Selma at work

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 16, 2004

For more than a decade, Dallas County and most of the Black Belt has dealt with double-digit unemployment.

Now with the arrival of Renosol, Marvin’s and expansion at Bush Hog, the area’s unemployment level is slipping back towards 10.

On June 1, Dallas County voters will pick the leaders to help the community break that barrier.

Email newsletter signup

Team Selma, made up of business leaders and politicians, has already lured one Tier II supplier to the Hope Hull Hyundai Plant near Montgomery, with more on the way.

But several of them said the area’s workforce needs to be better trained to make Team Selma’s job easier.

Barbara Barge, a challenger for the District 1 County Commission seat, said education is the key to bringing in jobs and keeping them.

“Everything goes back to education.

If you can’t read you can’t apply for a job,” she said. “We’ve got to be as educated as possible.”

Darryl Moore, the challenger for District 3, said the Selma Works Program

is one of the ways citizens can get better prepared.

“Hyundai is coming, but people need to be trained to get those jobs,” he said.

Team Selma member Wayne Vardaman is CEO of the Centre of Commerce and Executive Director of the economic Development Authority.

Vardaman says he needs local and state governments to be able to provide the infrastructure industries need when they come to the Black Belt.

“To attract industry to Selma, you’ve got to have a strong infrastructure and the city and county have worked hard to improve what we have,” Vardaman said,

Moore, though, says more needs to be done.

“I think the County Commission has been too quiet about attracting jobs,” he said.

District 2 incumbent Roy Moore, who is unopposed, disagrees.

“If funds are needed, we look at it.

Both the county and the city contribute to economic development,” Roy Moore said. “We’re in line with what we need to be contributing right now.”

As proof of that, he pointed to the 1-cent sales tax that was passed.

The tax provides the county with $110,000 towards economic development.

Before the tax, the commission contributed $15,000 annually.

Curtis Williams, the District 3 incumbent, points to the new industries that have already located in the Black Belt, including American Gum Company.

Williams says grants like the ones that allowed the development of Craig Industrial Park are key to getting new jobs.

“That’s among the many ways we can bring in more jobs,” he said. “(We) have worked really hard to try and get grants. We’re already in the process of getting a community development block grant so we can attract new businesses and maintain the business that we already have.”

District 1 incumbent Connel Towns lists employment among the four main issues of his campaign.

He said the city and county have to work together if they expect industry to come to town.

“What affects the city, affects the county,” he said.

Williams agreed and added that the city and county goverments already have a history of working together with the Chamber of Commerce.

“We work closely with the chamber of commerce, it’s a joint effort with the city and the county,” he said. “We’re all working together not only attracting new ones but keep exisiting business.”

District 4 incumbent Kim Ballard said Team Selma has done an excellent job bringing jobs into the community and expects the results of their hard work to continue.

“We got Lear Corp. (Renosol) recently, and I expect we’ll make more Tier 2 announcements in the future,” Ballard said.

Ballard also promised his support to anyone working to make Selma better.

“I’ll continue working with anyone working to improve Selma, that’s what elected officials should be all about.”

While every candidate or every election in every state in this nation promises to improve their area’s job situation, but as Vardaman notes, that’s easier said than done.

“I’m concerned that some candidates believe that if you simply do this of that, everything will change. That’s not the way it works,” he said.

District 4 challenger Larry Nichols said he has people willing to help attract jobs if elected. Nichols said he has a grant writer that has volunteered to work for him.

“He’ll show us how to write grants,” Nichols said. “He said he will not charge us anything.

Nichols added that he also has a secretary willing to help him attract companies.

“We’ve got to believe in ourselves and our community,” he said. “People are excited about my ideas, but we have to get people elected to get them done.”

Of course, no matter the amount of work, planning, infrastructure and government support a potential industry gets, it takes just a little more to bring them home.

“All of these factors, plus intentional recruiting efforts and even plain old dumb luck play into the success of attracting new businesses into the community,” Vardaman said.