Alabama Department of Commerce

The state of Alabama has a general fund budget in place for the new fiscal year beginning in less than two weeks.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed the state's general fund budget yesterday morning. He says the spending plan isn’t perfect, but it is a step in the right direction for the state.

Lawmakers passed a $1.7 billion budget on Wednesday after months of negotiations over a substantial budget shortfall. Legislators approved a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase and a transfer of $80 million in education funds to minimize cuts to state services.

A trade mission led by the state with representatives from 10 companies will be heading to Canada next week.

The group will be heading to the Southeast U.S. Canada Province Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Alabama's Commerce Department Secretary Greg Canfield says Canada is already a top destination for Alabama products and the trip is designed to capitalize on those existing ties.

Canada was Alabama's top export destination last year with shipments valued at nearly $4 billion.

The state Department of Commerce estimates Gov. Robert Bentley's industry-hunting trip to France last month will cost the state between $88,000 and $97,000.

The department says that estimate includes seven people: Bentley; his wife, Dianne; two security staff members; Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield; and two other department employees. The Department of Commerce leads the state government's industrial recruitment effort.

Department spokeswoman Gerri Miller said the goal of the trip to the Paris Air Show in mid-June was to bring home jobs.

The Birmingham News

The Alabama Department of Commerce and the Alabama Export Alliance are planning seminars April 9-10 to help companies learn more about exporting to Canada.

Department officials said the Canada is Alabama's top trading partner, with Alabama exporting $3.9 billion in goods to Canada in 2012. But they said Canada has its own unique trade customs and regulations. The seminars will be in Huntsville and Birmingham on April 9 and in Mobile on April 10. The seminars are free, but registration is requested.

Gov. Robert Bentley and leaders of the Alabama Department of Commerce will unveil a new branding initiative and website aimed at assisting in recruiting new and expanding industries in the state.

The brand will be something that will turn people's attention to Alabama. The governor will unveil the new brand in a news conference at 10 a.m. today on the front steps of the Alabama Capitol.