Riley looks to bring more jobs to Birmingham despite county woes

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Governor Riley said today he thinks medical research and green technology need to be the keys to bringing more jobs to Birmingham as the economy slowly recovers.

Riley just got back from a business-recruiting trip to Europe and says the negative publicity surrounding Jefferson County's financial mess has hurt, but believes the area has enough trump cards to overcome that, as long as they are played correctly.

The Governor spoke to more than 100 science and technology experts from around the state Tuesday to mark the halfway point in the state's efforts to map out its strategy for turning resources like UAB and its reputation into jobs.
"Alabama has the most diverse economy in the United States," Riley said. "So we have all the components we need to be very successful in this next generation, but we need someone like this group today to sitdown and say here's a roadmap. This is where we are, this is where we want to go, and this is the best way to get there."
Birmingham business leaders are focusing on green technology and medical research as the key areas for potential growth, and SurModics Pharmaceuticals' CEO Art Tipton said he is trying to recruit fellow medical companies to town by sharing the help he's getting from UAB and its international reputation.
"For me I'm able to take advantage of them and to use their knowledge to help me decide what programs to focus on," Tipton said.
While UAB's reputation is positive, Jefferson County's is not after a wave of recent negative publicity surrounding the county's financial crisis. Governor Riley says that can make attracting jobs an uphill climb, but he believes resolving that crisis over time and pushing through an ethics reform package that died the last 2 years in Montgomery can help.
"States to a large extent are like people," Riley said. "The last thing we need is a reputation in the state of Alabama as being very loose or lax when it comes to ethics."
The Corporation for Economic Development released a report this week giving the state a "D" when it comes to economic development, an illustration of how far the area has to go in terms of being in position to create new jobs.