When it comes to economic growth and attracting more business to Alabama, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said government incentives do help, but increasing the labor force should be the primary focus.

“The number one limiting factor to growth: not opportunity, not the tax structure … they need more people,” Ainsworth said on a recent episode of “1819 News: The Podcast.” “...My vision for Alabama is for us to be the workforce of the Southeast, and if we do that, we’re going to be turning businesses away.”

Ainsworth said roughly 55,000 high school seniors graduate in Alabama each year, and not all of them are ready or trained for the available jobs that need to be filled. He said more high schools need to focus less on testing and instead offer industry trade classes, provide opportunities for dual enrollment at community colleges like Snead State and connect kids to internships and apprenticeships.

“The purpose of education is to get people ready for a job,” Ainsworth said. “… I think back to when I was at Boaz as a freshman in 1996. The question was, and I’ve said this a bunch, how was I doing on my ACT and where was I going to college? Wrong question.”

He continued: “You give me an employee that will work hard, that knows how to work, that will pass a drug test, that can learn a skillset, that has basic skills in math and science, just understanding, that person’s going to be successful in life. We’ve got to get back to that. What made America and Alabama great was hard work and the fact that you can go out there and achieve whatever you want. It didn’t really matter what you did on your ACT test. Honestly, some of the brightest people I know that have been very successful didn’t do well on that. I think we put such an emphasis on that we got out of what made Alabama great, and we’re getting back to it.”

Ainsworth added that when attracting outside businesses to Alabama, it’s important not to compromise values even if it means losing a significant source of new jobs, like U.S. Space Command.

“People are moving to Alabama, not because we’re woke; they like our policies, they like the fact that we value life, they like the fact that on Sundays people go to church,” he said. “They like the fact that we say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘yes sir.’ They like that fact in most cities in Alabama, you’re safe, you don’t even have to lock your door. They like the fact the people still believe in work, hard work here. I mean, that’s what makes Alabama great. My message to those companies is, we’re not doing that, period. We’re going to keep what made Alabama great, our values — we’re not going to compromise on those. So if you like our values and you want to come to Alabama you’re welcome to come here. If not, you can go to another state.”

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email daniel.taylor@1819news.com.

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