Hammett named to head ADO

Published 5:32 pm Monday, January 3, 2011

Gov.-elect Robert Bentley on Monday named Andalusia’s Seth Hammett director of the Alabama Development Office.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Hammett said.

Hammett is the former speaker of the Alabama House who represented Andalusia and east Escambia County.

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Alabama has had some great economic development successes in the past few years, Hammett said, but now must work hard to better align public assets.

“Like other agencies the ADO has less and less money available to do this work,” Hammett said. “Not only do we have less money to run the agency, but there’s less money in the capital improvement trust fund to offer incentives.”

Bentley will take office on Mon., Jan. 17. Cabinet appointments become effective on the 18th, but Hammett is already at work.

He has a meeting scheduled later this week with Bill Taylor to begin working on a strategic plan.

Bentley has tasked Taylor, the current president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and the former CEO of Mercedes Benz International, with creating a statewide strategic plan for aligning Alabama’s economic development and job creating assets.

Hammett said that plan will need to address the needs of but urban and rural Alabama.

“One size does not fit all in economic development,” he said. “As much success as Gov. Riley and Neal Wade (former ADO director) had in the past few years, they didn’t always please a lot of people.

“Sometimes, getting a few jobs in one location can have as big an impact on a community as a large industry can have in a larger community,” he said. “There are different ways to try to attract business, and we can’t use the same ratio of investment to jobs in Washington County as you would, say in Shelby County.”

Hammett could potentially see huge success for Alabama in his first month in his new role.

EADS North America plans to build a tank plant in Alabama if it is awarded a $35 billion aerial refueling tanker contract. The USAF awarded the contract to EADS, then backed off under pressure from Boeing and its supporters. Critics say Boeing doesn’t have a product that meets the specs.

“If that comes to pass, it will be a great thing for the state,” Hammett said. “More and more experts are saying the contract has to be awarded to EADS. That could happen as soon as Jan. 23. That would be a game changer.

Hammett, who served 32 years in the state legislature and the last 12 years as Speaker of the House, has been active in the state’s economic development activities, joining the governor and others in meetings with companies considering investing in Alabama.

“Seth Hammett has played a key role in every major economic development project in Alabama in the past 20 years including Honda, Hyundai, ThyssenKrupp and the EADS Tanker Project,” Bentley said. “Not only does he know economic development, he has the leadership skills and experience to keep Alabama at the forefront in attracting new business and helping our existing businesses grow and prosper.”

Hammett was a founder and served as the first president of the First National Bank of Andalusia, now Wells Fargo, and was president of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia.

In 2004, he joined PowerSouth Energy and is currently its vice president of business development.

Hammett will serve as a loaned executive during his tenure at ADO.