Gov. Bob Riley said he understands the manpower needs of the construction industry and will work with the Alabama AGC to set up a structure to educate craft workers.
“We are diverting our (community colleges) to train workers,” Riley said during a May talk to the State Board of Directors. “We have to do the same thing in construction. We have the money to do it. We need to sit down and work it out.
“People can be trained to do whatever you want. Get a group and sit down, tell us what you want. We can train electricians, carpenters, welders. You have a community college in every county. We can train any skill we need. If you don’t build it, we don’t grow.”
The governor stopped by to talk with the board and to receive a $125,000 campaign contribution, which he called “very generous.” During the meeting he said he understands how crucial an educated workforce is to the economic health of the state.
“People in Alabama will work,” he said. “The work ethic is getting talked about. The recruiting (of industry) is made easy by our people. Our people are accommodating because they are protective of their jobs.
“Alabama has developed an international reputation. Last year of all Mercedes plants anywhere in the world, Vance had the highest quality.”
He also touched on another crucial workforce topic — immigration reform.
“We’re going to try not to ship all of your Hispanic employees back home,” Riley said.
He said he believes that Alabama stands on the brink of an economic explosion that could see the state leaving the rest of the South in its wake.
“You’re going to see more work in the coming years than you’ve ever seen before,” Riley said. “Alabama is going to have a boom in the Huntsville area. If you sell anything to the Army, now it has to come through Alabama. All the people who produce these products for the Army want a plant within two hours driving time. Anyone who does business with the U.S. Army is about to have a presence in Alabama.”
The governor also said that Florence has become the “forgotten” area of the state and he is working to change that
“We are running every prospect through the area first,” he said. “The problem (with auto manufacturers) is the Koreans and Japanese won’t go up there because they are paranoid about unions.”
In general, however, he said, “Anything north of Cullman, get ready.”
Referring to the book “The Tilting Point,” Riley said this is a crucial election because Alabama still could “go back to the same old policies we always had. If we can get this thing tilting forward, we will have the accumulation of positive things that create their own momentum.”