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Ivey, lawmakers release ‘Working for Alabama’ legislative package

MONTGOMERY It’s enough to give someone hope for the future in Alabama.

A bipartisan group of the state’s top elected officials – including Gov. Kay Ivey – have come together to work for Alabama.

Actually, Ivey, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper), House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) unveiled “Working for Alabama” – a package of reforms designed to strengthen Alabama’s workforce, economic and community development efforts.

The bipartisan, seven-bill package aims to streamline and make more efficient and effective the state’s efforts and strategies in these respective areas.

“Our state has seen tremendous advances as a result of collaborative, team-driven efforts. Just a few years ago, we were ranked 47th in the nation in broadband access – now, after signing the Connect Alabama Act, we rank 24th,” said Ivey. “‘The Game Plan’, which was passed last year, gave us the best tools in our region to recruit industry and jobs, and the results are already paying dividends. In 2015 major reforms were made within the state’s workforce development sector, and as governor, I am calling on our Legislature to once again make the needed reforms so that our workforce development programs work better for its two customers – our jobseekers and our employers.

“‘Working for Alabama’ is the next big step, and I look forward to seeing the benefits it will have on Alabama for years and decades to come.”

A goal of “Working for Alabama” has been to solve one of Alabama’s biggest economic challenges, its Labor Force Participation Rate, which is one of the lowest in the country. Almost half of the state’s working-age individuals are neither employed nor seeking jobs.

Solving this problem was a key priority of the Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce, whose findings played a key role in developing the “Working for Alabama” package.

“You can ask almost any employer in the state, and they’ll tell you that one of the biggest challenges they face is hiring skilled and trained employees,” said Ainsworth. “By eliminating barriers to entry into the workforce, and by making our state’s workforce development efforts more intentional, targeted and efficient, we can create an environment where more Alabamians are working, providing for their families, building careers and contributing to our economy.

“These transformational changes will make Alabama the workforce engine of the Southeast.”

In 2021, Alabama high schools graduated 49,615 students and 22,370 of those, 45 percent, did not enroll in a post-secondary program after high school.

Ainsworth said the graduates who do not enroll in college are an important target for the “Working for Alabama” package.

“For high school students who don’t plan to attend college, we need to give them the tools and opportunities to be successful without a four-year degree,” he said.

One barrier to employment that has been a key focus of Ledbetter is the availability of affordable childcare.

“One of the most prevalent barriers to workforce entry and retention is the rising cost of childcare,” he said. “The unfortunate reality is that many Alabamians must choose between raising their children and having a career, and for our state to continue growing, that has to change. The childcare tax credit legislation has the power to give parents choices and help them provide better lives for their children.

“Alabama is not only the most pro-business state in the nation but also the most pro-family state.”

Reed said Alabama needs to streamline its strategies to better compete against other states in economic development and job recruitment.

“Economic development is vital to the future success of our state. The accomplishments of tomorrow will be direct results of the decisions and investments we make today,” he said. “Alabama has made our priority clear: We not only want the best economic incentives to bring businesses to our state, we also want to make sure the resources and workforce are here to make those businesses flourish.

“Streamlining, highlighting and regularly upgrading our economic development strategy through this package will continue making Alabama the economic engine of the South.”

Singleton echoed Reed and said part of making the state more competitive is ensuring that it is a good place to live.

“To win in economic development, you must have strong communities with good infrastructure and a good quality of life. That’s key to attracting investment and growth,” he said. “Working for Alabama will provide much-needed resources for Alabama communities, with an emphasis on rural Alabama, through key resources such as expanded broadband access and other areas needed for success.”

Daniels said the package will give communities the tools they need to attract employers and support the expansion of businesses.

“A big part of this package will include deliberate and targeted funding for key resources that local communities need to compete for business investment and job recruitment,” he said. “By investing in our industrial sites, funding workforce training and building out key infrastructure, we can give communities the tools they need to be successful.”

The Working for Alabama bills were filed Thursday.

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