Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey attended the official opening of Abbeville Fiber LLC, a state-of-the-art sawmill that will employ 115 people in Henry County once the facility is fully staffed. The $40 million investment is the largest economic development project in the county’s history, with $40 million invested to date.
“What I have seen here today represents the best of Alabama — good people who are proud of their work and doing it to the best of their ability,” said Ivey, who toured the facility. “There is an atmosphere of enthusiasm here, a belief that the future holds great promise. The workers here are a part of building something special for the local community and our state.”
Abbeville Fiber’s lone client will be Great Southern Wood Preserving Inc., part of the Alabama-based Great Southern Wood family of companies that operates internationally.
Jimmy Rane is the president and CEO of Great Southern Wood and the wealthiest person in the state of Alabama.
“With the opening of the sawmill, we will be continuing to invest in our most valuable resource — the people in our hometown and throughout the entire Wiregrass,” Rane said. “This state-of-the-art facility is not just about producing the highest quality wood products, it is about empowering people to provide a better life for their families and building a stronger, more prosperous community for all of us.”
The new facility just received its first load of logs on July 8 and currently employs 65 people. It will utilize 40 to 45 truckloads of locally sourced logs per day.
Economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Forestry and paper products is one of the state of Alabama’s targeted industries. Alabama has the second largest timberland base in the nation, which includes over 23 million acres dedicated to forestry. Recent data shows that Alabama exported 1.3 billion dollars of forestry products annually, and the industry contributes a total of over 23 billion dollars annually to Alabama’s economy. These numbers continue to attract companies (and more jobs) to our state.”
Jones said, “Abbeville Fiber is a win for rural Alabama. The sawmill currently employs 65 people and is estimated to increase employment to approximately 115 by this time next year, which will bring continued economic benefits for Henry County.”
At that time, the facility will be milling an incredible 80 to 90 truckloads of logs per day. The project is reportedly in a federal Opportunity Zone making it eligible for additional tax benefits.
Last year the forestry industry launched Alabama growth projects valued at $1.3 billion creating almost 2,000 new jobs, according to Alabama Department of Commerce data.
Over the last five years, economic development projects in the forest products industry have attracted more than $5 billion in new investment creating over 6,000 jobs in Alabama, according to the Alabama Commerce Department.
These project are also contributes to Alabama’s efforts to advance economic development in the state’s rural areas, which saw $1.1 billion in new investment creating more than 1,100 jobs in counties with fewer than 25,000 residents.
Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan
A survey of likely Republican primary voters obtained by APR shows that a majority do not support giving the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the state despite the tribe’s promise of a billion dollars.
Over the last several months, PCI has orchestrated a massive media blitz to convince Alabamians that they have a winning plan for the state’s future in exchange for a Tribal-State compact and exclusive rights to Vegas-style casino gaming.
The survey commissioned by the Republican House and Senate caucuses and conducted by CYGNAL, a highly respected Republican polling firm, found that only 34.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters are buying what the tribe is selling. On the contrary, nearly 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan, with almost 40 percent voicing strong opposition.
Of those surveyed, females are against the plan by nearly 50 percent, with men weighing-in at almost 60 percent unfavorable to PCI’s proposal.
Perhaps most significant is that PCI’s monopoly plan was widely rejected in areas where the tribe already operates casinos. In the Mobile area, nearest Windcreek Atmore, over half of Republicans see a monopoly unfavorably. The same is true in the Montgomery area, where PCI has two gaming facilities.
Not a single big city surveyed in the state held a favorable view of PCI’s plan with Birmingham and Huntsville rejecting the tribal monopoly by almost 50 percent.
Very conservative, somewhat conservative and moderate voters didn’t view the plan as positive.
Ninety-one percent of respondents said they defiantly would be voting in the upcoming Republican primary on March 3.
PCI has lavished money on media outlets throughout the state, garnering favorable coverage, especially on talk radio and internet outlets. The tribe has also spent freely on Republican lawmakers.
Perhaps some good news for PCI is that Republican primary voters believe that state legislators are more likely to represent special interests above the interests of their constituents.
PCI lobbyists continue to push the tribe’s agenda at the State House in defiance of Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for no action on gaming until her study group returns its findings.
The survey found that Ivey enjoys a 76.3 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters.
ADECA names Elaine J. Fincannon as new deputy director
Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell announced on Thursday that Elaine J. Fincannon has been appointed as the agency’s deputy director.
Fincannon most recently served as Senior Vice President for Investor Relations for the Business Council of Alabama. She worked with BCA for over 25 years as part of its senior team, working with a diverse range of business leaders and CEOs of Alabama’s largest employers. During that time, she also served as BCA’s liaison to Alabama’s trade associations and to the more than 100 chambers of commerce throughout the state. She also served on the President’s Committee and Corporate Partners Committee for the Alabama Automotive Manufacturer’s Association and was a part of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association’s membership committee.
“Elaine Fincannon’s extensive knowledge and experience with the public and private sector in our state made her an ideal choice to be ADECA’s new deputy director, and I am pleased that she has decided to bring those talents to the agency,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “Elaine is mission-focused, forward-thinking and detailed-oriented, which are the exact skills needed to serve as deputy director of ADECA. She and I will work closely together to continue supporting Gov. Ivey’s mission of improving the lives of all Alabamians.”
