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Alabama Retail Association PACs Make Initial 2014 Endorsements

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, April 10, 2014 the Alabama RetailPAC, the Alabama Retail Association’s State political action committee, made its first major endorsements in advance of the 2014 campaign cycle. Included on this list are statewide judicial candidates previously endorsed in November of 2013.

Alabama Retail Chairman George Wilder said, “The Alabama Retail Association believes these candidates understand the issues retailers face and that, if elected, these individuals will give retailers’ interests a fair hearing.

Alabama Retail President Rick Brown said, “We are confident these candidates are the best choices for these positions.”  The Retail Association said in their statement that they closely evaluate each candidate’s record and discusses the ramifications of each race before granting its endorsement.

Much like the powerful Business Council of Alabama (BCA), the RetailPAC appears satisfied with the current Republican dominated leadership and is endorsing almost all of that leadership.

For the state’s constitutional offices, RetailPAC endorsed: incumbent Gov. Robert Bentley (R), incumbent Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R), incumbent Attorney General Luther Strange (R), Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan (R), incumbent State Treasurer Young Boozer (R), and Public Service Commissioner Place 1 Jeremy Oden (R).

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey said, “Alabama retailers are an important part of the fabric that holds this state together. Their investments in our communities is the cornerstone of the economic engine that helps improve the quality of life in Alabama. I am honored and very proud to receive their endorsement.”

The only incumbent state wide office holder that RetailPAC refused to endorse is PSC Place 2 Commissioner Terry Dunn (R).  For that office RetailPAC endorsed Chip Beeker (R).

On Monday, April 14 Chip Beeker said in a statement,

“Last week, I was honored to receive the endorsement of Alabama Retail PAC, the political action committee of the Alabama Retail Association.  This group is made up of over 4,000 independent merchant and national company members that sell food, clothing, furniture and other general merchandise at more than 6,000 locations throughout Alabama.  My message of protecting consumers, job creation, improving our economy and pushing back against the overreach of the federal government is resonating across the state.  I truly appreciate the Alabama Retail Association for recognizing my commitment to conservative, pro-business values.  I am grateful for their support.”

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In the two Statewide constitutional offices where no incumbents were on the ballot RetailPAC endorsed for Secretary of State: Rep. John Merrill, (R) from Tuscaloosa and for State Auditor: current Alabama Secretary of State Deputy Chief of Staff Adam Thompson (R).

The Alabama Retail Association PAC endorses all the current federal incumbents on the ballot: U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R), 1st District U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R) from Montrose, 2nd District U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery, 3rd District U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R) from Saks, 4th District U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R) from Haleyville, 5th District U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R) from Huntsville, and 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D) from Birmingham.

In the open 6th District the group has endorsed: State Rep. Paul DeMarco (R) from Homewood.

For the appellate court races, RetailPAC endorses these unopposed incumbents:

◾Place 1 Associate Supreme Court Justice Greg Shaw

◾Place 1 Court of Civil Appeals Judge William C. “Bill” Thompson

◾Place 2 Court of Civil Appeals Judge Scott Donaldson

◾Place 1 Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Mary B. Windom

◾Place 2 Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Beth Kellum

For the Alabama Senate, RetailPAC endorses:

◾District 2: Incumbent Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison

◾District 3: Incumbent Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur*

◾District 4: Incumbent Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman

◾District 5: Incumbent Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper*

◾District 6: Incumbent Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville

◾District 7: Incumbent Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville

◾District 8: Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro

◾District 9: Incumbent Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville*

◾District 10: Incumbent Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City

◾District 12: Incumbent Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston

◾District 13: Incumbent Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville

◾District 14: Incumbent Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster*

◾District 15: Incumbent Sen. Slade Blackwell, R-Birmingham*

◾District 16: Incumbent Sen. J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills

◾District 18: Incumbent Sen. Rodger M. Smitherman, D-Birmingham*

◾District 19: Incumbent Sen. Priscilla Dunn, D-Bessemer*

◾District 20: Incumbent Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham

◾District 21: Incumbent Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa

◾District 24: Incumbent Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro*

◾District 25: Incumbent Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery*

◾District 26: Incumbent Sen. Quinton T. Ross Jr., D-Montgomery*

◾District 27: Incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn

◾District 28: Incumbent Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton*

◾District 30: Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville

◾District 31: Incumbent Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba

◾District 32: Incumbent Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne *

◾District 33: Incumbent Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile*

◾District 34: Incumbent Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes*

◾District 35: Incumbent Sen. Bill Hightower, R-Mobile

*Unopposed at this time

For the Alabama House of Representatives, RetailPAC endorses:

