Close, but no cigar
The Anniston Star
In our opinion
07-16-2008

Alabama did not win the Volkswagen plant. The state gave it a good try, and right up to the last moment rumors flew heavy that Alabama's offer had prevailed and the German company had picked a site near Huntsville. But that didn't happen; Tennessee won, and Europe's biggest automaker will build its plant near Chattanooga. Gov. Bob Riley expressed disappointment at the announcement, but he went on to say that he was pleased that the site chosen was close to Alabama. This page feels the same way. The governor's economic development team now needs to assess the Tennessee offer, compare it to what our state was willing — and able — to provide, and learn how to do better next time, if Alabama indeed can do better. In this case, it may be that Tennessee simply had more to offer. Alabama also needs to consider how the state's constitutional limits played into the bidding war. Had Alabama been picked, the governor would have had to call a special session for the Legislature to approve many of the incentives the state had offered. In addition, lawmakers would have needed to pass a proposed constitutional amendment so the state could use money from trusts funded by natural gas royalties. Then that amendment would have gone to the voters in November. The Legislature likely would have approved the incentives and the amendment — and it's almost certain that voters would have fallen into line.But the possibility that the Legislature, or the voters, might not have approved the plan always existed. That may have bothered the Volkswagen leadership, especially if they wanted to move quickly at a time when the currency exchange rate was so heavily in their favor. While considering why Alabama did not get the plant, the governor's team also needs to consider what the state can gain from proximity. State lines are important, and Tennessee will certainly benefit from having Volkswagen there. However, as seen from the support Mississippi and Florida have given Mobile in that city's quest for the Air Force tanker contract, being next door to major industry is no small matter. Alabama came close to getting the Volkswagen plant. Close by is where it will be built. Let's take advantage of that.

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