STATE LEADERS TRAVEL OVERSEAS, GAIN INSIGHT ON INDUSTRIES FOR WEST ALABAMA’S GROWTH

Paris Trip

Reporting by WVUA 23 Reporter Andrea Matei

Earlier this month, various elected officials took a trip to Europe to meet with representatives from aviation and automotive companies to see what opportunities can be brought to Alabama.

According to Tuscaloosa County Probate Judge Rob Robertson, everyone’s schedule was jam-packed with meetings in Paris, France and Stuttgart, Germany. He said it went very well and hopes new job opportunities in our area will come as a result.

“Those meetings, I thought, were extremely productive,” Robertson said. “I expect that we will get to see some of those individuals or the representatives over for site visits in our community.”

Representatives from state and local governments, the Industrial Development Authority, the Chamber of Commerce and the University of Alabama went to the International Air Show in Paris, where they met with spokespeople from aerospace and aviation companies. Robertson’s goal was to showcase Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector and recruit aviation companies to this area of the state.

“We’ve seen aviation and aerospace grow in north Alabama around the Huntsville area,” Robertson said. “Of course, now there’s a big foothold in south Alabama, in Troy. We have Lockheed Martin, we have Ft. Rucker near Dothan. It’s a growing industry in Alabama and it’s time to bring some of that to west Alabama, and that’s really what we’re trying to do at the show.”

Gov. Kay Ivey and the delegation also went up to Dailmer in Stuttgart.

“We were invited to meet with the new CEO of Daimler and that was very important for us to get to do because they are such a big part of the community here,” Robertson said.

He said a big talking point was Mercedes’ investment in Tuscaloosa County to build electric cars and have suppliers here as well. Another point was just going to see how they run the company there.

“One of the most fascinating things I know we’ll bring back some ideas, was the way they were conducting the workforce training, using virtual technologies, digital technologies,” Robertson said.

The University of Alabama brings in 60% of students from out-of-state with good engineering and aerospace programs, but Robertson wants to add these types of jobs so those students have the opportunities to stay in west Alabama after they graduate.

“Every company in this country, to keep us competitive, needs those bright, young, well-educated folks and that’s exactly what’s coming out of the University of Alabama,” Robertson said. “So we want to keep those folks. Let’s do that kind of business right here in Tuscaloosa on top of all the other food things we have. I think that’ll be a focus area for us for the next decade.”

Robertson said in the next coming months, he hopes there will be further talk with representatives from the companies he met with that hopefully lead to site visits.

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