I was invited to visit Tallassee last month 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. They had heard about what was happening in South Carolina and wanted to learn more about it. Dr. Faulkner was a highly successful businessman from Bay Minette. I was on the team that went to South Carolina to study their program. Others 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.
George Howard from South Carolina was hired as Director of AIDT, and to say he was great would be a gross understatement. Under his leadership, the program got off to a very good start and didn’t slow down.
I participated in the groundbreaking at the Neptune Meters plant 40 years ago. It was good to go back and see firsthand what they have accomplished over the years. I must say the plant is most impressive. Every major industrial plant coming to Alabama since that time has used AIDT to train their workforce. Each has said AIDT was a major factor in Alabama being selected for their plant.