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Cabinet officials visit Andalusia

Gov. Don Siegelman sent top Cabinet officials to Andalusia Tuesday to discuss economic development and workforce training issues with local elected and business leaders.

Mayor Earl Johnson and Tucson Roberts met with the Governor's Chief of Staff Jim Buckalew, Alabama Development Office (ADO) Director Todd Strange, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Anne Payne, Alabama and the Governor's Policy Director Nick Sellers.

Nexton Marshall, Director of ADO's Center for Economic Growth, and Dusty Brown of Alabama Industrial Development Training also participated in the meetings.

"Our continued growth and prosperity depend on creating quality, high-paying jobs for Alabama families and improving education to make sure our outstanding workforce remains competitive," Siegelman said. "We've sent our team to ensure that communities like Andalusia do everything they can to put their best foot forward to recruit new jobs and expand existing industry."

Members of Siegelman's Cabinet and other administration officials discussed details of the regional approach to economic development in Alabama with Andalusia officials and highlighted ways that south Alabama can better compete for the expansion of existing industry and recruit new jobs and industries. They had high praise of Andalusia's approach to recruiting industry, by looking at a regional overview instead of focusing on the city alone.

"If you think about what you guys have got, the area, work force, infrastructure, quality of life – you're right o target with your focus," said Buckalew. "You are absolutely moving in the right direction."

The group also praised Andalusia for taking the initiative in the Fast Track Program., an approach to education that allows high school students to graduate not only with a diploma, but certified in some technical area as well.

"That's one of the reasons why we're here," said Buckalew. "The way you've married up your educational system is outstanding."

The Cabinet members asked Roberts and Johnson if they would be willing to share their approaches with other economic development boards.

The team also discussed the Alabama Commerce Commission (ACC), created by Siegelman through executive order in April 1999 with the mission of developing a long-range strategic plan to best coordinate the economic resources of the state. ACC research indicates that suburban and metropolitan areas in Alabama are thriving economically, while smaller, more rural areas are struggling.

To address this problem and promote a coordinated statewide approach to economic development by local, state and federal agencies, the state has been divided into eight economic development regions. The team stressed the importance of ten economic development infrastructure criteria, or "steps to success": education; roads and bridges; regional airport; industrial parks; workforce capability; child care and health care; technological capability; local support and planning; and media and public relations.

Johnson and Roberts gave a "sample" recruitment visual presentation designed to lure automotive manufacturers, but Johnson stated that the presentation

could be adapted for almost any industry.

They then gave the visitors a "windshield tour" of the city, focusing on several industry-ready buildings now available.