Prepare Selma for something more

Published 12:35 am Sunday, July 19, 2009

On Friday a good many people gathered at Carter Drug Co. to celebrate its new look. The folks at the store have revamped the inside and remodeled. The job is well done.

The folks at Carter have invested in downtown quite literally by spending thousands of dollars to make their establishment more attractive. That kind of investment in Selma creates an atmosphere of stability in the city.

At the same time a crowd snipped the celebratory ribbon at Carter, workers at the Sonic Drive-in, 2407 N. Broad St., began nailing boards over the windows and doors of that establishment. Those workers pulled up the ordering stations with speakers and took down the sign.

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Nobody with Sonic, corporate in Oklahoma or Mark Welch, the Columbus, Miss.-based owner, would respond to telephone calls from this newspaper to talk about what happened. Nobody said anything to any officials or economic development folks.

But this move by Sonic overshadowed the good news of Carter, partially because of the Sonic mystery and partially because a popular restaurant closed.

The move by Sonic also has some people talking about the demise of Selma. If Sonic leaves, the rest of the city can’t be far behind, they reason.

Those same people did not say a word about Carter Drug Co.’s improvements. Those people did not talk about the construction going on all over the city. And all they have to do is drive around to see what is happening.

There’s work going on at the First Baptist Church and at the National Voting Rights Museum downtown. The Selma City School Board has already filed notice with the state Department of Education it seeks $20 million to rehabilitate Selma High School or build a new structure.

Some construction is under way at the backside of Houston Park. It’s a bet those are new houses that will go on the market soon.

And down by the Alabama River on the far end of Water Avenue just a stone’s throw from the Old Depot Museum, workers have begun to clear the way for the first phase of a Riverfront Park project.

We have seen some pretty hard times in the last year, as have cities all over the nation. This weekend only about half the governors of U.S. states showed up in Biloxi, Miss. for the National Governors Conference. Those no-shows said tight state budgets prevented their attendance.

We’re not alone in this recession. We have built our security on manufacturing as have many southern cities. The northern manufacturers have loved us here in the South because we don’t have the unions or the other baggage that come with the home plants up north.

Part of our problem is we depend too much on manufacturing to boost our employment figures. We need to take this recession time as a period of rebirth. The Kiplinger Business Resource Center recently published an article about U.S. manufacturing. The article, written by Jerome Idaszak, the associated editor of “The Kiplinger Letter,” predicts that manufacturing output will return by 1012, but many of the jobs won’t.

Idaszak says about 66 percent of the 2 million jobs lost since January 2008 will come back by 2013. However, many in the automaking or those secondary to autos, housing, textiles, plastics, fabricated metals, furniture and appliances are in their last phases here because of automation and cheaper labor somewhere else in the world.

Instead of looking at these predictions as doom, we need to adjust our focus and use this time to prepare to present ourselves in Selma as something more.