support qualified economic development projects.

Canfield said Alabama must extend both incentive programs through July 2028 and increase or eliminate the statutory cap to support the programs’ pay-as-you-go approach. The trade secretary went further and called for renewable energy projects to be included in the mix.

Barker commended these efforts, noting that the state’s need for shovel-ready economic development sites is high, while the inventory of “megasites” for large-scale projects falls short of what other states can offer.

Or, as Canfield put it, “We need to optimize our economic development strategies because other states are targeting us.”