I was invited to visit Tallassee recently for the 40th anniversary of Neptune Meters. The company came to Alabama in 1972 and was the first to use the Alabama Industrial Development Training Program (AIDT). While I was in state government, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to play a major role in the creation of AIDT, which was inspired by what South Carolina was doing at that time to attract industry to that state.
From the outset, the program was very successful in Alabama. Interestingly, AIDT was opposed in the beginning by almost every segment of public education. Those in leadership roles couldn’t grasp the program’s concept since there was no building and no large staff. The way the program works is sort of simple, and that, too, could have resulted in some of the opposition. AIDT sets up training in a building near the plant site. While the plant is being built, the work force is being trained by qualified instructors on the very same machines to be used in the plant. The training for Neptune Meters was done at night and the trainees, who had jobs and were being upgraded, would walk from training directly into employment at very good wages.
A number of folks were involved in establishing the program in 1971. It came about largely because of two brothers – Jimmy Faulkner and Dr. T.L. Faulkner. The Faulkner brothers had heard about what was happening in South Carolina and wanted to learn more about it. Jimmy Faulkner was a highly successful businessman from Bay Minette. His brother, Dr. Faulkner, headed up the vocational education division in the state education department. I headed up the team that went to South Carolina to study their program. Others on the team were Fred Denton (Alabama Power Co. – who became the top assistant in ADO); Jimmy Clark from Eufaula, (a powerful state senator); and Tom Eden (Executive Director of the Alabama Textiles Association). We spent about a week in South Carolina and learned a great deal from those in the state’s training program.
George Howard from South Carolina was hired as Director of AIDT. To say that George did a great job would be a gross understatement. Under his leadership, the program got off to a very good start and has never slowed down. Every major industrial plant coming to Alabama since that time has used AIDT to train their workforce. Each of those companies said AIDT was a major factor in Alabama being selected for their plant.
I participated in the groundbreaking of the facility at the Neptune Meters plant 40 years ago. Having the opportunity to now go back and see firsthand what they have accomplished over the years was a real blessing. I must say the plant is most impressive. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of AIDT in the beginning of the program. Knowing that this program has been so good for Alabama made all of the early work by the folks who got AIDT off and running well worth the efforts.
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