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Alabama economic developers excited for what’s Next

Alabama’s economic developers were thinking about the present when they gathered last week – their first opportunity to physically meet since the pandemic – at the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s summer conference. But Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield quickly got them focused on the future, unveiling the Department of Commerce’s new “Next” campaign to kick off the meeting.

“‘Next’ is really about the future,” he said.

Building on the Made in Alabama brand the Department of Commerce launched in 2013, Canfield said “Next” is what’s, well, next.

“Made in Alabama has allowed us to tell a story about Alabama, about companies that have invested here and have actually had the opportunity to grow here and to make and assemble great products – to produce some of the world’s best products and to deliver them to 194 countries around the globe,” Canfield told Alabama NewsCenter. “Made in Alabama Next is our vision of the future of Alabama’s economy and the types of high-technology, life sciences and other technologically driven opportunities that are going to really create the new economy for Alabama.”

Alabama economic developers react to “Next” campaign from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The campaign launched with a website – – that features 3D animations that come to life as you move the cursor across the page. It will also include digital and print advertisements, some of which will include QR codes to provide a three-dimensional experience. All Commerce campaigns are designed and directed by Birmingham-based Big Communications.

More than an ad campaign, “Next” sets the vision for economic development in the state and asks other economic development entities in the state to get behind it.

“I love the ‘Next’ campaign and I think it’s the right time to do that, too,” Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, told Alabama NewsCenter. “When you think about economic development in Alabama, traditionally we’ve been great at attracting manufacturers to the state. But we really want to think beyond that – not at the exclusion of that – but we want to think beyond that and that’s exactly what the ‘Next’ campaign is doing.”

Pandemic-proof companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google call the state home. Aerospace giants like Airbus, Boeing and Blue Origin are making airplanes and rockets that take Alabama industry to new heights.

“The sky is not the limit,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said at the conference.

From electric vehicles, digital smart factories and next-generation rockets to new drug discoveries, genomic medicine and additive manufacturing breakthroughs, “Next” feels like it’s already here for Alabama.

“It’s looking at a different kind of technology company,” Barker said. “It’s looking at the modern age advanced manufacturing. It’s looking at a lot of those things and it’s going to make a difference with those audiences, I’m completely convinced of it.”

Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama, said members were abuzz about the campaign throughout the conference.

“We appreciate Secretary Canfield and the Department of Commerce taking this opportunity to kick off the new campaign at our summer conference,” Searcy said. “It’s an excellent continuation of the marketing effort that has begun. That’s what anybody will tell you who knows anything about branding and about marketing and about advertising – it’s consistency. It’s not an event, it’s a process.”

Canfield said that while the types of industries that are the focus of “Next” may be associated with larger metros like Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile, the campaign and its emphasis is not limited to any part of the state and works along with Made in Alabama’s RurAL campaign to target industries for all of Alabama.

Made in Alabama Next from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Next is about the entire state,” he said. “The beautiful thing about all of this is that we have an overarching strategy in our Accelerate Alabama plan, and we’ve been able to take that plan because it’s adaptable and we’ve adapted to rural needs. RurAL is part of our sub-brand under Made in Alabama. Really, what that’s about is drawing more of a proof-point that companies can invest in rural communities in Alabama and experience great success.”

Case in point: electric batteries for the Mercedes-Benz EVs that will be built in Tuscaloosa County will be manufactured in Bibb County. Oh, and the nation’s first large-scale graphite processing plant for a key element in EV batteries is being built in Coosa County with Westwater Resources’ $124 million Alabama Graphite Products.

“‘Next’ is about all 67 counties, every community that wants to participate in economic development, and finding a way for them to do so,” Canfield said.