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Speaker Ledbetter to BCA: Workforce challenges to receive legislative attention – ‘This is a new Alabama’

On Tuesday morning, Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter addressed the Business Council of Alabama to share a range of economic and workforce challenges the Alabama Legislature is tackling in the 2024 session — and the ways in which the state has made considerable gains. 

Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), now in his second session as Speaker of the House, said the Alabama economy is growing at a pace he has never seen in his lifetime.

“Alabama ranks number two or three in automobile manufacturing, we rank in the top five in the agribusiness, we’re in the top five in shipbuilding, we’re number one in commercial airlines. Alabama’s vastly becoming one of the fastest research states in the country.”

“It’s amazing to me when I visit across the state and see what our businesses and companies are doing, not just for Alabama, but for the world in general,” Ledbetter said. “This is a new Alabama, there’s no question about that in my mind.”

RELATED: Ledbetter: Alabama’s historic economic growth and underlying labor shortage

Ledbetter looked forward to the next ten years after sharing the measurable progress over the last ten, pointing to the SEEDS Act, a component of the landmark 2023 economic development package of bills that created a grant program to at identify and develop sites as a function of Alabama’s ability to recruit new industry and jobs. On Monday, Governor Kay Ivey announced the approval of more than $30 million in grants under SEEDs. 

“I certainly think that what we’ve done as far as incentives for workforce has made a difference. The numbers prove that it has. We’ve employed over 75,000 people and made the investment of $42 million into our state. That’s huge,” Ledbetter said. 

“But I really believe that the Game Plan package we passed last year is bigger than that. The SEEDS act, which invested over $30 million in over 27 counties in the state to improve and grow industrial sites, those cities and counties have maxed that money. So, instead of a $30 million investment, we’re getting almost a $70 million investment.” 

Speaker Ledbetter predicts that Alabama will continue to see economic growth due to incentives that have been passed — but challenges related to workforce abound, which he spoke to in forecast of a legislative approach similar to the 2023 package of economic incentives bills. 

RELATED: Expanding access to high quality childcare builds support among Alabama lawmakers, working families

“Over 43% of our people of working age just sit on the sidelines. I don’t think it’s just as easy to say they’ve got to get off the couch and go to work.

We’ll have a package of incentives. I think one of those will be childcare credits — and we’re looking at more housing credits — I don’t know how that’s gonna be able to go do it all in one year. But, I do think it’s something that we got to continue to work with.

Passing a childcare and tax credit is something Ledbetter believes will help get people back into the workforce. 

“We’ll be looking at that going forward.”

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

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