“My goal for Alabama is simple: I want our state to be the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey reiterated her simple goal for the state, while also backing it up with a report on the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, in her keynote address to members of the Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway Association. Waterway stakeholders met at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Ala., May 19 and 20 for the association’s 72nd annual meeting.
Ivey opened by looking back to her report from last year’s Warrior-Tombigbee conference.
“During that time, we were beginning to see a lot of the economic progress as our state began to turn the page on COVID and the mass hysteria that came along with it out of Washington D.C.,” Ivey said. “And let me tell you this: our state has had quite the economic run since then.”
In 2021, exports from the state of Alabama reached close to $20.9 billion, which exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Last year was also another successful year for infrastructure investment in the state, Ivey said, with continued work stemming from the Rebuild Alabama Act, the governor’s signature 2019 law funding infrastructure in Alabama.
“And when I say ‘infrastructure,’ I’m not talking about Washington, D.C.’s definition of the word,” Ivey said. “We’re in Alabama, and I mean roads and bridges and the water highways that lead to our Port of Mobile.”
Since Ivey has become governor, the state has embarked on more than 1,500 new road and bridge projects valued at more than $5 billion. Those investments, Ivey said, demonstrate to businesses that Alabama is a great place to operate.
“When we make a serious commitment, not just lip service, to improving our infrastructure, we are setting ourselves up for success in other areas too, like our economy,” Ivey said. “Alabama’s economic comeback is leading the nation, and no doubt all of you in this room are a driving force behind that.”
In 2021 alone, Alabama saw business investments totaling $7.7 billion, the second-best year in the state’s history, Ivey said. Already this year, Novelis has announced plans to build an aluminum plant in Baldwin County, near Mobile. Bella+Canvas will open a new facility in Wetumpka, Ivey said. Also, Airbus will open a third assembly line at its Mobile facility. Those three projects total $3.5 billion in investments. The Port of Mobile also saw significant continued growth and investment in 2021, which has carried over to 2022.
“And our port’s success relies on the success of the Warrior-Tombigbee and Tennessee-Tombigbee waterways,” Ivey said.
Ivey mentioned Enviva’s facility in Epps as an example of waterway investments in Alabama, and she also recounted her recent visit to Cooper Marine & Timberlands’ facility in Carrollton.
“I’m so very grateful for Angus Cooper III’s dedication to Pickens County in rural Alabama,” Ivey said. “One of the employees there shared a very interesting and encouraging fact with me. Alabama is one of the biggest wood pellet suppliers in the world, and the pellets that are being produced in places like Carrollton and Livingston are literally keeping the lights on across the pond in Europe.
“The impact this waterway can have on our state truly is limitless,” she added. “And it is our collective responsibility to protect and advance its interests at every possible juncture.”
Honoring Waterway Leaders
As part of the annual meeting, waterway stakeholders honored a pair of leaders who have done just that—advancing the interests of the Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway. Larry Merrihew, the immediate past president of the association, was recognized for his 14 years of leadership. In addition, Charlie Haun, vice chairman of Parker Towing Company, was celebrated as he announced he was stepping down as chairman of the board of the association.
Association members elected Horace Horn with PowerSouth Energy as the new chairman of the board. David Carroll with Hunt Refining Company was re-elected as vice chairman. Tom Leatherbury with SSA Marine was re-elected as secretary/treasurer. Wynne Fuller, longtime chief of operations division for the Mobile Engineer District, was re-elected as president of the association. Fuller succeeded Merrihew last year.