Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, is urging Gov. Kay Ivey to establish a health care manufacturing task force to explore ways for Alabama to move to the forefront of health care manufacturing for the United States.
In a letter to Ivey Thursday, Jones suggested utilizing existing infrastructure across the state, like shuttered factories, to build a statewide health care manufacturing sector as a way to produce critical health care items to respond to and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, reduce our dependence on foreign health care suppliers, and revamp Alabama’s manufacturing economy as we face an uncertain period of economic hardship. In light of the state of Alabama facing an estimated budget shortfall of more than a $1 billion, this effort could also help generate new streams of revenue to support Alabama’s state and local governments.
“Just as the automotive industry has changed Alabama’s economy since Mercedes arrived in the 1990’s, a concerted effort to expand health care manufacturing in Alabama will help grow our population, raise our standard of living, and improve the quality of life for generations to come,” wrote Jones, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “For instance, it has been reported that Goodyear is unlikely to reopen its facility in Gadsden. While I had hoped that Goodyear could have found a way to keep the plant operating, its likely closing is reflective of the ongoing transition in our state’s economy and adds urgency to the need to look for new opportunities to put local residents and others throughout the state back to work.”
“The shortage of PPE, ventilators, and other vital healthcare related items that we have seen in the course of dealing with this pandemic has demonstrated that our supply chains in the health care space are too dependent on foreign suppliers and not as diversified as they need to be,” he continued. “While a number of businesses in Alabama and across the country are stepping up and repurposing facilities during this pandemic to make these critical items, it is likely that they will return to their original purpose once the crisis has subsided. It is my view, however, that the United States needs to make a concerted effort to reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers of items essential to the delivery of healthcare, just as we did with foreign suppliers of oil a number of years ago.”