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Skilled to Work: New advanced manufacturing facility helps improve state labor force participation

Right now, Gov. Kay Ivey's office said Alabama's labor force participation rate is the fourth lowest in the country.

Posted: Jun 20, 2019 3:05 PM
Updated: Jun 20, 2019 6:53 PM

As the ribbon was cut to welcome Aerojet Rocketdyne to the Rocket City, Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield knew the moment brought the state one step closer to overcoming a big hurdle.

“One of our big benchmarks is to measure labor participation. And so labor participation in Alabama unfortunately has been about five and a half percentage points lower than the U.S. average,” said Canfield.

Governor Kay Ivey, along with other state and local dignitaries, cut the ribbon for Aerojet Rocketdyne's new Advanced Manufacturing Facility on Friday, June 7, 2019. Governor Kay Ivey, along with other state and local dignitaries, cut the ribbon for Aerojet Rocketdyne's new Advanced Manufacturing Facility on Friday, June 7, 2019.

The labor force participation rate (LFPR) is the percentage of everyone, 16 and older, who either has a job or is looking for one.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national rate has been falling for nearly the last 20 years. It has been steadily climbing since the mid-60s and reached a peak of 67.3 percent in 2000 from January through April.

Since then, it has been falling until it his its most recent low of 62.4 percent in September 2015. It sits at 62.8 percent as of May 2019.

As of January in Alabama, the LFPR is 57.4 percent. That’s the fourth lowest in the country, only above Mississippi, West Virginia and South Carolina.

To fix that, in 2018, Governor Kay Ivey introduced the “Success Plus” initiative.

“Governor Ivey has been pretty bold in establishing that we need to have a half a million Alabamians with advanced skills ready by 2025,” said Canfield.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new Advance Manufacturing Facility is emblematic of that goal. About 160 of the 400 jobs for the new facility are transplants from Virginia and California.

Tony Sivesind brought his skills in additive manufacturing from Sacramento to the Rocket City.

“I have an uncle who works here, been here for a long time, and said, ‘We do composites, you do composites. Come build rockets instead of sailboats.’ So now I build rockets that are a lot faster than the sailboats,” said Sivesind.

One of AR’s Huntsville hires is Greg Freeman. He started out as a machinist before moving into the quality inspector field.

“And fortunately, I had the opportunity to get involved in the shuttle redesign work at Marshall and get into the composites field. And that led me to Aerojet,” said Freeman.

AR CEO Eileen Drake said they plan to work not only with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, but also the community colleges as they continue to expand their workforce.

“We’re going to really ramp up big time here in Huntsville, Alabama, to look at all avenues that we can get great employees from,” said Drake.

And Canfield said once companies like AR really take off, they will spur even more growth.

“[T]here’s going to be a brighter future and other opportunities that will come our way that we believe will actually create even more job opportunities for Alabamians in this region,” said Canfield.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 190891

Reported Deaths: 2374
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30755458
Davidson26474306
Hamilton944394
Knox937879
Rutherford929389
Williamson525236
Sumner481998
Wilson347645
Putnam331540
Montgomery307044
Unassigned29495
Bradley293417
Out of TN289627
Madison287764
Sevier262315
Blount251624
Maury236124
Washington229736
Robertson221035
Sullivan216433
Hamblen191426
Tipton181819
Gibson165823
Trousdale16577
Hardeman157026
Wayne14975
Dyer137014
Bedford134517
Dickson125715
Coffee123613
Cumberland120118
Weakley118919
Fayette118819
Henderson118124
Anderson117913
Loudon11726
Obion117110
Carter116828
Greene115644
Jefferson111914
McMinn111925
Warren10617
Macon105521
Lawrence104313
Monroe103618
Hardin103016
Lauderdale98316
Franklin9699
Haywood96921
Lake9192
Roane8954
Carroll88920
McNairy88318
Bledsoe8544
White8379
Rhea83412
Hawkins81218
Cheatham80710
Marshall7565
Cocke7469
Overton7456
Smith72311
Johnson7112
Chester63210
Henry6259
Lincoln6191
Giles60717
Hickman5858
DeKalb56614
Crockett53819
Marion5298
Decatur5207
Fentress5053
Campbell4464
Claiborne4425
Polk38810
Grainger3763
Union3591
Benton3369
Jackson3265
Morgan3173
Grundy2915
Cannon2860
Unicoi2861
Humphreys2513
Sequatchie2332
Clay2265
Meigs2263
Houston2203
Scott2142
Stewart2042
Lewis2011
Moore1751
Van Buren1660
Perry1500
Pickett1162
Hancock1063

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