Ivey, speaking to the Rotary Club of Jasper, said there are many positive things happening in Alabama, especially in the area of job growth.
“Alabama is on the move and a lot of people are going back to work.,” she said. “We are adding jobs. Since Gov. (Robert) Bentley took office 18 months ago, 26,000 new jobs have been added to our payroll. That’s a good thing.”
Ivey noted some of the state’s job growth had taken place in Walker County and said more jobs are coming to the area soon, including expansions at Hayashi Telempu North America (formerly Amtex) and Fontaine Trailer Company.
“Having folks in the legislature that are pro business makes a difference,” Ivey said.
After her speech to the Rotary Club, Ivey toured one of Fontaine’s Jasper locations.
“What you’ve done is a great testimony,” Ivey told Fontaine officials. “Fontaine has been here and you’ve made the decision to stay here. More importantly, you’ve made the decision to expand. That is a message that doing business in Alabama is good for business.”
Mark Keller, president of Fontaine, said the company has recently added 50 employees and expects to add 100 more in the next few months.
“It will be up to the market, but we are hoping to add around 100 more jobs,” Keller said.
During her Rotary speech, Ivey also mentioned the Alabama Transportation Rehabilition and Improvement Program (ATRIP) as a project that has added construction jobs. Through the program, municipalities and counties can improve roadways with federal money. The municipalities are responsible for 20 percent of the total project. A resurfacing project on Walston Bridge Road in Jasper was approved through ATRIP.
“ATRIP has done a good job of growing construction jobs,” Ivey said.
Ivey also mentioned highly technical projects recently announced in north Alabama as signs of job growth.
“Alabama has got to be an incubator of innovation and a vessel for growing advanced technology,” she said.
Growing jobs was one committment Ivey said she made to voters when she was elected in 2010. She said other committments she made included right-sizing government, new leadership in Medicaid and balancing the budget without cutting essential services.
Consolidating state law enforcement agencies and a voluntary retirement program for state workers were two items mentioned by Ivey that could reduce the size and cost of state government.
“We have $675 million in targeted savings right now,” she said.
While talking about the state’s new Medicaid leadership, Ivey also commented on Bentley’s decision to reject setting up a statewide health care exchange.
“The federal government is asking states to set up these exchanges, but not providing any information on how to do that,” Ivey said. “It’s like asking someone to bake a cake without giving them the ingredients.”
As for balancing the budget, Ivey said she was proud that for the first time in seven years there was no proration on Alabama schools. She said Medicaid and the prison system are huge factors in balancing the general fund.
“Those two entities make up 58 percent of the budget, and their costs continue to rise,” Ivey said. “We’ve still got a way to go, but we’ve got some good people working hard to do what is best for our state.”
Ivey was invited to Jasper by Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper), a member of the local Rotary Club. Reed could not join Ivey on her trip to Jasper due to the death of a friend.
“I appreciate Lt. Gov. Ivey visiting Jasper,” Reed said. “Having her and other statewide officials visit Walker County is always a good thing. It’s a way to highlight our area and show what kind of work is being done here.”
Rep. Bill Roberts (R-Jasper) accompanied Ivey on her visit and announced her at the Rotary meeting.
“We are happy to have Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey here,” Roberts said. “She’s been great to work with in Montgomery. She works hard to do what’s right for Alabama.”