Economic change calls for attitude change

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2003

"Where is ours?"

That's a question I've been hearing a lot lately.

"I heard Greenville's getting another 250 – 300 jobs. What do you know about that?"

And the truth is, I give them the answer I've been given.

I simply tell them, "We're too far away. The companies have drawn a line in the sand and they're sticking to it."

It's not the answer the people want to hear, but it's literally the only answer I can give them.

I don't want to give them that answer, but it's the only truthful answer I have.

Their response is, "Well, what can we do? Isn't anybody working to try and bring some of those jobs here? Come on, that's Greenville! Even Hayneville and Lowndesboro are getting new jobs, and they're no where close to being as nice or prepared as we are!"

Sadly, I have to agree with them.

When I returned to Covington County almost a year ago, I came back with the hopes that I would be able to help initiate change and growth in this area. I had been away to the big city of Birmingham. I was living at the time in Alexander City - a place that had been so dependent on one industry that was downsizing at such a great scale that the entire town was destitute and wondering who would be next.

I returned knowing the potential of Covington County was so great for growth, that I just had to be in on it.

And now, seeing all of the growth going elsewhere, well, it really just bothers me as much as it does Joe and Sally Citizen.

On a personal level, I know we have a group of people who work very hard to recruit new business and industry to Covington County. I also know that oftentimes, the fruits of their labors simply fall off the tree and rot like an apple infested with worms.

I also know, as much as I hate to admit it, there are things in Covington County holding us back from getting new businesses and industry.

We're not located on an interstate. Our population base isn't big enough to support a lot of "high-tech" industry or newer manufacturing industry.

I say that's a bunch of rotten apples if I've ever smelled any.

The truth of the matter is, we need serious mental changes in Covington County if we're ever going to get anywhere beyond being a little bedroom community content with the status quo.

Change is inevitable, and Covington County has fought change for far too long.

I remember as a little boy, growing up in Andalusia, how everyone was just as happy and joyful that everyone was working at the Alatex or Andala, and a lot of the men were working offshore in the oil fields.

Remember that time? It wasn't that long ago. It was in the late 70s and early 80s. I know this well because my family was one of those families.

Remember what happened?

The oil fields started shutting down and the sewing industry went to pot.

Andalusia was fortunate. Amoco Fabrics and Fibers decided to build a plant here, and that saved a lot of people from a lot more heartache.

I also remember the fact that Andalusia was much bigger then. Our population rivaled Enterprise and Dothan instead of Daleville and Evergreen like it does now.

At the time, I didn't understand what was happening. Now that I'm older - I know what happened.

Andalusia was too dependent on one particular industry.

But it wasn't just Andalusia. It was other places in Alabama as well. Now, those places are experiencing growth, but Andalusia and Covington County are just sitting still.

We have the resources, and I don't subscribe to the lack of interstate theory.

It takes work - and lots of it. It takes patience - and even more patience.

But, above all, it takes the will to go forth and initiate the change necessary to get the growth. If the people of Covington County will start working together and work to initiate that growth, then maybe, our elected leaders and hired economic officials will start making more and stronger pitches for Covington County. And maybe they will quit subscribing to the "we don't have an interstate theory," because that's simply not a valid statement. Dothan doesn't have an interstate. It's probably getting one, but, when it experienced all its growth, it didn't. Remember, there was a time when there wasn't an interstate system.

Who knows, maybe next time somebody on the street asks me about Greenville getting a new industry, I can say, "Yes, but did you know that we're getting three new industries that will bring 100 jobs a piece?"

It's time to wake up. Make the call to your elected and economic officials. Tell them you're not buying the "no-interstate" theory and you want to see some growth.

The only question is, are you ready for change so we can all prosper from it?