In Area Development’s recent “Top States for Doing Business” survey, six of the top 10 states hailed from the southeast: Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Mississippi. These states retained their exact rankings from 2016, showing they are consistent in their performance and results. Location and transportation seem to play a key role.
The Southeast continues to be a fast-growing region in the U.S., attracting big names in the world of business. Much of the recent economic development success stems from the transportation infrastructure in the area. At the center of the region is Alabama, who ranked sixth on the list.
Alabama’s transportation infrastructure allows worldwide connectivity: six interstate highways, 3,700 miles of railroad tracks (five Class 1 railroads), 92 airports (seven commercial airports), 1,300 miles of commercially navigable waterways, and a deep-water seaport that is one of the nation’s busiest.
This robust infrastructure along with a low tax burden and skilled workforce has attracted many of the largest international manufacturers to the state. Mercedes-Benz, Airbus, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Austal are just a few international companies finding success in Alabama. This success shows in the state’s recent export growth, which totaled a record $21.7 billion in 2017.
To accommodate this growth in exports, the state has made significant investments to its ports and intermodal facilities to better serve domestic and international markets. The Alabama Port Authority and APM Terminals boards of directors recently approved a $49.5 million expansion of the intermodal container transfer facility at the Port of Mobile, the tenth largest U.S. seaport by volume. This investment expands upon the $535 million the port authority and its partners have invested in the Port of Mobile since 2005, positioning it as a gateway for U.S. trade.
Alabama also has businesses covered by air. Official U.S. Customs Ports-of-Entry are located at Birmingham, Mobile, and Huntsville International Airports. In addition, the state is located between two of the country’s largest air cargo centers – Memphis and Atlanta, making it easy to connect.
Along the rails, the 316-acre Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility is part of the Crescent Corridor program. It serves as a high-capacity intermodal freight rail route between the Gulf Coast and the Northeast. Service runs daily between New York City and New Orleans with three stops in Alabama. Excellent main line connections like this give shippers good access to all major market centers.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was selected last year as one of eight governors to participate in meetings with President Trump on the need for improving the nation’s highways, bridges, airports, railways and tunnels. With highway accessibility being the #1 factor for site selectors, it’s more important than ever for states to stay at the forefront of the nation’s infrastructure conversation. Ivey’s involvement in that conversation can only help Alabama maintain their ranking as a top economic development leader and business partner for international companies.