Good economic news, near disasters top local stories

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 1, 2006

Staff Reports

The past year saw some big announcements, as well as some sad good-byes for Selma and Dallas County. Here are a few of the top newsmaking items from 2005.

The economy was big news in Selma this past year. Early in the year plans were announced that Lockheed-Martin was seeking a contract with the U.S. Air Force for an In Flight Training program. The project would bring about 330 jobs to the area as Craig Field would once again be training pilots – 1,300 to 1,700 annually.

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Lockheed-Martin was in the running for the contract against Boeing, which would take the training to Midland, Texas. At year’s end, no announcement had been made.

A big business announcement was made in August when it was announced that a Tier 1 Hyundai supplier would locate in the old American Candy Building at Craig Field Industrial Park. Hanil E-HWA Interior Systems Company, out of Korea, announced plans to bring their supplier to the area, and along with it and estimated 240 jobs and a $38 million capital investment.

Construction on the new YMCA facility on Medical Center Parkway got underway about mid-way through the year. The $5 million state-of-the-art complex will house an indoor aquatic center, outdoor family courtyard, gym, resource center, and more. The facility is expected to be open in spring 2006.

On July 29, an early morning fire destroyed the Welcome Center at Old Cahawba. It is believed that a lightning strike caused the blaze, which burned for some time before it was discovered.

Two road projects got big boosts from the federal government. In August it was announced that the I-85 extension would get $100 million in funding, while the Ala. Highway 80 project would receive $11 million.

Hurricane Katrina was the big story of 2005 for much of the nation. Selma and Dallas County residents prepared for the storm, not knowing exactly what to expect. County, city and private schools were closed on Aug. 29 as the storm made landfall at the Mississippi/Louisiana state line.

Winds gusts of 55 to 60 mph were reported and the area received about 3 to 4 inches of rain, but only a handful of minor problems were caused by the storm.

The real story came after the storm, with evacuees finding shelter and help in Selma.

Rising gas prices were also a nationwide story, with prices peaking at around $3 a gallon before dropping again.

Richard Scrushy, former CEO of Healthsouth, was found not guilty in June. The Selma native had faced 36 charges that he inflated earnings of the Birmingham-based business.

Former Mayor Joe Smitherman died Sept. 11, 2005. Smitherman held office for decades during the turbulent civil rights era. He was 75. Smitherman had suffered from a heart condition and had hip surgery after a fall at his home. A former appliance salesman, Smitherman was a 34-year-old city councilman when first elected mayor in 1964 as a segregationist.

Like his friend and mentor, the late Alabama Gov. George Wallace, Smitherman eventually apologized for his segregationist past and in later years openly campaigned for black votes. He bragged that he appointed nine black department heads, including a black police chief.

He was defeated in 2000 by James Perkins, an information technology consultant who became the city’s first black mayor. By that time, black voters made up at least 65 percent of Selma’s electorate.

The Morgan Academy Senators won the AISA Class AAA state championship in November in a tight game, 7-6, over Bessemer Academy. For the second time in three years, the black map and golden football have found their way back to Selma.