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McNair sets course to ‘modernize’ Accelerate Alabama as Commerce secretary

Accelerate Alabama, an economic blueprint that has driven ambition, strategy and evaluation for state business leaders since 2012, is set to receive an upgrade under incoming Department of Commerce Secretary Ellen McNair.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced last week that Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, who has served the state in that role across 12 years and multiple administrations, is stepping down at the end of the year. 

McNair, taking her experience of being at the table for many of the mega-growth projects that have defined the modern Alabama economic landscape, will lead the department with 40 years of economic development experience. The incoming secretary said she intends on keeping everyone in the game by “modernizing” and capitalizing on the Accelerate Alabama economic blueprint.

RELATED: Canfield to step down after 12 years of service, $70 billion in investment for Alabama

Accelerate Alabama, engineered in 2012, received a comprehensive update in 2016 that was dubbed “2.0” in recognition of the tech-centric, proactive vision it lays out.  

The 95-page revision took almost two years to craft, featuring expert insights and actionable strategies. Seven targeted business sectors were identified for the state’s first-ever economic development growth plan: Aerospace/aviation, automotive, agricultural and food products, chemicals, forestry products, metals/advanced materials, and finally, bioscience. 

“Greg was a leader in laying the groundwork for the Accelerate Alabama strategic economic development plan, and I believe its long-lasting impacts will undoubtedly be a cornerstone of his legacy,” McNair told Yellowhammer News. “I look forward to connecting with economic developers from across the state as we examine how best to modernize the plan, with the vision of Greg and Governor Ivey in mind.

“This is critically important because we want to make sure Alabama can capitalize on economic growth at a time when new and disruptive technologies are emerging.”

Along with six foundational targets – corporate operations, cybersecurity, data centers, distribution/logistics, information technology, research & development – that blueprint was refined to focus on long-range recruitment, retention and renewal efforts. 

RELATED: Alabama solving manufacturing’s real estate problem

“In the coming months, I will also take time to coordinate with key allies of Commerce on their priorities to ensure that this transition will move forward smoothly and efficiently,” McNair said. “The Alabama team has been on a roll, and we want to keep that momentum building into 2024 and beyond.”

Solid enthusiasm for McNair’s tenure is taking shape, with state leaders sharing appreciation for Canfield’s achievements and McNair’s ability to capitalize on the momentum with her ready-made experience.

“I have known Ellen since my days at the Alabama Development Office, and I know she will be of tremendous value to the state of Alabama,” Ivey said last week. “She sees past just the investment and jobs numbers and knows that these results are changing the lives of Alabama families.”

One of Accelerate 2.0’s core objectives was to solidify the bond Alabama’s economic development team has cultivated with educational institutions. This is a task in the making for McNair and Ivey throughout their careers. 

When McNair entered the economic development sector after attending graduate school in the Department of Economics at Auburn University, Ivey was serving as assistant director of the Alabama Development Office – now known as the Department of Commerce.

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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