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New Alabama Commerce secretary recruits heavy hitters for state economic development strategic plan

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Ellen McNair has only been in office for a month, but she's already working on a strategic plan that will shape the state's economic development for years to come.

Mr. McNair is a former economic development director. Montgomery Area Chamber of CommerceI took the helm. Alabama Department of Commerce First of the year.she replaced greg canfieldwho Resigns as Secretary of Commerce He is scheduled to assume office at the end of 2023 after 12 years of service.

Ms. McNair was completing her first month on the job when she sat down for a conversation on stage with Chairman Greg Barker last week. Alabama Economic Development Partnership (EDPA) Alabama Economic Development Association's 2024 Winter Conference.

“Alabama has had many great secretaries of commerce and directors of the (Alabama Development Authority), but none are as prepared as you,” Barker told McNair.

McNair had to get serious about his appointment to the position because he was given a specific task by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.

“When I sat down to talk to Governor Ivey about this position, what she asked me to do was a new strategic plan,” McNair said.

The new strategic plan will guide the state's economic development in the coming years.

Under Canfield's leadership, Commerce developed a strategic plan. accelerate alabamait was a huge success in most respects.

“Accelerate Alabama was created in 2011 and enacted in 2012; Updated in 2016And that plan has been very successful, with about 168,000 jobs created through that plan,” McNair told Alabama News Center. “So obviously it's a big move to come up with a new strategy, but it's been eight years and obviously our world has changed. So we really need to come up with a new strategy.”

Accelerate Alabama helped the state identify key industries to target with economic development efforts and recognized gaps in incentive and job training efforts. These efforts are estimated to have brought $67 billion in capital investment to the state from new and expanding industries.

“What we want to do is make this strategy more comprehensive, so we don't just identify the industries we target, we actually look at all aspects of economic development and how they work together. “It's about looking at things,” McNair said.

From the outset, McNair said he expected the new plan to include:

  • Growth strategies by sector,
  • project management processes and resources;
  • entrepreneurship,
  • technology and commercialization,
  • community preparedness;
  • rural development,
  • site and infrastructure development;
  • incentives, and
  • Marketing and lead generation.

But McNair said he and the Commerce Department are not developing the plan alone. She eavesdropped on Barker at EDPA. Innovate Alabama with board members alabama finance Director Bill Poole Alabama Retirement System CEO David Bronner will assist.

“We're setting up our first small group of EDPA, Innovate Alabama, Alabama Retirement System and Commerce to really sit down and plan how that strategy will play out,” McNair said. Told. “We want to be incredibly inclusive and diverse in getting input from across the state as we develop our plan.”

McNair said the team is “going to come up with a strategy to achieve the strategy.” I can't think of three greater thinkers and strategic thinkers than that group. ”

They plan to report to the governor's office by the end of March on the progress of developing the plan and next steps.

The plan sought input from diverse groups (state and local economic developers, industry associations, business leaders, state governments, utilities, and universities) and established working subcommittees to ensure comprehensive buy-in. We plan to conduct focus group interviews to summarize and analyze applicable issues. Past economic development strategies and studies include those from other states.

“The state's economic development strategy is much broader than before,” Barker said.

The goal is to submit a final plan to the governor on October 1st. Given the workload and schedule, McNair said it's likely they'll hire outside consultants to help.

“We want to think outside the box and incorporate all aspects of economic development under this strategy,” she said.

Related: Alabama governor promises focus on labor participation in address to economic developers

While new plans are the focus, there is also ongoing business in the state to recruit and expand industry.

McNair said he is grateful to Canfield and Ivey for leading and facilitating efforts in Congress last year to renew, extend, and strengthen economic development incentives known as the Game Plan. Stated.

“I’m so grateful to Greg and his team for passing legislation last year that will give local economic developers great tools to work with for years to come,” she said.

Mr. McNair noted that the strength of Alabama's economic development is the professionalism and teamwork of local economic developers. She said she believes Commerce's role is to support their efforts.

“Local areas are where the rubber meets the road. Local economic developers need to develop products and really build teams,” she said. “We really need elected officials, the private sector and economic development agencies to really come together. The Department of Commerce’s role in this state is to be there for local residents, support them and do what they need to be successful.” I truly believe that it is about providing the right resources.”

McNair, a local, said he understands those needs.

“I hope everyone finds the Department of Commerce to be a great partner, and I truly believe that we will continue to be a great partner to local residents and regional economic development teams,” she said. .

Provided by Alabama News Center.

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