Fincannon is an active member of the community, serving as a member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League of Montgomery, the Montgomery Humane Society, Auburn University Montgomery Alumni Association and other volunteer efforts. She also served as a member of the American Society of Association Executives and was an officer of the Association of State Chamber Professionals. She has a bachelor’s degree of science from AUM and was honored with a Distinguished Chamber Professional Award in 2019 by the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.
Fincannon joins ADECA with a focus on working with Boswell to meet the agency’s mission to strengthen and support local communities.
“It is an honor to join ADECA during this time, and I am grateful to Director Boswell and Gov. Ivey for this appointment,” Fincannon said. “I plan to work diligently to serve the people of Alabama to the absolute best of my ability.”
Alabama Workforce Council delivers annual report touting improved career pathways
The Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) recently delivered its Annual Report to Gov. Kay Ivey and members of the legislature. The report highlights the many and varied workforce successes from 2019. It also outlines policy recommendations to further solidify Alabama as a leader in workforce development and push the state closer to Ivey’s goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the state’s workforce by 2025.
Gov. Ivey acknowledged the recent progress stating, “the continued efforts of the AWC and the various state agency partners in transforming our workforce are substantial. Significant work has been accomplished to ensure all Alabamians have a strong start and strong finish. We will continue to bolster our state’s economy through dynamic workforce development solutions to help us reach our ambitious goal.”
The AWC, formed in 2015, was created as an employer-led, statewide effort to understand the structure, function, organization and perception of the Alabama workforce system. The goal of the AWC is to facilitate collaboration between government and industry to help Alabama develop a sustainable workforce that is competitive on a global scale.
“This report details the tremendous efforts of the dedicated AWC members and their partners who have greatly contributed to the progress of building a highly-skilled workforce.” noted Tim McCartney, Chairman of the AWC. “To meet ever-growing job needs of an expanding economy, we have put forth recommendations to bring working-age Alabamians sitting on the sidelines back into the workforce to address our low workforce participation rate.”
Included among the many highlights from the report are:
- Created the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship to support apprenticeships and work-based learning statewide.
- Established the Alabama Committee on Credentialing & Career Pathways (ACCCP) to identify credentials of value that align with in-demand career pathways across Alabama.
- Furthered foundational work toward cross-agency outcome sharing through the Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS).
- Commissioned statewide surveys to better understand the characteristics, and potential barriers, of the priority population groups (during record-low unemployment) identified as likely to enter or re-enter the state’s workforce.
- Provided technical assistance, support staff and grant writing services to a cohort of over 30 nonprofits from across the state enabling them to expand services and directly connect more Alabamians to training and economic opportunity. Services helped cohort members secure over $6.4 million in grant money through various out-of-state grant programs.
- Identified and evaluated 17 population segments of potential workers and determined the likelihood of adding members of those respective population segments into the workforce. Within this process, issues affecting the state’s labor participation rate were also detailed.
Vice-Chair of the AWC Sandra Koblas of Austal USA commented, “the energy around workforce development in Alabama right now is incredibly exciting. We are working together with businesses, nonprofits and agency partners to reduce barriers, increase opportunities and grow the state’s overall economy.”
The full report can be viewed here.
To learn more about the Alabama Workforce Council please visit: www.alabamaworks.com/alabama-workforce-council
Shelby announces $733,150 ARC POWER Grant for Opportunity Alabama
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Wednesday announced that Opportunity Alabama, Inc., a nonprofit initiative in Birmingham, Alabama, is the recipient of a $733,150 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant. This grant will fund the Creating Opportunity for Alabama (COAL) Initiative.
“ARC’s decision to award this funding to Opportunity Alabama will help significantly boost private investment and business development throughout our state’s coal-impacted communities,” said Senator Shelby. “I am proud this nonprofit initiative is working to help our local communities understand and capitalize on Opportunity Zones. These federal funds will facilitate an improved quality of life in Appalachian Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs and dozens of new businesses.”
“Opportunity Zones, and the private investment they incentivize, are helping uplift communities throughout the Appalachian Region,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “Opportunity Alabama is working to ensure communities understand and are able to capitalize on this program to improve Appalachian Alabama, and this POWER investment will have a big impact on that mission.”
The project will create an investment funding and business development ecosystem targeted to the federally designated Opportunity Zones in 36 coal-impacted counties in Alabama. As a result of the ARC grant, Opportunity Alabama will work with a team of local, state, and national partners in a three-phased approach. The first phase will work on building a local capacity to effectively prepare for and attract Opportunity Zone investments, focusing particularly on rural communities. The second phase will create a pipeline of investment opportunities to attract substantial private investment by facilitating demand studies, environmental assessments, and construction cost estimates. The third and final phase will focus on developing and implementing an impact-investment data collection and analysis process to make it easier for investors to deploy their capital.
This project will yield 250 new jobs, create 25 new businesses, and leverage $100 million in private investment. In addition to the federal grant provided for the project, Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Foundation are expected to provide private financial support.
Opportunity Alabama is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in Alabama’s Opportunity Zones.
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