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Canfield stepping down as commerce secretary; Ivey appoints McNair

Greg Canfield, who’s led the Alabama Department of Commerce as its secretary for 12 years, announced Friday  he will step down from his position.

Gov. Kay Ivey said Ellen McNair, chief economic development officer with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, will be appointed to the role in Canfield’s stead, effective Jan. 1, 2024.

“Throughout my time as governor, we have proudly solidified Alabama as a top state for doing business, and no doubt, Greg has been a key part of that success,” Ivey said in a statement.

“Together, we have secured more than $42 billion in new investments in our state, which has created 78,000 good-paying jobs. Greg will go down as one of Alabama’s best economic development heads, and he will be noted for projects like Mazda Toyota and credited for branding the Made in Alabama name worldwide.”

Ellen McNair.

A former state legislator, Canfield was put in charge of commerce in 2011 by then-governor Robert Bentley, and spearheaded a number of economic development initiatives during his tenure. Among the largest economic development initiatives led by Canfield was 2011’s Accelerate Alabama, as well as the recently passed ‘Game Plan,’ a series of bills that created additional economic incentives for investment into the state.

“I am proud to have been a part of Governor Ivey’s cabinet, and I am proud of the team of professionals we have assembled at Commerce,” Canfield said in a statement. 

A former commerce employee, McNair was heavily involved in the negotiations that brought Hyundai Motors to Montgomery, and has 40 years of economic development experience. 

As the head of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, McNair has also worked on nearly 600 national and international projects representing capital investments of more than $8 billion, and resulting in the creation of nearly 30,000 jobs in Montgomery.

Called a “smooth bulldog” and “tenacious” by Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, McNair said her immediate goal is for a smooth transition as Canfield steps down.

“I am extremely honored to have been selected by Gov. Kay Ivey for this very important role. Economic development has been a passion and focus for the governor her entire career,” McNair said. “The success of the state under Governor Ivey’s and Secretary Canfield’s leadership is unprecedented. These will certainly be big shoes to fill.”

As for what’s next for Canfield, he told Alabama Daily News he was “looking to explore what I can accomplish in (the private sector) again,” but said details would be forthcoming. As for the future of economic development, Canfield told ADN via email that he thought it looked bright.

“This much you can bank on: I believe Alabama is a great place, and I will always be an ambassador for the state,” he said. “It’s also a wonderful place to do business, and I will continue spreading that message just as I did for 12 years at Commerce.”

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