Special guest: Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth addresses Chambers County leaders at Lanett Regional Airport – Valley Times-News

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth stopped by Lanett Regional Airport on Monday to speak to Chambers County leaders.

Ainsworth spent most of his comments highlighting the economic growth of Alabama and Chambers County before formally announcing his endorsement of Sen. Randy Price, who is up for re-election in District 13, and then making an endorsement surprise from Rep. Debbie Wood, who is running against Micah Messer in the District 38 primary on May 24.

“She [Wood] don’t know I’m doing this,” Ainsworth said. “But, I mean this, we need her too. You know, I put my 100% support and approval behind her.”

Ainsworth said Price and Wood were great partners and needed them as he navigated recruiting new businesses in Alabama.

“If we don’t have quality people in Montgomery, [I] I can go around the state working as hard as I can to recruit industry and try to make sure we work for people in education, but I need partners, and you have two great partners here.

Ainsworth is running for re-election this term and is unopposed in the primary and general elections.

In her opening remarks, Chambers County Development Authority Executive Director Valerie Gray alluded to all the work that has been done in Chambers County during her 24 years with the CCDA. . But also, there is more to do.

“There’s still a lot we want to do, a lot we want to accomplish,” she said. “And it’s not just about chasing smokestacks and industrial development. He works on our housing estates. He works on our schools, most importantly, our public schools, our children, my children. I want them to stay here. I want them to stay here and make a difference in the community.

With that, Gray introduced Wood, who brought the play back in 2009, where she painted the grim picture of Chambers County.

“In 2009, we had the highest unemployment rate ever in the state in this county,” she said. “I saw this community almost die. Individuals were needed; I’m watching Woody over there. It took people who sat on boards of directors. I watched Bruce [Emfinger]. It took people who were elected. I look at our mayors, our county commission. And it took the Economic Development Office here working together to get us out of there.

Before bringing up Price, Wood thanked Ainsworth for taking the time to come and speak in Chambers County.

Price echoed Wood’s sentiments about how Chambers County leaders are working tirelessly to ensure the county’s growth when he introduced Ainsworth.

“I tell people, and Valérie [Gray] and I talked about it four years ago – it’s the next little gold star on I-85,” Price said. “Because we have leaders within the county commission and our town halls who understand that the infrastructure that needs to be put in place is put in place where you can bring these industries here.”

Ainsworth started talking about Alabama’s 16% growth in the education trust fund. He said 8% of that growth came from one-time federal funding that the state may never see again.

“Let me say this, probably 8% of that was from the federal government once, money that we’ll never get again, and so we budgeted conservatively,” he said. “But still 8% growth without the one-time money. You should be proud of what’s going on in Alabama. I mean this, I’ve also looked at the stats of all of you, you know, since the last census, your county grows in. You look at a lot of counties, and I would say you’re all an outlier for what’s happening in rural counties.

Ainsworth referred to Alabama’s mission to expand broadband, saying, “Our goal is simple — no matter where you live, to have high-speed Internet access. We’ve put more money in our state’s history over the past four years into broadband than anyone else.

Broadband expansion has been a hot topic specifically for Chambers County, where CCDA Deputy Director Chris Busby geographically estimates that 60-70% of the county is without broadband service and only 55-60% of the population of the county has access to it.

What Ainsworth said he is most proud of is the work of a passed bill that changes unemployment requirements in Alabama.

“We had a real problem during the pandemic, people getting used to getting a check from the federal government,” Ainsworth said. “We passed a bill to make sure that if you’re going to be unemployed you actually have to, in the past it was looking for a job once a week. So now we have to work within the federal guidelines on this. Now they have applied three times a week and are also proving to the Ministry of Labor that they are looking for and applying for a job.

After Ainsworth wrapped up, he stayed and talked with everyone present and posed for pictures.

Gray thanked everyone for coming and said she was pleased with the turnout.

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