This week, Remington Guns, a Kentucky-headquartered firearm manufacturer, announced it will be moving some of its operations from New York state to Huntsville, Ala.
The move is expected to bring 2,000 jobs to Alabama and have an estimated economic impact on the local economy of approximately $87 million, according to a source in the state government.
“Remington’s decision is great news and a further testament to the world class workforce in Huntsville,” Sen. Jeff Sessions said on the heels of the announcement. “This plant will create good-paying manufacturing jobs for thousands of workers. We warmly welcome Remington Arms and look forward to their success and presence for years to come.”
But this move by Remington appears to be in part because of New York State Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aggressive gun-control rhetoric and laws, which have already have resulted in a number of gun manufacturers relocating to more gun-friendly states.
“No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer,” Cuomo said in his January 2013 State of the State address. “End the madness now!”
It’s a little bit of a surprise Alabama hasn’t figured out a way to capitalize on this progressive mentality that has infiltrated many of the state governments throughout the United States. But Alabama has its own problems to overcome.
In a study put out last year by financial network CNBC, Alabama was 33rd, tied with New Mexico, for America’s top states for business. Alabama was very strong in studies looking at the cost of living and cost of doing business categories, sixth and 13th in those two among the 50 states respectively.
The state, however, really suffered in other categories — economy (40th), quality of life (45th), business friendliness (37th), education (36th) and access to capital (39th).
Other studies have traditionally beat up on the state in the same areas, especially education. But a lot of these low marks are a perception problem, and there are some things leaders inside of the state could do to overcome that.
Govs. Rick Perry (R-Texas) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) have embarked on state publicity tours. Perry has gone as far as airing radio ads in high-tax big government states, including Maryland and California.
“When you grow tired of Maryland taxes squeezing every dime out of your business, think Texas, where we’ve created more jobs than all the other states combined,” Perry said in a radio spot that aired on Washington, D.C., FM news station WTOP. “Unfortunately, your governor has made Maryland the tax-and-fee state, where businesses and families are paying some of the highest taxes in America.”
Alabama did a lot of this under former Gov. Bob Riley, especially with the pushes for Hyundai’s facilities in Montgomery, the Airbus manufacturing facility in Mobile and Toyota’s expansion of its plant in Huntsville.
But this drive appears to be lacking under Gov. Robert Bentley, at least thus far. Bentley has been solid in a lot of areas, particularly working with the state legislature to dismantle some of the good ol’ boy network that had plagued the state, especially in the state house, for the last hundred or so years.
Perhaps it’s a perception problem, but where Riley was sort of a spokesman for the state, Bentley hasn’t made as strong a showing.
There have been the obligatory trips to the Paris Air Show by Bentley as the state strides into aerospace. But as the country seems to be split ideologically and each state’s government landing on one side of the divide or the other, Alabama hasn’t taken its right-of-center, potentially business-friendly message around the country like Perry has.
Governors like Cuomo and Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) talk about how they want use their state as a laboratory for the so-called progressive agenda, which entails something along the lines of saving the world from global warming and implementing social policies that make same-sex marriage possible, and that’s fine.
But Bentley needs to step outside his comfort zone and tout a contrasting vision for the state of Alabama. Things like Alabama’s right-to-work employment policy, traditional family values and areas it’s attempting to improve upon, like tax policy, regulation, education and infrastructure would be a good place to start.
Potentially, you could also tout the cost of living in Alabama. You could buy a mansion in Alabama for the price of a three-bedroom townhome in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. That would suggest you could manufacture a product for much lower labor cost since that cost of living is so favorable.
In my years of covering Alabama political figures, for better or for worse, there’s one thing they seem to excel at and that’s working behind the scenes out of the public eye to broker deals. The state could stand to improve upon the other side of that equation by creating a perception it’s a much friendlier place than what has become a hostile environment for the private sector in some quarters.
Even though gun manufacturers aren’t exactly faring well in mainstream public opinion these days, landing Remington firearms in-state is a good indicator the whole pro-Alabama message is reaching some ears. So that’s a start.
Perhaps it’s time to get in on Alabama while the price is low.
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