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Learning economic lessons

If there's one thing I've learned in my time as a newspaper reporter and even more so as an editor, it's that sometimes, your opinion gets misconstrued or taken out of proportion.

Sometimes, that skewing is of one's on doing, as was the case for me last week.

I wrote an opinion, not a news article, about economic development in Covington County. One simple phrase in that opinion piece skewed the whole meaning into a negative context for not just myself, but for others.

While I'm not always 100 percent informed about everything I have an opinion on, I do make sure I know enough about a subject before I tackle it and voice my opinion. Because, afterall, an opinion is just that, it's not always fact on top of fact. It should be fact-based, but an opinion is one's belief.

I have received a lot of comment regarding last week's opinion piece - fortunately it's been mostly positive, but there has been some negative. It comes with the territory.

However, I did learn a valuable lesson: "Watch the way you phrase something, it could change the entire tone of a conversation."

After talking with numerous economic officials in Covington County over the past week, I have discovered some very interesting facts.

Fact 1: Covington County has some very dedicated individuals working behind the scenes to bring new business and industry into our county. These men and women do everything they can to recruit jobs for Covington County. They're working together, and most of them don't like to be out front in the spotlight.

Fact 2: In the past year, Covington County has replaced many of the jobs it lost in the textile industry with new, better-paying, diverse jobs. I've always maintained that a diverse economy with several smaller businesses is better than an economy saturated with one dominant industry employing hundreds or thousands of people. It's called being "recession-proof." That simply means its easier for a community to bear the loss of 20 jobs than 200 - and easier for those jobs to be replaced much quicker. A discussion with one local economic official, Tucson Roberts, confirmed this fact and provided me with the statistics to prove the replacement of several lost textile jobs.

Fact 3: There is new industry on its way. Although I don't know all of the details, I can report that there are negotiations underway with major industries and smaller businesses for possible location in Andalusia and Covington County. Some of these negotiations are very sensitive, and shouldn't be discussed in open forums for the time being. I understand that and would never do anything to hinder the possible location of jobs to this county.

Fact 4: There are legitimate questions with legitimate answers regarding why other towns have been making boastful announcements about getting this and that; and why we haven't. The simple answer is geography, but there is much more to it than that. Covington County doesn't want or need all its eggs in one basket. It wants the jobs that will be here for good. It wants the businesses and industries that will be good neighbors. Our economic officials want the people to be proud of the work they do and they jobs they fill.

Now, you may ask what you can do, as a citizen, to help our economic officials bring new businesses to Andalusia, Opp, Florala, all of Covington County.

The simple, factual truth is this: Put your best foot forward. Show all the charm and grace of manners and pride we have into welcoming each other and visitors. We just never know when that stranger passing through could be the next Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.