An appropriate place to start

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 21, 2003

It may have been merely fortuitous that Gov. Bob Riley picked Huntsville to begin the big push for his $1.2 billion tax-and-accountability plan. If so, it was monumental serendipity.

Nothing should show Alabamians the importance of investment - which is at the core of Riley's proposal - than the success story of Huntsville and much of north Alabama.

Geographically, there's not much to separate Huntsville from many other parts of a state where farming once provided the bulk of employment. While cotton or other crops were king in Dixie, for many years this county's agricultural fortunes were linked as much to watercress as anything else.

Then came the post-World War II space industry, that, coupled with the growth of Redstone Arsenal, brought more jobs to the area. Both space and military employment was powered, of course, by federal investment.

For the last quarter-century, each of those industries has grown, but Huntsville hasn't

ignored the lesson that investment now more than pays for itself in the future. The city has focused on quality public education, and its efforts have paid off.

Education plus a wise attempt to diversify and to recruit industry not specifically related to space or the military has provided not only opportunity during robust economic times but a buffer against recession. The key, as it always is where growth is involved, has been investment.

And because of Huntsville's willingness to pay for public education and infrastructure, it

hasn't been the only beneficiary. The city of Madison and most areas of Madison County have benefited from the winds of good fortune that we have directed our way.

Other areas of Alabama often look at Huntsville with envy, but the simple truth is that a

determination to invest in the future is all it really takes to begin the journey toward


It's that kind of thinking - an optimism that tomorrow can be better - that underpins Riley's proposal.

We're not going to just plug the $675 million shortfall in next year's budget, Riley told his Huntsville audiences. No, Alabama can make government more efficient and more

accountable. It can improve public education throughout the state to the point that

industries seeking highly skilled and highly trainable workers will be beating down our door to come.

The Huntsville Times

July 20, 2003