Wade was recently named chairman of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, the state’s best-known and most highly regarded think tank.
This page is pleased that Wade is again in a position to serve the state.
This appointment raises an important question: Will the state continue to praise PARCA’s research and recommendations — and then ignore them?
Under its previous chairman, former Gov. Albert Brewer, PARCA pointed out ways for Alabama to improve its image and its reality. In most cases, legislative leaders thanked PARCA for its efforts and advice, then went on doing things as they always had.
No one would be more aware of the impact this complacency had on bringing business to the state than Wade, who had to sell Alabama to companies and CEOs by telling them what we could be and playing down what we were.
This was difficult because high on the list of questions asked by companies seeking a place to relocate was how well Alabama schools could meet their needs.
No one doubted that Alabamians would work hard, but would Alabama workers be educated and trained to perform the tasks and possess the skills that modern manufacturing demanded?
Wade made it clear that as the head of PARCA, he will make assessing Alabama education the group’s first priority. We have no doubt that the study PARCA will produce will offer sound recommendations to improve education and will offer evidence to show why it should be done.
But will the Alabama Legislature and governor do anything about it?
If history is our guide, the answer is probably no.
For years, business leaders and industrial recruiters have been telling Goat Hill how important a sound, up-to-date, well-funded educational system is to the economic prosperity of Alabamians. And for years, the politicians we have elected to bring prosperity to the state have ignored that evidence in favor of protecting special-interest groups that don’t want to change what exists or pay what change would cost, or both.
Wade will be hard to ignore. After a successful career selling Alabama despite all our flaws, he has the background and insight to explain to legislators how easier a sell Alabama would be if we made ourselves more attractive.
For years, this state has tried to recruit businesses with promises of low taxes and government subsidies. Now companies want more. They want an educated workforce.
If Neal Wade can get this across to hard-headed, backward-looking, special-interest group-protecting legislators, he will have done for this state as much, or more, than any politician in recent memory.