Centre: 2010 was positive for areaPublished 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.”