Privacy, Key Target Infrastructures for Alabama Economic Developers


Alabama Economic Developers have said they will support two pieces of legislation this year that will address significant issues affecting industry recruitment and retention in the state.

Most urgent is a bill to prevent site consultants from having to register as lobbyists under state ethics laws. A bill passed in the dying hours of last year’s session offered this exemption for a year, but it is expected to expire on April 1.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said ethics are important to everyone in economic development, but site consultants must operate with a degree of confidentiality. Not offering that degree of secrecy early in the process will prevent Alabama from being considered for most major projects, he said.

Alabama Economics Developers Outline Alabama NewsCenter’s 2019 Legislative Goals on Vimeo.

“Confidentiality, especially in the early stages of economic development and work projects, remains important,” Canfield said. “It’s a competitive world there. Businesses, for a variety of reasons, don’t want the world to know when they are considering investing in a new location. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that they don’t want their competition to know what they are doing.

Jim Searcy, executive director of the Alabama Economic Development Association, said often a site search wouldn’t lead to a project. Making the initial research public would not be prudent.

Although confidentiality is crucial in the early stages of economic development, all project incentives and agreements are made public after a project is announced. (Getty Images)

“They don’t want to create undue problems or undue concerns for their existing industries or for their existing workforce,” Searcy said. “They have a responsibility to shareholders that they cannot disclose certain things that could impact the price of their shares.”

The EDAA announced its priorities for the next legislative session at its winter conference in Hoover this week. The 2019 legislative session begins on March 5. (Read more about Canfield at the conference here and Governor Kay Ivey at the conference here.)

Canfield said failure to ensure confidentiality will put the state at a competitive disadvantage.

“We have been very successful in maintaining that level of confidentiality,” he said. “We have won our fair share of projects. We want to earn more. But in order to do that, we have to keep trying to protect privacy and confidentiality so that we can move forward with new projects on time. “

Even though confidentiality is crucial in the early stages of a project, Searcy said information is ultimately made public when a project is announced.

“Once the project is brought forward, once they announce, all the incentives, all the development agreements are public information,” he said. “So there’s nothing you can’t know about what the development incentive or deal was – what that means for state investment and what the company is going to do. to do. “

Another proposal that the economic development community supports is a gas tax increase to support infrastructure improvements in the state.

RELATED: Alabama’s Lagging Infrastructure Could Hinder Economic Development Efforts

Alabama has not increased its gasoline tax for infrastructure improvements for 25 years. (Getty Images)

“We’ve had a lot of success bringing big companies to the state,” Canfield said. “This, in turn, means that there are an enormous number of products, goods, supplies and raw materials that have to enter and leave our state. We need to be able to adapt to that by having the best possible roads and bridges. “

Searcy said that aside from the workforce, infrastructure is the biggest concern businesses have when considering locations in the state.

“We’ve been very careless in the state for decades and it’s starting to have an impact on how Alabama businesses look as a place,” Searcy said. “Until we can show a plan and the resources to execute that plan, then I think we will be at a disadvantage in the process of economic development.”

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