State rep. filing bill to help Alabama job recruiting — ‘It’s about eliminating unnecessary red tape’
A bill viewed as essential to keeping Alabama competitive with other states in recruiting jobs will be introduced in the Alabama legislature this week, according to the bill’s sponsor.
Representative Alan Baker (R-Brewton) told Yellowhammer News he intends to file legislation aimed at “clarifying the process” for professionals who help locate sites to build and expand business operations in Alabama.
Baker is filing the bill with one goal in mind.
“To keep Alabama competitive in the economic development market,” he said.
Baker wants to clear things up for site selectors and economic developers whose business is geared toward helping companies choose the best locations to build.
“Their activities are not lobbying activities,” explained Baker.
His bill would alleviate some of what he calls “the constraints” of mandatory disclosures and guarantees Alabama can offer the same environment as other competing states.
For one economic developer, the benefits of Baker’s bill are evident.
“It’s about eliminating unnecessary red tape that creates more access to do business in the state,” said Josh Carpenter, director of economic development for the city of Birmingham.
Carpenter believes action by the Alabama legislature is critical to the state keeping pace.
“Unless action is taken, we will be on an uneven playing field with other states that we regularly compete with to bring quality jobs to our residents,” he added. “That competitive disadvantage in an already hyper-competitive market is not a sustainable path. That’s what it comes down to.”
A south Alabama mayor who has been involved in economic development for more than 20 years supports Baker’s effort at “clarifying the process.”
“It is an opportunity for us to keep the process clear and easy and bring jobs,” explained Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon.
“People think it’s just real easy to go out and get a company, but one little thing goes the wrong way then you have other states waiting on the same thing,” he said. “So you can’t let something like this get in the way.”
What McLendon does not want to “get in the way” are burdensome disclosure and registration requirements for professionals.
“We’ve got too much red tape and this is some more red tape,” he said.
For economic developers, the registration process is akin to turning over the playbook to an opposing team.
“One of the key factors of the economic development process is being able to maintain the confidentiality of the companies that are considering investing in the state,” explained Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama. “The reason you maintain confidentiality is the company needs to conduct their search without their competitors knowing, and internally they want to be able to manage the decision-making process.”
The competition between companies, and between Alabama and other states, is what makes this issue so important to Searcy and others.
“Economic development is a highly competitive undertaking,” said Searcy.
Disclosing projects being worked on now and in the future weakens Alabama’s position among states, according to Jeremy Nails, president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association.
“It puts us at a tremendous disadvantage to our neighboring states and states throughout the country that don’t have to disclose their confidential projects,” he said.
Searcy seems certain he knows the fate of potential job creation projects should the registration and disclosure requirements remain in place.
“What would happen is they would not consider Alabama as an option,” he stated.
McLendon takes a more philosophical approach to the question, while arriving at much the same conclusion.
“Will it jeopardize mine? I sure don’t want to give it a chance,” he said.
His support of Baker’s bill comes down to making sure Alabama capitalizes on the opportunity in front of it.
“It’s an opportunity for us to grow the state of Alabama,” McLendon concluded. “This is a no-brainer. You don’t mess with jobs.”
Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News