What will area leaders do with criticism in harsh report?

Published 2:18pm Saturday, April 13, 2013

It is normal to be defensive when someone throws upon you harsh criticism. But, the true test of a person’s character is what you do with that criticism.

Do you simply dismiss the criticism as invalid, not true, false? Or, do you take the criticism and pull from it those things you could probably work on, improve upon and grow from the experience?

And, it’s a choice you have to make.

Such is the case with the recently released report from the Alabama Policey Institute entitled “Building Business in Alabama: How Business-Friendly Are Alabama’s 50 Largest Cities.”

For anyone from Selma who thoroughly flipped through the report, it was not the prettiest collection of data that could be compiled. In many of the categories, Selma was ranked at or near the bottom.

Overall, Selma came in dead last among the 50 largest cities when evaluated as business-friendly.

It was hurtful and in some cases shocking to see how poorly our city performed in many of the categories reported. But, as they say, numbers never lie.

There are those among our elected and economic leaders who would simply dismiss this report, cast it aside as a collection of information that is not useful to the recruitment or development of our local economy. That is their opinion and prerogative to do so.

But, we think something quite different.

True, it is easy to cast aside the report because of the creators of the report — API — as a conservative think tank who produced this report for political intentions. But, that would be shortsighted.

It is our opinion that this report — among others — should serve as a wake-up call to our elected and economic leaders that we are not in as good a position as we should be.

The report shows we have glaring problems in our education results, violent crime rate and some transportation infrastructure.

And while it is easy to ignore these figures, it is hard to argue they are not accurate.

These statistics were not created, they were calculated. These statics were not invented, they were pulled from the same public reports and Census data everyone has access to at any given time.

This report highlighted we have an atrocious drop out rate among our high school students, leading to an untrained and unqualified work force to fill the jobs open at our local industries and businesses.

In fact, the Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Authority routinely says we have more than 5,000 people who drive into Dallas County each day to work. Why is this even possible when Dallas County ranks among the worst in the state each and every month when it comes to unemployment?

This report ranks Selma at the bottom of the list when it comes to per capital violent crime. Is this a surprise?

All you have to do is look at the published police reports each day in the newspaper to see we have a problem when it comes to following the Golden Rule; treating our neighbor as we would want to be treated.

We can no longer survive as a viable community if we do not find ways to address these and other problems. The problems of violent crime and dismal educational results are cancers in our community that will do nothing but put us farther behind other areas in the state.

It is time we came together and embraced this criticism, embraced that we have problems and find ways together to make changes.

We can take this criticism and say its wrong, but we know deep in our hearts that this report simply showed us black and white what we already knew.

In many ways Selma is behind the curve in being a business-friendly community, but there are strengths and assets that we can call on to improve. We have smart people in key positions in this community who can find the solutions needed and we have people in our community who are passionate about Selma succeeding.

The challege comes in not finding those people, but finding those willing to put their differences behind and work together.

Our local EDA has a motto that is very fitting when addressing such challenges, “together we work.”

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