Since 2013, FDI projects in Alabama have involved roughly $16bn of capital investment, generating almost 30,000 job commitments in the process. 

Commerce secretary Greg Canfield describes Alabama’s foreign investment proposition and how the state is pivoting to face off coronavirus.

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Q: What are the success factors underlying steady foreign investor interest?

A: The bottom line is that businesses from around the globe continue to find a welcoming home in Alabama. These investments have been critical because they accelerated growth in key economic sectors, particularly automotive and aerospace.

Q: What are Alabama’s strengths in automotive and aerospace?

A: The quality of the state’s workforce and our excellent job-training programs have been central to our success. To put it simply, workers in Alabama have proved they can build products that are in demand around the world. 

‘Made in Alabama’ is a point of pride for these workers, not just a slogan.

This is especially true in the automotive sphere, where foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have invested around $11bn in their Alabama operations, counting ongoing projects. The Toyota-Mazda joint venture plant, now under construction, will add $1.6bn to that total.

While the automotive industry is a relative newcomer to Alabama, beginning only with Mercedes in the 1990s, the state has a long history in aerospace. 

Huntsville is regarded as the cradle of the nation’s rocket industry, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has solidified the state’s presence in this field. 

We’ve also seen aviation companies, notably GKN Aerospace and Airbus, develop substantial manufacturing presences in Alabama.

Alabama enjoys a competitive position compared to other states because we have a pro-business, low-cost environment that allows manufacturers to operate profitability and to grow. 

We also have a track record of working together as a team to provide the critical support that helps companies expand their operations over the years.

[Beyond automotive and aerospace] forest products and chemicals are industrial sectors in Alabama that have traditionally attracted significant FDI projects. 

Q: What is Alabama’s economic development strategy going forward?

A: Clearly, we will be closely watching how the US and global economies respond to the disruptions triggered by the coronavirus crisis and how quickly a recovery begins to take shape. There are a lot of uncertainties right now, and we are prepared to make strategic pivots if we need to. 

Our goal is to help companies in Alabama regain their momentum as quickly as possible and to continue advancing our mission of bringing in new investment from high-caliber companies located around the world.

Q: How is Alabama responding to the crisis and supporting incumbent companies?

A: Once economic disruptions began appearing earlier this year, the Commerce team began monitoring supply chain issues for major manufacturers operating in the state.

We’ve also been in constant communication with these operations regarding the challenges they are facing. Our goal at Commerce is to lend whatever assistance we can to them.

One fact has clearly emerged from this crisis – the US needs to rebuild its manufacturing infrastructure for personal protective equipment, or PPE, as a national security priority. 

We have adopted a strategic goal to make sure that part of that infrastructure is developed in Alabama.