There’s no doubt we have a jobs problem in the state of Alabama. We are the only state in the country with a rising unemployment rate, which is now at 7 percent. Last year, the state created only 366 new jobs, and we are now ranked 49th in the country for job creation. By Gov. Robert Bentley’s own measuring stick, we simply aren’t hitting the mark.
Recently, unfortunately, for almost every job created, a job was lost in Alabama. We bring in Golden Dragon and a possible 500 jobs from that over the next few years, but we then instantly lose International Paper and 1,000 jobs with it. We bring in Remington in Huntsville and nearly 2,000 jobs over the next few years, but ThyssenKrupp in Mobile goes up for sale and we lose 2,000 jobs.
We take one step forward and two steps back. In International Paper’s case, we didn’t just lose the jobs at the mill site. We also drastically hurt all the auxiliary companies that provided services IP needed to run the mill, and possibly cost jobs for Alabamians. And while our jobs loses are large and immediate, we have to remember the big job creation numbers, like Remington’s 2,000 jobs, aren’t available instantly. Those projections are over a period of years.
But while our jobs problem may seem insurmountable, it isn’t. It is a problem that we can solve, but not if we keep doing what we’ve been doing for the past four years.
Our current policies simply aren’t working, and it seems like the leadership in Montgomery is now out of ideas on how to fix this problem. The only idea Gov. Bentley has left is to take money from the education budget and use it to pay for incentives for big businesses. It’s like the old saying, “You’re simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.” This idea also sets a very dangerous precedent of taking money from the education budget to pay for anything besides education. Today it’s economic incentives. Next year, it may be prisons.
The governor isn’t alone on this idea. Our current legislative leaders publicly said that they want to look at combining the state’s two budgets. They cite shortfalls in the general fund budget, such as the prison system, as why this might be a solution to a lot of Alabama’s problems.
When you boil down all the political rhetoric, what our state leaders are proposing is to take our tax dollars away from our kids and give it to criminals and multinational corporations.
That’s not a solution. It’s a cop-out. Instead of taking money away from our children’s educations, we should be investing more into our children’s education. Alabama needs to invest in vocational training and pre-k programs. There will be an influx of jobs in the coming years as Baby Boomers retire. However, these jobs will be hard to fill if the next generation does not receive the necessary training. Investing in vocational schools and trade programs is key.
We also need to look at economic development incentives, capitalizing on tourism and projects like a sports complex in Etowah County that could bring in millions of tourism dollars every year. Growing tourism and economic development incentives not only brings revenue to the county, but also creates jobs.
We need to look at investing in our infrastructure, as we know this particular job creation plan historically has been a success. Building and improving roads, bridges and utilities not only creates jobs in the short term but also better facilitates business. It also gives skilled laborers a chance to provide the next generation with some on the job training. Real world experience is key to maintaining a solid workforce.
It is clear that our current state leaders are in over their heads when it comes to solving Alabama’s job problem. We need to send leaders to Montgomery who understand what programs will actually help middle class families – investing in public education and creating real jobs. We need representatives who understand that jobs and schools are not just issues to campaign on; they are real problems for Alabamians, and it’s time we solve them.