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Alabama sets new record with 2018 economic development projects

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that companies locating new facilities in Alabama or expanding existing operations invested $8.7 billion in growth projects during 2018, establishing a new annual record for the state.

These economic development projects were outlined in the comprehensive 2018 New & Expanding Industry Report. The report predicted that these investments will generate an anticipated 17,000 new jobs in communities across the state.

“By attracting this historic total for new capital investment in 2018, Alabama is showing the world that it is a prime location for business and that our skilled workers can handle every challenge,” Ivey said. “Companies from around the globe want to be part of the gold standard brand that is known as ‘Made in Alabama.’”

The New & Expanding Industry Report was compiled by the Alabama Department of Commerce and provides a detailed look at the results of 357 economic development projects successfully completed across the state during 2018.

“Economic development is sustained, collaborative partnerships between the public and private sector with an ultimate goal of enhancing the quality of life of a particular area,” economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter. “It is a team sport, and more and more companies are choosing to invest in Alabama for a myriad of factors. Alabama has the business-friendly climate, the quality of life and the quality and skilled workforce that companies desire.”

The report found that growth in important industry sectors including automotive and aerospace remained strong in 2018, creating momentum for future gains. Other sectors, particularly forest products, also charted a growth trajectory.

“The high level of economic development activity in 2018 sets the stage for sustained growth and expanded opportunity across Alabama,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “This success solidifies my belief that we are building a more dynamic economy in Alabama and creating a pathway to greater prosperity for its citizens.”

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Alabama attracted foreign direct investment approaching $4.2 billion last year from companies in 16 different countries, generating 7,565 new and future jobs. Japanese companies led the way, with $1.8 billion in investment and 4,245 jobs.

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Companies announced 2018 projects involving more than $1.1 billion in new investment and 1,128 jobs in Alabama’s rural, or “targeted” counties, making them eligible for enhanced incentives. Bibb County will become home to 337 new jobs, tops among the rural counties.

Limestone County was the leader in new investment and job creation through projects in 2018, with $1.7 billion in announced investment and 4,172 new jobs. The auto assembly plant being built by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. in Huntsville accounts for most of those totals.

Alabama’s auto industry was one of the strongest areas for growth. The Mazda-Toyota partnership’s decision to locate a coveted joint assembly plant in Huntsville representing a $1.6 billion investment and the creation of 4,000 direct jobs was the biggest announcement of 2018.

Mercedes-Benz launched construction on a battery assembly plant in Bibb County that will create 325 jobs and facilitate production of Alabama-built electric vehicles. Hyundai and Honda also announced expansion projects in 2018, while several suppliers selected Alabama locations for their growth plans.

Airbus announced that it will open a second assembly line at its Mobile manufacturing facility for the production of A220 aircraft. This decision reinforces Mobile’s status as an aviation production hub. The $264 million project will create 430 jobs.

Alabama was also able to recruit technology-focused jobs, with both Amazon and Facebook announcing major projects in Alabama. Birmingham-based Shipt announced plans to hire 880 workers.

Westervelt, Rex Lumber and Great Southern Wood all announced plans for new Alabama production facilities in the forest products sector, creating a combined 335 direct jobs.

The top Alabama counties for new capital investment in 2018 were Limestone, with the huge Mazda-Toyota announcement, Madison, with $1.1 billion, and Tuscaloosa, with $670 million.

Limestone led in job creation, followed by Jefferson with 3,421 anticipated jobs, and Madison was third with 1,043 jobs.

Both the investment and job-creation figures for Alabama in 2018 exceed the totals for the previous year. It was a record year for the state, breaking the previous annual record for new capital investment from economic development projects of $7.1 billion set in 2015.

“Thanks to an incredible team dedicated to the recruitment and retention of business and industry in our state, businesses invested over $8.7 billion in Alabama projects last year,” Jones said. “Add that to the excellent numbers released by the White House this week, we clearly are living in a blessed time in both our state’s and our nation’s economic history.”

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