By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News.
POINT CLEAR, Ala. – This past weekend, the Business Council of Alabama held its annual governmental affairs conference at the Grand Hotel on Mobile Bay where lawmakers, lobbyists and corporate leaders gathered to review the past year’s accomplishments and discuss the coming elections and legislative session.
There were many notable political leaders on the Saturday agenda – Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels held a state legislative panel that emphasized improving infrastructure, education and helping rural hospitals; Congressmen Mike Rogers, Bradley Byrne and Gary Palmer led a discussion of federal issues that touched on everything from tax cuts to trade tariffs to the Russia investigation.
— Speaker McCutcheon (@MacDistrict25) August 11, 2018
— Will Fuller (@wpfuller3) August 11, 2018
But it was Gov. Kay Ivey’s keynote address – its poignance and timeliness – that had most people talking here in Point Clear.
She spoke about the unexpected strength that can come during a time of transition, drawing a parallel to the Business Council’s current situation in which President and CEO Billy Canary is departing after 15 years at the helm and a search has begun for his replacement. A proper send off would be given later for Canary, who vowed to be the first former BCA president to “come back as a member.”
We had a very inspirational and timely message from @GovernorKayIvey this morning as she spoke about her vision for Alabama, the need to continue to develop our workforce and enhance our education system while improving infrastructure development throughout the state! #BCA2018 pic.twitter.com/3yfHabcUKa
— John Merrill (@JohnHMerrill) August 11, 2018
With almost theatrical prose, she set the scene by recalled the moments she learned that she would be unexpectedly stepping into the role of governor just hours before the resignation of former Gov. Robert Bentley.
It was a day “that will be forever marked in our state’s history,” Ivey said. “But how it would be remembered, depended on what we, as a state, would do next.”
“A time for transition opens the door for opportunity. It’s a time to develop, a time to work, a time to excel.”
Develop, work, and excel are exactly what the state has been able to do since her transition into power, Ivey claimed. She pointed specificialy to success in economic development efforts to improve education, and ongoing work to enhance workforce development.
Ivey touted the state’s historic low in unemployment and claimed that since being in office “we have seen nearly 16,000 new jobs created in Alabama, several coveted economic development projects announced, and strides taken to improve our education system.”
She then carried into talking about education reform and pulled out her signature “Strong Start, Strong Finish” program that focuses on building on the gains made in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program up to middle and high school years.
“Our goal is to have all third grade students at the end of third grade reading at grade level or above by 2022,” said Ivey.
With this focus on improving education, Ivey said it will help improve Alabama’s workforce and therefore help boost Alabama’s economy as well.
“Through our ‘Success Plus Plan,’ we will continue providing workforce development programs, so that by the year 2025, we will better equip 500,000 more workers to meet the current and future needs of business and industry,” Ivey said.
Later in her speech, Ivey then touched on the state’s infrastructure needs, while perhaps throwing a shot back at her general election opponent on the issue of public safety.
“When I took office, there were only 313 highway patrol officers. This was unsafe for both our officers and all of us on the road, which is why I, along with the Legislature, provided approximately $3 million dollars to hire and equip 50 additional Troopers,” Ivey said. “And regardless of what you may be hearing, before February, we will have more than 400 Troopers in Alabama.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox recently claimed there were only 300 State Troopers patrolling highways and used it as an issue to ding Ivey’s administration. Ivey clearly wanted to set the record straight and defend her record of trying to hire more public safety officers.
In closing, Ivey went back to the theme of transition, connecting the state’s plight with that of the business community. Both “rely on you,” she said.
“Let our experience as a state serve as a reminder to all of you at BCA, that in a time of transition, you are given an opportunity,” Ivey said. “When you are given the chance to start anew, choose to make the very most out of it.”