Over the last two decades, Alabama has emerged as one of the most competitive states for recruiting business and industry, attracting investment from leading companies such as Toyota, Airbus, Honda, Amazon, Baxter, GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Facebook, Mercedes-Benz, Google, Boeing, Hyundai and Blue Origin.
Each time Alabama competed for a major industrial prize, utilities were an essential part of the team that gave these companies confidence that Alabama offered the best location for their project. And while they certainly play a direct and crucial role with their technical expertise, critical infrastructure and ability to deliver low-cost, reliable energy, their contribution to Alabama’s success extends well beyond their core capabilities.
Many years ago, utilities in Alabama helped introduce the concept of economic development in order to grow their customer base. But what began as a business development strategy eventually grew into a holistic effort to transform the economy and improve the overall quality of life for our communities and states.
Utilities started and led community and economic development programs that have helped position our state for positive economic growth. Today, large utilities, co-ops and municipal companies in our state are all heavily invested in efforts to make our communities and state more competitive.
These include programs to assess and improve infrastructure – including buildings and sites – assist communities in strategic planning, support workforce development and promote the state and its communities through integrated marketing programs.
Today, that role has also expanded to innovation, where utilities are investing in efforts to encourage and support startups in our state that have high-growth potential.
Our own organization was created in 1991 with strong support from utilities, who recognized the role that a private, statewide organization could have as a member of the Alabama team. Today, they are among our closest allies.
It’s a distinct advantage for us in Alabama that economic development is not merely a “function” within our utility companies, but a top priority that has become ingrained in their culture.
-Steve Spencer, President, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama
Steve Spencer is president of the private, non-profit Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.