Day two of the Business Council of Alabama’s “Engage Alabama” virtual conference on Thursday featured a session focused on manufacturing.
BCA Chairman John Mazyck of Montgomery’s Frazer Lanier introduced the session, which included a federal update from National Association of Manufacturers president and CEO Jay Timmons, as well as a state level briefing from Alabama Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth.
Timmons, who is also chairman of the nationwide Manufacturing Institute, opened his remarks with effusive praise for BCA, as well as the organization’s president and CEO, Katie Boyd Britt.
“It’s very true that your tireless efforts to keep businesses operating safely throughout the pandemic have truly protected not only lives but livelihoods,” Timmons emphasized.
“Katie’s service on the Alabama Small Business Commission’s emergency [COVID-19] task force has really given our industry an important seat at the table as your state has mapped out its public health policy responses to the spread of this terrible virus,” he advised. “There’s no doubt challenges remain, but Alabama — and America for that matter — are far better off because of your leadership.”
Timmons subsequently stressed the economic importance of following guidelines such as wearing facial coverings.
“It’s not a fashion statement,” he remarked. “It’s so that we can keep our economy open. We want to make sure that more businesses don’t close. … We don’t want anybody else to lose jobs. We want our kids to be back in schools. And we want our businesses open and our economy to thrive.”
“The way to do that are smart processes like social distancing and wearing face coverings when around anybody outside of the family unity,” Timmons added.
Ainsworth is chairman of that aforementioned Alabama Small Business Commission and spoke after Timmons.
Alabama’s first term lieutenant governor has been a champion of workforce development — and the manufacturing industry as a whole — during his tenure in office. A small business owner, he currently serves as national chairman of the Aerospace States Association.
Timmons mentioned that workforce development and closing the skills gap will be crucial in America’s post-pandemic recovery, and these are issues Ainsworth has diligently been working on since he took office.
He also began his remarks with high praise for Britt and BCA.
Ainsworth then highlighted some successes in Yellowhammer State manufacturing.
“Alabama is the capital of not just the U.S. but the world in aerospace,” the Marshall County Republican said, before highlighting Decatur rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) and industry juggernaut Boeing, which has a huge presence in space and defense in Huntsville.
“It’s really an exciting time,” he added. “And also the auto industry — wow. We’re now one of the top states in the country with the auto industry, so the future’s bright.”
Ainsworth said priorities on the public sector side of the manufacturing equation include maintaining an elite business climate and regulatory environment, as well as helping retain and recruit top talent.
He mentioned the 21st Century Workforce Commission report, which he spearheaded. Ainsworth said that report is currently being revamped to adjust for how the pandemic has accelerated certain technology-driven workforce and industry changes.
The goal, Ainsworth commented, is to ensure every Alabamian is trained for a modern job following the pandemic.
“Finally, I just want to say this: I think the future’s bright in Alabama,” he concluded. “We’ve got low taxes, we’ve got great quality of living, a lot of great companies here and great leadership — starting at the top with Governor Ivey. So we look forward to working together to make sure we continue to improve Alabama.”
You can watch a replay of the manufacturing Engage Alabama session here, as well as the rest of the informative segments from the two-day virtual conference.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn