“First, I want to say I bring good news,” Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth told the capacity crowd attending the 26th Annual Wiregrass Economic Development Corporation Investor’s lunch meeting March 2. “The economy is roaring, the state is doing well and our budget is doing well.”
Ainsworth was keynote speaker at the annual investors meeting held at the Wiregrass Electric Cooperative Community Room in Hartford.
“My vision is simple. I think Alabama can be better. I think we can compete anywhere in the world,” Ainsworth told the business and government leaders from Coffee and Geneva Counties. “I want my kids to have the same opportunities as any kids, no matter where they live.”
Ainsworth outlined some of the issues that his office is focusing on. “And those issues that we focus on are improving people’s everyday life,” he said.
Ainsworth said that career technical education is a top priority of his. “It’s a passion of mine,” he said. “When I ran for office the Number 1 thing I heard from business owners was, ‘If you can help us get more people we can grow our business.’”
Getting people “job ready” through career technical education is being accomplished in the Wiregrass area, Ainsworth said, crediting the relationship between community colleges working together with the public schools. “I’ve been all over the state and that doesn’t happen anywhere else,” he said. “That’s because of the collaboration and work of the local leaders.”
Ainsworth said that a comprehensive workforce development study resulted in a recommendation of $15 million for career tech education in kindergarten through 12th grade schools this year.
“Community colleges will play a vital role in getting people job ready for the 21st century,” Ainsworth said, adding that $24 million in funding was the recommendation to insure that the schools can train students in order to meet the needs of industry.
Ainsworth said that 40 percent of the jobs will be displaced in the next 10 years because of science, technology and math. “So we have got to put a huge emphasis on STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—because that is what is going to happen in the future.
Ainsworth said that a series of listening sessions held by the Small Business Commission around the state resulted in hundreds of recommendations. “The Number 1 issue is growing the available work force pool through employability skills and soft skills,” he said. “A lot of these small business owners can’t hire a lobbyist. They don’t have time to come to Montgomery so our Small Business Commission is going to be the voice of small business owners and make us the best small business state in the country.”
Quality of education for their children and license reciprocity between states for their spouses is a priority of military families, Ainsworth said.
The Military Stability Commission and Foundation, established by Gov. Kay Ivey in 2010, continues to look for ways to make Alabama the most military-friendly state in the nation, he added. “It’s a $21 billion economic impact in Alabama.
“We have to be the most military friendly state in the country,” he stressed. “It’s not an option.”
Ainsworth said a consulting firm’s study marked Coffee County as one of the counties with the highest potential for growth in the next 10 years. “We’ve got to continue to invest in infrastructure. We’ve also got to make sure the workforce meets the needs of industry.”
Other issues Ainsworth outlined were the importance of participating in the 2020 census and the future of the aerospace industry in the state. “I’m working as hard as I can to sell Alabama as the aerospace capital of the world,” he said.
Alabama is Number 1 in the nation in tornado-related deaths, Ainsworth said, adding that a Mass Notification System connecting emergency communications for all the 67 counties is in the works. “Right now even crossing county lines communication is difficult,” he said.
“I work for y’all,” Ainsworth said. “And if there is anything I can do to help you or your area be successful let me know.”