Transcript: 2018 State of the District Address for Alabama's 7th District
On Tuesday, January 30, 2018, Rep. Sewell delivered her State of the District Address for Alabama's 7th District. A transcript of Rep. Sewell's speech is available below and video is available here.
Thank you all for joining me today.
To my constituents, to Alabama’s state and local elected officials, and to my district’s many community leaders, I am honored to be before you today to report on the state of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.
Because of the work we have done together since I came into office, we have made critical investments in our schools and colleges, in our health care system, in the training of our workforce, in our military, and in our economy. We have invested in our people, and while our work is far from finished, that investment has paid off.
When I first came into office in 2011, the United States was in the middle of a great recession, and nationwide, unemployment stood at 9.6 percent. Alabama’s 7th District was among our nation’s hardest hit areas, and average unemployment in my district had reached nearly 14 percent. Families were out of work, the foreclosure crisis was in full swing, and my district’s businesses were suffering.
Today I am happy to report that average unemployment in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District has dropped by an astonishing 7.3 points down to 6.6 percent. That’s a bigger drop in unemployment than the change we’ve seen nationally and a bigger drop than we’ve seen statewide.
While we still have work to do to bring down unemployment in Alabama’s 7th District, the drastic improvement we’ve seen over the past seven years means that many of my constituents are back at work, our businesses are growing, and our families are more secure in their future.
Our success building a stronger economy in Alabama’s 7th District did not happen by accident. It was the result of hard work and cooperation between community leaders, business owners, elected officials, and most importantly Alabama’s workforce.
Our work to strengthen the local economy was on display last month, when the 187th Air National Guard Unit in Montgomery in our District won a competition to be the new home for the F-35 fighter jet. This announcement was a major economic victory that will bring $3 billion in new capital investment to the River Region and $70 million in new construction. The delivery of the F-35 was the result of a coordinated effort by unit commanders, federal, local, and state leaders, and all those in Montgomery and the River Region community. The F-35 will be another economic boost for Alabama’s economy that will create new jobs and a better future for our district.
Our district also saw critical growth in our manufacturing industry this past year. In September 2017, Mercedes-Benz announced a $1 billion investment in its Tuscaloosa facility to set up electric vehicle production. For families in Alabama’s 7th District, that means 600 new job opportunities.
And Golden Dragon in the Black Belt continued to invest in its copper-tubing manufacturing facilities last year, adding another 30 jobs to its 300 job plant in Wilcox County. For families in Alabama’s 7th District, these jobs aren’t just numbers, they’re opportunities to build a better life.
This year, I was proud to host my 6th Annual Congressional Job Fair. More than 600 attendees and over 60 major employers attended this year’s job fair in Livingston, Alabama. Each year, we host the Annual Job Fair because we believe that we can strengthen economic development by connecting employers with Alabama’s workforce. In 2018, we plan to bring the job fair to Montgomery, Alabama, where we’ll offer constituents an opportunity to talk with some of our state’s biggest employers.
In order to create a more competitive workforce that can strengthen our economy, we have made skills training for Alabamians a top priority. Last year, my office hosted a Project READY workshop in Tuscaloosa to equip constituents with the skills and career development tools they need to find a good job. Project R.E.A.D.Y. stands for Realizing Everyone’s Ability to Develop Yourself. Last year’s event at Shelton State Community College featured training sessions on resume writing, interview skills, and other essential job readiness topics.
While our economy in Alabama’s 7th District has grown, our state also faces serious challenges on health care, education, infrastructure and more.
One of the greatest challenges that our District faces today is access to health care. I stand firm in my belief that healthcare should be a fundamental right for all Americans. This year, we successfully defeated passage of a dangerous GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have left millions of Americans without access to health insurance and higher healthcare costs for all of us. But the fight to protect healthcare access is far from over. In 2018, we will continue fighting all legislation aimed at decreasing coverage, reducing access, and raising costs on hard-working families.
Over the past year, we also worked to combat the crisis of rural hospital closings in Alabama. We worked with rural hospitals, local public officials, stakeholders, and concerned constituents to keep the doors of our rural hospitals open, specifically those in Sumter, Greene, and Wilcox Counties. In particular, we worked with the Wilcox County Commission, the hospital board, and administrative staff to keep John Paul Jones Hospital in Camden from closing, ultimately helping to facilitate a partnership with UAB Hospital which we hope will be a long-term solution.
And in Selma, USDA has announced a $1.1 million grant that will help to expand the Rural Health Medical Program, a Community Health Center which has provided care for so many residents in the area.
These successes are the result of teamwork, and I strongly believe that if Congress, stakeholders and local officials work together, we can save our rural hospitals and protect access and coverage for all Alabamians.
In addition to addressing the challenges facing our hospitals in Alabama’s 7th District, our office works every day to help constituents, local businesses, and organizations who are in need of support. In 2017, my office recovered more than $1.3 million in benefits owed to constituents by the federal government. We also secured over $650 million in federal grants. Once again, we had a successful Congress in Your Community Tour through all 14 counties, hosting 92 town hall meetings, forums, workshops, and events throughout the district. Our office motto, “Constituents First” represents our commitment to ensuring that we are always ready to assist constituents and their families throughout the year.
Looking forward to 2018, we will continue fighting for better jobs, better wages, better health care, and a better future for Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.
This Congress must work to create jobs and raise wages in communities that have been left behind for far too long. We must ensure that all Alabamians, from families in Birmingham to those in our rural Black Belt, have adequate access to health care. We will fight to make sure that every Alabamian has the tools they need to thrive in today’s economy.
The state of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District is the strongest it has been since the Great Recession, but this is not a time to celebrate our victories, this is a time to build on our successes.
On health care, on workforce training, on education, and the challenges our district faces, the time for action is now. It is up to us to give Alabamians a future that is better than the reality they face today.
May God bless you, and may God bless the great state of Alabama.