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Alabama commerce secretary, governor note challenges, opportunities ahead for state economy

Alabama is not immune to global economic disruptions, but is in a strong position to turn challenges into opportunities, according to the state’s commerce secretary.

Secretary Greg Canfield said at the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s 2022 Summer Conference this week that the economic disruptions that began with the global pandemic now include worldwide inflation, a tight labor market and ongoing supply chain issues.

“Everyone is talking about disruptions again. It seems like we can’t get out of this pattern of talking about disruptions,” Canfield said. “Yes, we’re coming out of the pandemic, but now we’re facing things like the highest inflation that we’ve seen in 40 years.”

While Alabama is feeling the pressures, so is the rest of the world, Canfield said.

“We’re concerned that this is a different time,” Canfield said.

He referenced the popular Netflix show “Stranger Things” and its Upside Down world where things seem to be opposite.

“What is normally good news today is not being perceived as good news by the Federal Reserve,” Canfield said. “What I mean by that is the June reports for joblessness were great. The June reports for the number of jobs being created was great. But the Fed happens to look at that through the lens that maybe that isn’t such great news.”

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Alabama Commerce Secretary Canfield notes challenges, opportunities in current economic climate from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Economists don’t see the economy reacting as it should to high inflation, he said. Sooner or later, that may lead to a recession.

Meanwhile, fast-growing inflation is hitting workers with higher prices at the pump and at the grocery store. That’s putting pressure on wages and reducing consumer spending.

“We will turn these challenges into opportunities,” Canfield told the state’s economic developers. “Alabama will rise to a more vibrant economy, but we will need your help.”

During her keynote address at the conference, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey promised “the best is yet to come” even as she noted the challenges of high inflation. She declared, “Our country is at a critical point.”

Canfield and Ivey both pointed to the $7.7 billion in new investment and more than 10,000 announced jobs connected to Alabama economic development projects announced last year.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey sounded an optimistic note in her address to the Economic Development Association of Alabama this week. (Hal Yeager / Governor’s Office)

“Despite all of the challenges we’re facing, Alabama is thriving and will continue to do so,” Ivey said.

Canfield’s appearance at the conference was fresh off his participation in the Farnborough International Airshow in London, where he said Alabama was in rarified air because of its aerospace successes.

“Aerospace continues to take off in our state,” Canfield said.

Space, missile defense and commercial aviation are areas where Alabama excels, he said.

“The whole sector of aerospace that’s really developing new technologies … they see Alabama as a potential home for continuing to expand that base,” Canfield said.

Six potential projects were identified from the Farnborough trip that would build on aerospace announcements that most recently included:

Those successes, along with Alabama’s strength in other industries from automotive to advanced manufacturing,  have the state in an enviable position, Canfield said.

“We have the momentum and we have disruptions,” Canfield said. “They create challenges, but smart states turn challenges into opportunities.”

Ivey echoed Canfield’s optimism.

“Make no mistake, we are well-positioned for the future,” she said. “This is our opportunity, so let’s not waste a moment.”

Canfield said Alabama’s economic development successes have been aided by incentives programs like the Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama tax credits. Both programs will expire in June 2023.

Canfield said studies show both programs are sustainable and viable and the Department of Commerce will push to have them reauthorized in the next legislative session. Ivey said the reauthorizations will be on her legislative agenda.

Canfield said he can’t be sure what the future holds, but he is certain of one thing.

“It will be made in Alabama.”