Economic Efforts in our Service Area
Economic development can be challenging and very much a balancing act of attracting new businesses and/or industries while meeting the needs of existing business and industry. In addition to these challenges, smaller counties have limited resources and workforce. According to the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, the state of Alabama “has 46 of 67 counties in which more than 50 percent of the people live in a rural area.” For the next series of blogs, we are going to interview leaders in economic development in the counties we serve and that are home to our branches. Our first interview is with Mr. Nick Harrell who serves in Choctaw County. Our branches in Choctaw county are located in Pennington and Butler.
Title: Chief Industrial Development Officer at the Choctaw County Commission
In this capacity, he also serves as the Executive Director for the Choctaw County Chamber of Commerce.
How long have you been in your current role?
Just a little over one year as the Chief Industrial Development Officer and two half and years as the Executive Director of the Choctaw Chamber of Commerce
What do you like most about your current position?
I enjoy working with different people and business owners on a daily basis.
What are some challenges you face?
Choctaw county is a small rural county with a total population of 12993. In order to attract new industry, we have to fight extra hard. We have worked really hard to have a quality workforce and recently became the 4th county in the state to be recognized as an ACT Work Ready Community.
The goal of an ACT Work Ready Community certification is two-fold. The certification focuses on individuals earning an ACT® WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificate® which identifies individuals’ WorkKeys® skills in workplace documents, applied math, and graphic literacy. According to workreadycommunities.org, these skills are “required for 77 percent of jobs based on ACT JobPro database”. Secondly, the certification requires employers to recognize the ACT® WorkKeys® NCRC®.
What are some upcoming events or projects you can discuss?
We just received a grant to erect six welcome signs at entry points in the county. Additionally, we are working on a new marketing campaign for the county- Discover the True South. Choctaw county is and can be a destination for festivals, wildlife activities, and more. We are blessed with good people and workforce.
If you had a magic wand, what would be one thing you would do?
I would love to see the creation of an economic development regional network comprised of the following counties: Sumter, Marengo, Wilcox, Choctaw, Clarke, and Greene. This regional network would focus on attracting businesses and workforce development. These counties have very similar needs and by working together, we could accomplish so much more.
Thank you, Mr. Harrell, for all of your efforts in making Choctaw County a great place to work, live, and play! Stay tuned for our next economic development blog that will feature Sumter County, home of our new branch in Livingston.