◾District 1 Incumbent Rep. Greg Burdine, D-Florence

◾District 2 Incumbent Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville

◾District 3 Incumbent Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia

◾District 4 Incumbent Rep. Micky R. Hammon, R-Decatur*

◾District 5 Incumbent Rep. Dan Williams, R-Athens

◾District 6 Incumbent Rep. Phil Williams, R-Huntsville*

◾District 7 Incumbent Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton

◾District 8 Incumbent Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur

◾District 9 Incumbent Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle

◾District 10 Incumbent Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison*

◾District 11 Incumbent Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Cullman*

◾District 12 Incumbent Rep. Mac Buttram, R-Cullman

◾District 13 Incumbent Rep. Bill Roberts, R-Jasper

◾District 14 Incumbent Rep. Richard Baughn, R-Lynn

◾District 15 Incumbent Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla*

◾District 16 Kyle South, R-Fayette

◾District 17 Incumbent Rep. Mike Millican, R-Hamilton

◾District 18 Incumbent Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay

◾District 19 Incumbent Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville*

◾District 20 Incumbent Rep. Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville*

◾District 21 Incumbent Rep. Jim Patterson, R-Meridianville

◾District 22 Incumbent Rep. Wayne Johnson, R-Ryland

◾District 23 Incumbent Rep. John Robinson, D-Scottsboro

◾District 24 Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville

◾District 25 Incumbent Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Capshaw*

◾District 26 Incumbent Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville

◾District 27 William Ainsworth, R-Guntersville

◾District 28 Incumbent Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden

◾District 29 Incumbent Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden

◾District 31 Incumbent Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka*

◾District 32 Incumbent Rep. Barbara Bigsby Boyd, D-Anniston*

◾District 33 Incumbent Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga

◾District 34 Incumbent Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden*

◾District 35 Steve Dean, R-Munford

◾District 36 Incumbent Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston*

◾District 37 Bryant Whaley, R-Rock Mills

◾District 38 Randy Price, R-Opelika

◾District 39 Incumbent Rep. Richard J. Lindsey, D-Centre

◾District 40 Incumbent Rep. Koven L. Brown, R-Jacksonville

◾District 41 Incumbent Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana*

◾District 42 Incumbent Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville

◾District 43 Dr. Doug Clark, R-Hoover

◾District 45 Incumbent Rep. Richard “Dickie” Drake, R-Leeds*

◾District 47 Incumbent Rep. Jack Williams, R-Birmingham

◾District 48 Incumbent Rep. Jim Carns, R-Birmingham*

◾District 49 Incumbent Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield*

◾District 51 Incumbent Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris*

◾District 52 Incumbent Rep. John Rogers Jr., D-Birmingham

◾District 53 Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville

◾District 54 Incumbent Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham

◾District 55 Incumbent Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield

◾District 57 Incumbent Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans, D-Birmingham*

◾District 58 Incumbent Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham*

◾District 59 Incumbent Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham

◾District 60 Incumbent Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham

◾District 61 Incumbent Rep. Alan Harper, R-Aliceville

◾District 62 Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa

◾District 63 Incumbent Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa*

◾District 64 Incumbent Rep. Harry Shiver, R-Bay Minette

◾District 65 Incumbent Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatom *

◾District 66 Incumbent Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton*

◾District 68 Incumbent Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville*

◾District 69 Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville

◾District 70 Incumbent Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa*

◾District 71 Incumbent Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston

◾District 72 Incumbent Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro

◾District 73 Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo

◾District 74 Incumbent Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery

◾District 75 Reed Ingram, R-Montgomery

◾District 79 Incumbent Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn

◾District 80 Incumbent Rep. Lesley Vance, R-Phenix City

◾District 81 Incumbent Rep. Mark Tuggle, R-Alexander City

◾District 82 Incumbent Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee*

◾District 84 Incumbent Rep. Berry Forte, D-Eufaula

◾District 86 Incumbent Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan*

◾District 87 Incumbent Rep. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva*

◾District 88 Incumbent Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville*

