Training center a boon for city

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 25, 2002

Take a look around Selma and figure out what’s missing.

There are the young children, clinging onto their mother’s hands as they go to Wal-Mart, the mall or the grocery store. There are the teen-agers, who wait with impatience to graduate from high school and move onto college or the work force. There are the men and women who run businesses and raise families. And then there are the elderly.

So what’s missing? People between the ages of 18 and 25.

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Most people, once they hit this age, are eager to leave Selma. It’s easy to see why. Although there is a community college and two smaller four-year institutions, the atmosphere here does not cater to young adults. You would have to go to Montgomery, Tuscaloosa or Birmingham to find that. The mall closes at 8. There is no bookstore and the movie theater only shows two films. There are only a few bars around. With everything geared toward the very young and the very old, there is little to keep these young people tied to Selma.

But, an announcement made Thursday by Gov. Don Siegelman could change that. Siegelman named former Craig Air Force Base one of five locations around the state to house a workforce development center.

This center will teach basic job skills that will enable people to get off the streets and give them skills such as basic education, computer skills, problem solving, workplace behavior, manufacturing, and job acquisition.

While this program is aimed at helping the poor, it can also help in retaining young people to stay in Selma. While those who can drift off to the University of Alabama, Auburn University or some other state school, those who can’t afford it eventually fade into the background.

With this center, young people will be able to train in basic skills that will enable them to get a job at the new Hyundai plant, or even venture to Mercedes-Benz and Honda.

And while they’re here, they will add a much needed jolt of energy and enthusiasm to Selma. If they decide to stay and work at Hyundai, this will boost the economy and encourage businesses to relocate here. This will prevent Selma from losing retail dollars, and its youth, to Montgomery.