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Opinion | Economic incentives remain good for Alabama

A top priority should be raising the cap for incentives in order to stay competitive.

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When I worked for the governor in 1995, I vividly remember complaints people made about our state giving incentives to bring new businesses here. There were tax cuts and special incentives given to one company government officials said would bring other companies of its size here if the state invested in just that one.

But people still complained. They argued it wasn’t worth it.

That company was Mercedes, and the other companies that have come here because of those incentives are Hyundai, Toyota and Honda to name a few.

Incentives given to one company produce millions of dollars for our economy, improve communities for families and schools where they are located. That’s true across our state as a whole. 

In 2015, the Alabama Legislature passed two economic development incentive programs — the Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama Act. Through such legislation, Alabama has seen over 40,000 new jobs and $22 billion in new investments. 

It’s estimated that over the next 20 years, Alabama will see a 173 percent return on those investments. 

There have been four projects in Shelby County where I live. This county alone has received Jobs Act incentives resulting in over $38.4 million in capital investments. These strategic investments in our region created 347 higher-paying jobs for county residents and other Alabamians.

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Additionally, these high-tech companies enhance the innovation ecosystem in Alabama.

These specific projects are: McLeod Software Corp.; BioHorizons Implant Systems, Inc.; Therachem Research MediLab, LCC; and Avanti Polar Lipids, LLC.

Bringing these companies to Shelby County enabled it to expand entrepreneurship, drive economic growth and transform our county and state into a hub for technology and innovation. The progress and impact being made here in Alabama is benefitting our workforce and delivering innovative solutions on a national and global scale. 

These important incentives are set to expire in July. But the Alabama Legislature has the opportunity to renew and enhance such incentives in this regular legislative session. A top priority should be raising the cap for incentives (currently at $350 million) in order to stay competitive in recruiting prospective companies to locate in Alabama. 

I encourage you to contact your legislators and ask them to renew and enhance the Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama Act. Doing this allows us to compete with other states in recruiting new businesses. Bringing them here means a better economy and a brighter future for Alabama’s businesses, work force and families.

It’s worked before, and it can work again.

Beth Chapman is the former Alabama state auditor and 51st secretary of state. She now owns and operates Beth Chapman & Associates LLC. She can be reached at [email protected].

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