Monday morning, Huntsville Mayor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tommy Battle met with local residents at Julwin’s in Fairhope to lay out his plans to help move Alabama forward.
Right up front, Battle told residents that if they wanted to keep things the same at the state level, he wasn’t going to be the candidate for them.
“If you just want more of the same, I’m not going to be your guy,” Battle said. “But if you want someone who’s going to try to move our state forward and bring good jobs and better quality of life, I’d appreciate your vote and your support.”
Battle said he recognized one source of contention between Coastal Alabama and the rest of the state was how the BP Oil Spill settlement money was distributed throughout the state.
Battle said he felt the money that the state received should have been kept and distributed by the counties the spill directly affected.
“The litigation factor of the BP money, it should have never been spread all the way throughout the state,” Battle said. “It should have stayed in the areas that were affected by that oil spill.”
Battle has served as mayor of Huntsville since 2008, during which time the city has seen a large growth in job creation - 20,000 jobs and $2 billion in investment. During his second term as mayor, Battle brought more than 9,000 jobs to the city, including a $200 million investment from GE Aviation to construct two advanced manufacturing plants, a $110 million Remington plant that will add 2,000 jobs over a decade and a $142 million Polaris Industries campus that will add 1,170 jobs by 2021.
Battle told the residents he truly understands the needs and problems associated with fast growing counties like Baldwin and his home county of Madison, and that infrastructure is absolutely necessary in promoting and continuing growth.
“Infrastructure is one of the keys,” Battle said. “If you have good infrastructure and good education, you can grow and you can be a prosperous community.”
Battle said having a well-trained and educated workforce continues to be a key factor to help grow and improve quality of life for communities.
“Having the workforce be able to continue to move and to grow is key for you down here, as you see industries like UTC and sites like OWA continuing to expand,” Battle said. “You’ve got to have the workforce ready to be able to meet the needs of these growing businesses, but that may also mean bringing in people from across the region to fill those spots. And you’ve got to have good infrastructure to be able to bring them in to do the jobs.”
Battle said he understands the struggle of dealing with commuter traffic living in Hunstville.
“We’ve got 110,000 people coming in to work in our city every day that may live out in the surrounding areas,” Battle said. “That’s why we have to be proactive about addressing our infrastructure needs and start working with not just present issues but problems we see coming in the future. We need to address them now so they don’t become larger issues.”
Battle said Baldwin County is in a transition that could prove beneficial to residents looking to build a better future.
“Baldwin County is in a transition because you’ve already got a strong base in agriculture, but you’re also seeing a move into technology and in industry,” Battle said. “All three prongs are strong for this county, so you’re going to see better quality of life across the board for your citizens. It’s something to be proud of, and I want to help all of Alabama try to share in some of the educational values and workforce development that is helping Baldwin County grow and thrive.”
Battle said one obvious pressing issue for Baldwin and Mobile counties is moving forward on the I-10 Bridge project, which he called a “vital necessity.”
“I-10 needs to be a directed project,” Battle said. “We need to be looking for directed funds from Washington to help make this a reality now. This isn’t just an Alabama issue - this project affects Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and lots of other states that depend on that I-10 corridor.”
Battle said he would make needed construction on I-10 and I-65 priorities for his administration.
“If we don’t on these projects soon, it’s going to be a bigger problem,” Battle said. “It’s a 10 year process to build a road. You can try to push it faster, but you won’t succeed. If we’re looking in 2017, it could take two years to get funding in place, which would push us starting in 2019 with construction and not being done until 2029. We’ve got to make sure we start now planting those seeds and pushing this forward as quickly as possible.”
Battle said though he hails from the northern part of the state, he wants south Alabama to know he’ll be the governor of all of Alabama if elected.
“We’re all in this together,” Battle said. “I want every region of this state to prosper, and I want to be sure we’re meeting needs across the board to help make every part of Alabama grow and succeed.”