That opportunity has arrived, which means the governor’s industrial-development team is about to be tested.
The German automaker Audi, the luxury car of the Volkswagen group, needs to increase its production capacity in the United States. North Alabama should be in the running for the plant Audi hopes to construct.
In the 1990s, the company was apparently ready to build its first U.S. plant on a site north of Opelika, but the project was cancelled. Three years ago, a site near Huntsville was the runner-up for the Volkswagen plant that was built near Chattanooga. Some company officials liked the Alabama site better, but we could not (or would not) match the incentives Tennessee offered.
Now Alabama has another chance.
Neal Wade, the successful former head of the Alabama Development Office under Riley, made it clear that economic developers should get to work. “If I was sitting in north Alabama,” he told the Birmingham News, “I would be all over this.”
Alabama has much to offer.
Alabama has the site, and unless Audi decides to build alongside VW’s Chattanooga plant, the state would have to be considered a front-runner. North Alabama can provide a solid workforce, the quality of life is attractive, and already there are auto suppliers in the area. Moreover, both the region and the state have experience working with major automotive plants.
Fortunately, there is time to prepare an incentives package to attract the company.
Audi does not plan to announce a decision before 2013, so if Bentley can get his people working on the project — and if he can bring local and regional industrial developers on board — Alabama would have a chance to lure in another job-producing industry.
This may become the Bentley administration’s first big shot at attracting a major plant to the state. Supporters and critics alike will be watching to see how well the governor does.