The passage of the Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act (HB317) is critical to our local economic development efforts. Unfortunately, this legislation has been incorrectly characterized as an attempt to change the ethics law as it relates to economic development. This is untrue. The bill does clarify the definition of lobbying for economic developers, chamber employees and other professionals that engage in bona fide economic development activities. The requirement that economic developers and others engaged in the process register as lobbyists and consequently, disclose the identity of those we are working with, will put us at a severe competitive disadvantage. Confidentiality is critical to the economic development process. The vast majority of economic development projects require confidentiality, especially, in the initial critical phase. For example, when TSTECH and Newman Technology were both being recruited, confidentiality was essential to the project teams. Collectively these companies now employ over a thousand people in Marshall County. Neither project would have been possible if the identities of either company had been disclosed to the public early in recruitment process.
The issue is even more severe when the requirement is extended to site selection professionals. If HB317 is not passed and these individuals, who are the source for countless economic development projects, are required to register as lobbyists and disclose their client, Alabama communities will be eliminated from consideration before the process even begins. I’m confident in our ability for Marshall County to compete for any project but we must be considered before we can compete! This is especially crucial as we begin to see Toyota and Mazda suppliers begin their site selection process in North Alabama.
HB317, while providing clarity in a legal grey area, improves both transparency and accountability by requiring the notification of the Alabama Department of Commerce when eligible tax abatements are granted at the local level. This will provide information that will permit Commerce to more effectively identify areas of economic development and determine, more accurately, the fiscal impact of our economic development efforts. Further it provides additional accountability by requiring the details of a project be released after two years. Currently there is no such requirement and consequently, details could remain undisclosed indefinitely.
This bill also modernizes and updates the current incentives so they align with current statutory requirements. It also removes outdated incentives that are no longer offered or have been replaced by newer sustainable incentives.
Finally, this bill has no impact on the current Ethics laws. It is simply an effort to provide clarity regarding an unintended consequence in previous legislation that if not addressed will hinder our efforts to grow this community, create jobs, and improve the economic vitality of Marshall County. Support for the Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act (HB317) is critical for our continued success.
TSTECH employs over 750 in Boaz after its recent expansion.