◾District 89 Incumbent Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy

◾District 90 Incumbent Rep. Charles Newton, R-Greenville

◾District 91 Incumbent Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise

◾District 92 Incumbent Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia*

◾District 93 Incumbent Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark

◾District 94 Incumbent Rep. Teddy “Joe” Faust, R-Fairhope*

◾District 95 Incumbent Rep. Steve McMillian, R-Bay Minette*

◾District 96 Incumbent Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne*

◾District 97 Incumbent Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile*

◾District 98 Incumbent Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard

◾District 99 Incumbent Rep. James Buskey, D-Mobile

◾District 100 Incumbent Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile*

◾District 101 Chris Pringle, R-Mobile

◾District 102 Jack Williams, R-Wilmer

◾District 104 Incumbent Rep. Margie Wilcox, R-Mobile*

◾District 105 Incumbent Rep. David Sessions, R- Grand Bay*

The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the State of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. The group has 4,000 independent merchant and national company members that sell food, clothing, furniture and other general merchandise at more than 6,000 locations throughout Alabama. The Alabama Retail has promoted the retailing industry in Alabama since 1943.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Health

Three mental health crisis centers coming to Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville

“Today marks a culture change in Alabama for treatment of individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders,” Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey Press held a press conference with Alabama Dept. of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear for the announcement of Crisis Center Awards Wednesday, October 28, 2020 in Montgomery, Ala. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced an $18 million project to create three new mental health crisis centers to be located in Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville. 

These centers, once in operation, will reduce the number of people suffering from mental health crises who are hospitalized or jailed, Ivey said during a press briefing in front of the Capitol Building in Montgomery. 

“When these facilities are open and fully staffed, these centers will become a safe haven for people facing mental health challenges,” Ivey said. 

Lynn Beshear, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, said during the briefing that the centers will provide “recovery based” care with “short term stays of a few hours, or up to a few days, to provide treatment, support, and connection to care in the community.” 

“Today marks a culture change in Alabama for treatment of individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders,” Beshear said. 

Beshear said AltaPointe Health in Mobile will operate one of the three facilities, and once built it is to serve Mobile, Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Monroe and Washington counties with 21 new beds, including 15 temporary observation beds. Altapointe will begin with a temporary space while constructing the new facilities, she said. 

Beshear said the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority is partnering with the East Alabama Mental Health Authority and the Central Alabama Mental Health Authority to serve the 11 counties in Region 3 with 21 new beds, including 10 temporary observation and respite beds. 

“The regional crisis center will be located in Montgomery, and will be open to walk-ins and for drop off by law enforcement, first responders and referrals from emergency rooms,” Beshear said. 

Wellstone Behavioral Health in Huntsville was selected to open the third center, and will do so at a temporary site while a new facility is being built, with the help of an additional $2.1 million from local governments, Beshear said. That facility will eventually have 39 beds, including 15 for temporary observation and 24 for extended observation.

“There’s not a day that goes by that after-hours care is not an issue in our state,” said Jeremy Blair, CEO of Wellstone Behavioral Health, speaking at the press conference. “And so I applaud the Department of Mental Health and the leaders for their efforts in recognizing that and taking it a step further and funding our efforts here.” 

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Asked by a reporter why a center wasn’t located in Jefferson County, one of the most populous counties with a great need for such a center, Ivey said those residents will be served in one of the other regions. 

“Plans are underway to continue this effort. Today’s beginning, with these three crisis centers, is just the beginning,” Ivey said. 

Ivey added that request for proposals were sent out for these three centers and “it was a strong competition for the location of these three crisis centers.” 

Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said during the briefing that more than a year ago, Ivey asked him what the state should be looking at, and that he replied “we’re failing miserably in mental health.”

Gov. Kay Ivey Press held a press conference with Alabama Dept. of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear and House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter for the announcement of Crisis Center Awards Wednesday, October 28, 2020 in Montgomery, Ala. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

Ledbetter said Ivey asked him to take on the challenge of correcting the state’s response to mental health, and a team was created to do just that. 

“Working together, today’s announcement will not only change Alabamians lives, but will help to save lives,” Ledbetter said.

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Health

Ainsworth returns to work after testing positive for COVID

Ainsworth’s office on Sept. 21 announced he had tested positive earlier that week, having been tested after someone in his Sunday school class tested positive for the disease. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth speaks during a video message. (LT. GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth on Wednesday announced that he was returning to work that day and had met public health requirements for quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19 some time last week.

Ainsworth’s office on Sept. 21 announced he had tested positive earlier that week, having been tested after someone in his Sunday school class tested positive for the disease. 

