EDA salutes industry achievements

Published 7:20 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Industry leaders in Selma and Dallas County were saluted Tuesday night by the Economic Development Authority.

The EDA hosted a dinner thanking them for what they do in the community at Henry Brick’s Tree Top Lodge.

“We’re celebrating our existing industry because these people invest in our programs and not only that, they’re investing in Selma more importantly, “said Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the EDA. “These are the people that are hiring the majority.”

International Paper, Vaughan Regional Medical Center, Henry Brick and dozens of other businesses were represented. Before dinner was served from Blue Spoon Cooking Company from Camden, Vardaman spoke briefly about a retail development study that was announced Monday.

In a partnership with the city of Selma, the EDA has entered a contract with NextSite to study the city’s retail environment and possibly recruit new retailers to the area. Vardaman said retail isn’t something they do, but it plays a factor into retaining and recruiting industry here.

“The reason we did that is because quality of life. We realize that quality of life is real important to us to continue to recruit industry and retain what we have,” he said. “Retail is not part [of what we do], but if you start thinking about it, if we don’t have the quality of life … it makes it very difficult to do the others.”

Vardaman said the EDA felt good about the decision.

“It needed to be done, it was the right thing to do and we needed to step up and do that,” Vardaman said.

Vardaman also talked about International Paper announcing a $300 million investment in its Riverdale Mill. The announcement was made last month, and the investment will convert one of its two paper machines.

“I just can’t tell you what a big sigh of relief I had when they made that announcement,” Vardaman said.

Vardaman said it is a sign of confidence in the community and that International Paper is here to stay in Dallas County.

As everyone ate and mingled around, Vardaman said the people inside the lodge represent between 4,000 to 5,000 jobs in Selma and Dallas County.

“They are the backbone of what we do. It’s all about relationships, and any time we can enhance our relationships with these people it helps us and it helps them,” Vardaman said. “It’s just a token of our appreciation just to salute them and thank them.”

Vardaman said the EDA has spent a lot of time this year working on workforce development, which is a big part of what they do.

“Workforce development is an issue across the United States and an issue across all of Alabama,” Vardaman said. “It’s going to take us a while … but if you don’t do it now, you’ll just be that much further behind.”

The EDA recently donated $4,000 to Wallace Community College Selma to help in that effort. Vardaman said the money will be used to support existing training programs at the school and prepare graduates for the workforce.