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Selma and Dallasy County Centre for Commerce president Wayne Vardamn, left, stands with state Sen. Hank Sanders, center, and Economic Development Partnership of Alabama president Bill Taylor during the Centre's annual meeting Tuesday night at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center. -- Rick Couch

Centre: 2010 was positive for area

Published 12:00am Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Selma and Dallas County Centre for Commerce hosted its seventh annual meeting Tuesday, welcoming more than 200 guests and touting what they believe and many agree was a successful 2010.

In proving the optimistic view of the past year, Tim Wood, chairman of the Centre for Commerce Board of Directors, praised the stability of Bush Hog, the growth of International Paper, Hanil E-Hwa, Plantation Patterns and others.

“In 2009, unemployment in Dallas County was 21.9 percent. Today, it is 16.1 percent,” Wood told those gathered. “Is it where we want it to be? Absolutely not. But at least it’s a step in the right direction.”

The success of these businesses, Wood said, came from a focus on helping existing companies in 2010 on the part of the Economic Development Authority and its director, Wayne Vardaman.

“As you know, 2010 was a pretty tough year in the state of Alabama. The recession hit us all pretty hard. There weren’t too many people calling up to put a manufacturing plant out at Craig Field,” Wood said. “So the efforts were placed on working with existing businesses. This has been a great year there.”

The idea of focusing on retention was somewhat of a theme during Tuesday’s event as guest speaker, Bill Taylor, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, said the state must look at retention of jobs and growth of existing businesses as a key component for economic development in 2011.

“Over 70 percent of new jobs comes from existing businesses,” Taylor said. “Those are what we call ‘now’ jobs. They come at a lower costs and come much, much quicker.”

In his role at the state level, Taylor is currently partnered with Seth Hammet, director of the Alabama Development Office, in leading the state’s job growth projects under Gov. Robert Bentley, a role not lost on city and county leaders Tuesday.

“If you put a prospect in front us, I guarantee you we will make them feel like they’ve go to be here,” Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard told Taylor following his speech. “We’ve got a city and a county that work together on these issues. The challenge to you is to bring us someone to talk to.”

During his remarks, Wood also challenged Taylor.

“We appreciate what help you’re going to give in the future,” Wood said. “I’m going to thank you in advance as a matter of fact.”

During his comments, Taylor said areas such as Selma and Dallas County need to focus on regionalism as a way to economic development.

“We accomplish a lot more as a team than we do individually,” Taylor said. “If something comes to Demopolis, isn’t that good for Selma, too? We have to bring together all of the assets in this area.”

As for the biggest asset, Taylor, the former president of Mercedes Benz USA at the time the company located its first plant in the United States in Vance, near Tuscaloosa, for the Black Belt was its people.

“The biggest asset I think you have, personally, is … well … look in the mirror. It’s the people,” Taylor said. “It’s the folks that live and work and who drive the economy that live in this community each and every day.”

  • truthurt

    Ghee! You mean to tell me this photo is not being called “UNCLE TOM” OR SANDERS DOING WHAT THE WHITE MAN WANT HIM TO, if it was a council member or any other politician photo between two whites that is exactly what the Johnnie come lately or the fake bishop, or other cult members like the Pettways would be shouting to the people.Funny how it does not apply to those you need.

  • Mr.DD

    Funnyman, Hank Sanders has an earned Law Degree from Harvard University.Some idiots like youself are mad because you can’t countrol him.Hank has more education in his baby toe than you have in your whole racist body.The joke is really you. As for you imclean, maybe if you would change your attitude business might pick up.

  • funnyman

    Look at that idiot in the middle of this picture, What has he done to bring business here? NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!
    He could buy his correct neck size in his shirt next time he gets a picture taken to be in the paper. Biggest joke in Selma!!!

  • Renigade

    Tim, Great article and the optimism to be applauded, but results are what counts.If the situation continues and the predictions play out the way they say they will optimism is all we have left. I think Tim Wood was smart in praising the established businesses already in Selma and Dallas County. I would foucus on retaining those over the next four years —- that’s the winning card!

  • POPDUKES12

    With a Mercedes Benz plant in Vance and one near Montgomery, we can see the real world is starting to incroach onto the edges of the “Black Belt”. How long this area will stay regressive and totally dependent on entitlements as their main industries may be coming to an end. Infrastructure is going to be the key for importing “real” industry. Selma is fifty miles from anywhere and not an end destination for anything. The ability for a business concern to deliver raw materials to the area and ship finished goods out of the area will be the future to economic growth of the area. popdukes12

  • imclean

    I must be missing something or doing something wrong. My business is hanging on worse than ever.

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