Economic Summit addresses county growth

Published 4:45 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Moving forward as a county was the central theme as about 80-people gathered at the Chilton County Economic Summit on Tuesday at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center.

Moving forward as a county was the central theme as about 80-people gathered at the Chilton County Economic Summit on Tuesday at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center.

Moving forward as a county was the central theme as about 80 people gathered at the Chilton County Economic Summit on Tuesday at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center.

The Chilton County Industrial Development Board, the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce, Alabama Power, LeCroy Career Technology Center, and Central Alabama Electric Cooperative sponsored the event.

“The purpose of the conference is to tell everyone where we are as a county right now,” Chilton County Industrial Development Coordinator Fred Crawford said in his opening remarks Tuesday morning. “In a county this size, there are often a lot of rumors about certain things, and this will hopefully clear up some of the rumors. Now, we need to pull together and move forward.”

State and local government representatives, local businesses, industries and educators attended the seminar to learn different facts about helping Chilton County continue to grow and prosper.

Sheree Wilkerson, with Central Six Development Council, Region 4 of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, spoke about the need for educators to see what businesses and industries need.

“We need schools preparing students for jobs that are out there today as well as preparing them for the jobs of tomorrow,” Wilkerson said. “Preparing the kids coming out of high school and from the adult worker pool is important.”

Birmingham Business Alliance Vice-President of Business Retention and Expansion Mark Brown spoke about the “synergy” in Chilton County and getting individuals to think about various ways to grow the county.

“You want to make sure that Chilton County is a great place to live, work, play and learn,” Brown said. “Chilton County is a prime growth area.”

Tonya Lee with the Alabama Department of Labor Market Information Division presented a series of detailed charts filled with data regarding the county.

“Projections show that the population will go faster than job growth,” Lee said. “If employment increases in Chilton County over the next decade, the county has enough workers to fill those positions. The question that arises is does everyone that lives in Chilton County wish to work in Chilton County or do they choose to live there rather than in the metropolitan areas in which they work. From the data, kids will have the possibility to work in this county.”

A representative of Kumi Manufacturing Alabama LLC brought up the fact that many students who apply for job positions at the company often struggle showing up for work.

Lee said that students entering the workforce often struggle understanding being on time, the importance of appearance and how to adequately perform on an interview.

“I do know that more schools are starting to do tours of different industries and large manufacturing companies so the kids can understand what is expected of them,” Lee said. “Kids need the skills to handle the positions that are available to them.”

Secretary for the Chilton County Healthcare Authority Sibley Reynolds spoke about the topic, “Where in the health are we going?”

Reynolds spoke about a bill that was passed and approved by Gov. Robert Bentley allowing Chilton County residents to vote on a whether to enact a temporary 1-cent sales tax increase to fund the construction of a new hospital.

The referendum will appear on the June 3 Primary Election ballot.

Reynolds said Connie Bainbridge with Central Alabama Electric Cooperative paid for the Healthcare Authority to conduct a survey to ask Chilton County voters if they would support the sales tax.

“Roughly 80 percent of the people said they would support the 1-cent sales tax increase,” Reynolds said.

An individual in the crowd asked Reynolds what would happen if the vote were a “no” from Chilton County voters opposing the 1-cent sales tax.

“I am not planning on that,” Reynolds said. “The risk is too great for us to fail.”

Reynolds said he wanted to clear up some points of confusion including the 1-cent sales tax is a “temporary” tax, intended to last for four years.

“The tax is only for the hospital,” Reynolds said.

Billy Singleton with the Chilton County Airport Authority talked about the progress being made at the airport with several projects to be completed by the end of the summer.

“There is an old aviation adage that a mile of highway will take you a mile, but a mile of runway will take you anywhere,” Singleton said. “The airport is often the first contact a business person has with our county, and that first impression is very important.”

Singleton said roughly $2.5 million has been invested to resurface the airport’s runway, replace runway lighting and provide new markings as well as acquiring parcels of property.

“With every challenge comes opportunity, but with every opportunity comes responsibility,” Singleton said. “This will not be easy, but change never is. We hope the airport will serve the aviation needs of Chilton County and the state of Alabama.”

Crawford said later Tuesday that he was pleased with the first Economic Summit.

“The summit brought together industry, small business, education and other related people so we could listen to the points on where Chilton County is and the possibilities of taking it forward.”