Ellen G. McNair, CEcD, Chief Officer of Economic Development at the Chamber, offered a behind-the-scenes look at how she and her team recruit new industry while supporting and expanding existing industry, all in the name of boosting Montgomery’s business sector.
Explain the economic development efforts of the Chamber.
Every department at the Chamber is involved in economic development—it may be tourism, small business, military, etc. In the past, our department has focused on the recruitment of new industrial development, which is just one facet of economic development. Now, our department is branching out to include the recruitment of back-office operations, efforts related to information technology and workforce development.
We’re even working to improve quality of place. With regard to the preservation and expansion of our existing industrial base, our team meets with area manufacturers to explore opportunities and challenges; educate manufacturers on the available resources; assist area companies with their expansion plans; handle issues as they are raised by existing industry; and foster networking opportunities, recognition programs and all efforts to promote the growth and development of the existing industries in our area.
How do the local business community and the community in general benefit from the Chamber’s economic development work?
The best example of how both benefit is Hyundai and the more than 100 suppliers that have located in central Alabama to support Hyundai in the last 20 years. HMMA has invested more than $3.2 billion in its Montgomery plant since 2002, and the HMMA suppliers have invested another $1.8 billion across central Alabama. Hyundai and its suppliers employ more than 15,000 people and provide $500 million in direct wages. The tax revenue from this group to the state is more than $70 million, and more than $10 million is generated in local taxes. The total impact to the state by Hyundai and its suppliers is over $4.8 billion, annually.
What resources do you and your team provide for Chamber members?
We can provide information and/or resources for companies in the manufacturing, back-office operations, logistics and IT sectors. We can assist with workforce, financing, permitting, real estate—all factors that go into a relocation or expansion.
Additionally, we are a resource for anyone with custom data needs. We can provide detailed statistics on local demographic and economic trends and perform industry and workforce analysis.
What one thing would you like MBJ readers to know about what you and your team do?
We work behind the scenes. Most of our projects are very confidential, and we are typically under non disclosure agreements. The competition to recruit companies in the advanced manufacturing, back office or technology sectors is extremely fierce. There are more than 15,000 local development organizations across the country with whom we compete. The recruitment of these projects requires detailed information on dozens of topics, including site and building information; financing; the availability and cost of workforce; state and local tax structures and incentive packages; environmental issues; transportation and logistics issues; utility and infrastructure; and many others.
What do you consider some of you and your team’s most significant achievements?
Definitely Hyundai and the supplier network. In 2002, the Hyundai project was the largest industrial project in the country. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime project, and something we work to maintain and grow on a daily basis. More recent achievements include the Alabama State Port Authority announcing plans for a new Intermodal Transfer Facility that will generate 2,618 direct and indirect jobs and $340 million in business revenues; and Amazon choosing Montgomery and investing more than $100 million in a new IXD facility.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Our work is extremely competitive; we compete with communities across the state, Southeast and the United States. The only way to be successful is to have a professional, knowledgeable and responsive team, which includes many organizations across the community and state. We are so fortunate in Montgomery to have one of the best teams in the country. What gives our team the greatest reward is when we meet the men and women who have jobs in the companies we have worked to recruit, to expand or to retain. Providing the opportunity for good paying jobs for the people of the Montgomery area is such a wonderful part of our job.
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Association has invested more than $3.2 billion in its Montgomery plant since 2002, while HMMA and its suppliers employ more than 15,000 people and provide $500 million in direct wages for a total annual impact of $4.8 billion to the state.