Regions Financial (RF) has put its economic-development push in the hands of Jeff Rabren, a former Alabama legislative aide.

Rabren, already the head of state and governmental affairs for the Birmingham, Ala., bank, will add the job of head of economic development. He will direct Regions' efforts to create jobs and spur growth in its home state.

Rabren’s two roles are related, he says. He hopes that Regions can work with government agencies and nonprofit groups to make Alabama more friendly to businesses. The bank is working with several state economic-development associations, as well as with Gov. Robert Bentley’s office and local chambers of commerce, Rabren said.

Regions bankers provide expertise and credit for companies expanding or moving into the state, but Rabren stressed that the economic-development efforts will not be tied to drumming up business for the bank.

“So much of economic development today is a partnership between state and local government and business,” Rabren said. “A public-private partnership needs to take place on a daily basis in order to recruit and develop industry.”

Rabren himself is well-connected in state government, having joined Regions in 2010 after working as director of legislative affairs for former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. He has also been a legislative counsel in the Washington office of former U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, who left office in 2009.

“I’ve had the experience on the legislative side putting together pieces of legislation to spur growth and putting together deals,” he said. “I know the story we have to tell in Alabama, our low tax rate, our low energy costs, our way of life and how to put a deal in place.”

Rabren will look to encourage large deals – like Airbus’ recent decision to open a manufacturing plant in the state – as well as smaller projects that help local businesses create jobs, he said. Alabama has traditionally been a manufacturing and textile state, and has suffered like many parts of the country from the loss of industrial jobs over the last several decades. Regions hopes to encourage the return of manufacturing jobs and growth of other industries, including the state’s strong aerospace and healthcare sectors, he said.

Regions has also earmarked more than $1 billion to lend to Alabama businesses this year. Rabren said the bank is on target to distribute the funds on schedule.


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