Events potpourri examined
Published 12:13 am Wednesday, June 27, 2007
As we approach mid-year 2007, allow me to offer to you a glimpse of events and happenings in Alabama politics in potpourri fashion.
A lot has happened, the continuing unraveling of the Junior College System corruption, the standoff in the Alabama Senate, the presidential candidates' forays into the state. However, the biggest story would have to be a positive one. Our landing the German steel plant, ThyssenKrupp, to the Mobile area is the biggest and best news.
The announcement was made May 11 that Alabama was selected to be the location for ThyssenKrupp's state-of-the-art steel processing facility. It will be a $3.7 billion investment which will provide 29,000 construction jobs and 2,700 permanent jobs when it begins operating in 2010. Much like Mercedes, these factory jobs will pay very well.
After considering 67 locations in 20 states, the company narrowed its decision to Alabama and Louisiana, and we won. We were victorious in large part thanks to Gov. Bob Riley. He worked diligently for more than a year. His hands-on, day and night, personal wooing of the steel giant had to impress the top brass of the German company.
Riley put partisanship aside and involved Democrats Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom and Speaker of the House Seth Hammett. They all traveled together to Germany. Riley had the two presiding officers on board for passage of vital incentive legislation needed to lure the plant. He wisely called a weeklong special session prior to the regular session to pass the necessary legislation.
The special session illustrated how important the package was and allowed legislators to focus only on that issue. The Governor even enlisted the assistance of First Lady Patsy Riley. On a trip to Alabama, the Germans were invited to the governor's mansion to dine with the governor. The first lady offered them one of her favorite dishes, strawberry crepes, which she personally prepared. This kind of personal involvement, augmented by the incentive package, is one of the reasons for our success. Riley was so personally involved that they made the announcement call to him in the wee hours of the morning instead of to the Alabama Development Office Chief Neal Wade. Riley has done a good job as governor, but this coup will be a hallmark of his administration.
Our winning the mammoth ThyssenKrupp deal culminates 15 years of success attracting foreign companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Airbus, and Hyundai. It has made us the envy of the nation as far as industrial recruitment. It has been the impetus for a booming state economy, has given us a fresh face around the world, and is changing our image worldwide as a backward, racist state.
Further enhancing that progress was the legislative resolution apologizing for slavery which passed overwhelmingly in both chambers. Many Republicans voted against it, but Riley signed it saying he hoped the resolution would help send a message that race relations in Alabama had improved.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist who column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.