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.

 

Economic Efforts in our Service Area- Sumter County

In continuing our series of economic development in our service area, our next blog features Sumter County. We are excited to be adding a new branch in Livingston located  in Sumter County. We enjoyed our interview with Dr. Tina Jones and Mrs. Allison Brantley who both work in economic, workforce and community development.

Name: Dr. Tina Jones

Title: Vice President of the Division of Economic and Workforce Development at the University of West Alabama

Name: Mrs. Allison Brantley

Title: Director of Economic Development in the Division of Economic and Workforce Development at the University of West Alabama

How long have you been in your current roles?

Dr. Tina Jones- This is my 26th year at the University of West Alabama, and I have been in community outreach for 20 years.

Mrs. Allison Brantley- I have been with the University of West Alabama and the Division for 3 years and active in economic development in Sumter County for almost 10 years.

What do you like most about your position?

Dr. Tina Jones- I enjoy helping others leverage assets in our region to the benefit of everyone.

Mrs. Allison Brantley- I enjoy the people I work with and the contacts I’ve made. I also enjoy the innovative projects and programs we are involved in which allows us to do something different every day.

What are some challenges you face?

Dr. Tina Jones- Communication and helping people understand how to best use their resources and build capacity.

Mrs. Allison Brantley- Human capital; since we are a smaller county, people have to wear multiple hats in community efforts.

What are some upcoming projects you can discuss?

Dr. Tina Jones- The State of the Community Breakfast, a Sumter Renaissance event, is coming up on January 31. The Sumter Renaissance was developed from the Sumter County Economic Development Leadership Academy, a partnership comprised of community members, leaders, and the chamber of commerce. Livingston Alive, the downtown revitalization program, is in progress and also emerged from the Sumter Renaissance plan.

Mrs. Allison Brantley- A new economic development website for Sumter County will be launched in March. Additionally, vendor applications are being accepted for the Sucarnochee Folklife Festival scheduled for April 20. Leadership Sumter is also in full swing for 2019. For more information on upcoming events, be sure to like the Division of Economic and Workforce Development’s Facebook page.

If you had a magic wand, what would be one thing you would do?

Dr. Tina Jones- All citizens would have access to everything they need to live the life they want to live. We would no longer have issues with access to transportation and healthcare.

Mrs. Allison Brantley- Additionally, there would be a broadband infrastructure to allow the community better access to the internet.

Thank you, Dr. Tina Jones and Mrs. Allison Brantley, for all that you do to make Sumter County a special place. We are excited about our new branch in Livingston! Both Dr. Tina Jones and Mrs. Allison Brantley mentioned how much they appreciate the community’s support and added, “economic and community development would not be possible without our citizens’ support.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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