Alabama: the new home for global business

In economic development, one simple question must be asked: where are industry leaders investing their money for new facilities or expansions? In many cases, the answer is Alabama.

Corporate giants and innovative companies have made Alabama a part of their strategic growth plans. The roster of industry leaders that are making new investments is long and includes Honda, Walmart, Amazon, Autocar, Georgia-Pacific, New Flyer, Mercedes -Benz and Toyota. All of these companies, and many more, have picked Alabama after conducting extensive site selection searches.

The numbers tell a compelling story. Between 2011 and 2016, economic development activity brought $28.5 billion in new capital investment to Alabama. These projects cut across many industries, and have created 107,000 new jobs. In 2016, the new capital investment totalled $4.2 billion, bringing 14,700 anticipated job openings to Alabama.

Activity was robust in key industry sectors: in the automotive sector, there was $900 million in new investment and 3,900 job openings; aerospace received a $260-million cash injection that created 2,000 jobs; and an impressive $1.1 billion was poured into forest products, which added a further 1,000 jobs to the state.

The road to success

The Alabama Department of Commerce is not taking its foot off the accelerator, having experienced another winning year in 2017.

For one thing, Alabama's automotive industry is finding a new gear. The success that major global automotive manufacturers have found in Alabama has transformed the state into a top destination for the industry, propelling it into one of the best five US states for auto production.

Global car manufacturers, such as Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota, have expanded their operations repeatedly in the state, which has transmitted a strong signal across the sector that Alabama is a place where car companies can thrive. "Looking back on 20 years of production, the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa has been a success story from the beginning," says Jason Hoff, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International - the automaker's Alabama manufacturing operation.

And its future looks, well, electric. In September 2017, Mercedes announced plans to invest an additional $1 billion in its Alabama plant, where it will build a battery plant and launch electric -vehicle production. This places the facility on the cutting edge of automotive technology. Once this investment is complete, Mercedes' total investment in Alabama will be $6.8 billion.

Accelerated growth and skilled employees

The department has been encouraged by the progress seen in Alabama's economy, which has reached its highest employment levels ever. This points to the long-term success of Accelerate Alabama, a strategic growth plan that is at the core of efforts to modernise the state's economy.

And while new investment in Alabama is growing, so is foreign direct investment (FDI). In 2016, Alabama attracted $1.6 billion in FDI from 17 countries, accounting for nearly 40% of the total new capital investment and 3,250 new jobs.

The bottom line is that global businesses continue to find a welcoming home in Alabama. In the past four years alone, more than $7.4 billion in FDI has been poured into Alabama, adding approximately 13,500 jobs.

These investments are critical because they have accelerated growth in key sectors, including the automotive, aerospace and forest products industries.

Of course, these investments would not be flowing into Alabama without a high-quality workforce. The state has a workforce that is noted for its skill in turning out passenger jets, luxury automobiles, rockets and much more. In fact, a 2017 Gallup poll found that Alabama has the nation's most engaged workforce. This finding is a powerful indicator that the state is well positioned to attract significant new investment and even more job opportunities in the future.

Mercedes will invest a further $1 billion in its Alabama factory, where it will build a battery plant and launch electric-vehicle production.