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Economic development bills to focus on rural development, site prep

The four-bill “Game Plan” will mostly re-up existing economic development programs, with important tweaks

Gov. Kay Ivey is joined by legislative leaders at Montgomery's Riverwalk Stadium to announce an economic incentive package. Hal Yeager/Governor's Office

State lawmakers will spend the next several days of the 2023 Legislative Session reauthorizing economic incentive programs, and rural communities will be a primary focus. 

Gov. Kay Ivey, along with Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, announced this week a four-bill package called the “Game Plan.” Mostly, the bills simply re-up for another five years existing economic development programs, such as the Alabama Jobs Act, with a few minor tweaks.  

But a bill sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, known as the “Innovation and Small Business Act,” is a bit different. It specifically focuses on Alabama’s innovation and technology sector and directs more money for those economic development projects to the state’s smallest towns and communities. 

“As we look to expand Alabama’s economy, we have to include as many people as we possibly can,” said Singleton, D-Greensboro. “I am proud to carry this bill, because it will not only bring high-paying jobs to the Black Belt, but it also will provide incentives to support businesses owned by veterans, women, and minorities.”

The Act includes funding for a variety of economic development initiatives – much like every other economic incentives package out there – but it differs in the funding calculations. The funding will be determined on a sliding scale based on population. So, a county with 12,000 people or fewer would pay just 25 cents for every dollar of economic development funding from the program, while a county with more than 150,000 would be expected to match dollar for dollar. 

The funds can be used for a variety of economic development expenses, including site location and prep and incentives. 

The remaining three bills in Ivey’s “Game Plan” are listed below, as described by the governor’s office in a press release. The bills are expected to be in committees next week, where lawmakers can provide more specific information and debate their merits. Most lawmakers expect the pieces of legislation to pass easily. 

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  • SB164, sponsored by Sen. Greg Reed: The “Enhancing Alabama’s Economic Progress Act,” renews the Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama program and extends their sunset dates to 2028 while adding strategic enhancements to increase their effectiveness. The Jobs Act is the state’s primary incentives platform while Growing Alabama primarily speeds development of shovel-ready sites.
  • SB165, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr: The “Site Evaluation and Economic Development Strategy Act,” will allow the State Industrial Development Authority to accelerate the development of industry-ready sites at a time when available sites are scarce and other states are expanding their site programs.
  • SB151, sponsored by Sen. Garlan Gudger: The “Enhancing Transparency Act” will amend the Jobs Act to require the Alabama Department of Commerce to publish certain incentivized project information on its web site. Transparency around important information related to companies receiving incentives will serve a valid public service and increase confidence in the process.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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