“While many have battled with coronavirus, my symptoms never progressed beyond some mild congestion that I usually experience with seasonal allergies,” Ainsworth said in a statement. “During the quarantine period, I participated in several Zoom calls, caught up on some office work, spent some quality time with my family, and completed a number of overdue projects on my farm.”

Members of Ainsworth’s staff who were in close contact with him haven’t tested positive for COVID-19 but will remain in quarantine for a full 14-day period as a precaution, according to a press release from Ainsworth’s office Wednesday. 

“Ainsworth once again urges all Alabamians to practice personal responsibility, which may include wearing masks, maintaining social distancing whenever possible, and taking other precautions to lessen chances of exposure to COVID-19,” the press release states.

Ainsworth still disagrees with Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask mandate, he said. According to the release, he considers such orders “a one-size-fits-all governmental overreach that erodes basic freedoms and liberties while removing an individual’s right to make their own health-related choices.” 

The wearing of cloth or medical masks has been proven to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 and the more people who wear masks, the better. While not perfect, masks limit the spread of respiratory droplets that may contain infectious virus shed from the nose and mouth of the mask wearer.

It is possible — even likely — for symptomatic, pre-symptomatic and mildly symptomatic people to spread the virus. That’s why it’s important to wear a mask even when you’re not sick.

Cloth masks offer only minimal protection from others who are not masked, meaning that masks are not simply a matter of personal safety but safety of others. Masks are also only effective when worn over both the mouth and the nose. [Here’s a guide on how to wear masks properly.]

VIA UAB

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Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told Ivey after she announced the statewide mask order that it was a “brilliant” idea. The order has been credited by Alabama infectious disease experts as having dramatically reduced the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the weeks after the order went into effect. 

Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told APR on Tuesday that from personal observation he is seeing more people not wearing masks, or wearing them improperly, and said the state could dramatically reduce the risk of COVID-19 if the public regularly wore masks and wore them properly.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Alabama on Monday crossed the 1,000 mark for the first time since Aug. 31 — a sign that Alabama may be headed for another peak in hospitalizations as the state prepares for winter and flu season.

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Elections

Faith in Action Alabama calls on law enforcement to protect voters from harassment

“In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.”

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Nine clergy members from across the state have signed an open letter calling on local and state law enforcement to protect voters against intimidation and harassment at the polls.

The clergy are leaders in Faith in Action Alabama, a regional association of Christian congregations affiliated with the national group Faith in Action, the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the country. It seeks to address a range of issues like gun violence, health care, immigration and voting rights.

This is their letter:

Across our country and here in Alabama, it is being seen that citizens are turning out in record numbers to vote early and by absentee ballots. It is very heartening to see so many of our fellow citizens energized and committed to exercising that most fundamental and critical duty of citizenship, the use of their franchise.  As servant leaders of an ecumenical association of nearly 2,000 faith communities across our state we are certainly encouraging our congregants to fulfill this duty either through early, absentee or day of election voting. For us this is not only part of our civic duty, but as people of faith obligation as well.

Unfortunately, it it also largely known that there are forces in our country that are actively, publicly and fervently at work to suppress the votes of some of our fellow citizens. We write to implore you to use the full authority of your office and department to ensure that those who seek to vote, especially on November 3, 2020 are not assailed or intimidated by illegal harassment in their polling places. We believe these threats are pervasive enough and real enough that proactive measures should be in place as citizens come to vote throughout that day. The strong, visible presence of uniformed legitimate law officers will hopefully prevent any attempts at confrontation or intimidation and violence.

The history of our state is marked by the efforts of tens of thousands of Alabamians who marched, protested, brought legal actions, shed their blood and some even gave their lives that every citizen of this state might have full and free access to the ballot box. In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.

Please be assured of our prayers for you and the men and women of your department who have the awesome responsibility of providing public safety and equal protection under the law for every Alabamian. If we, the members of Faith in Action Alabama’s Clergy Leadership Team, can be of assistance please do not hesitate to call upon us.

Sincerely,

Rev. Jeremiah Chester, St. Mark Baptist Church, Huntsville

Rev. David Frazier, Sr., Revelation Missionary Baptist Church, Mobile, and Moderator, Mobile Baptist Sunlight Association

Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Bishop Russell Kendrick, Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

Bishop Seth O. Lartey, Alabama-Florida Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

President Melvin Owens, Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention

Bishop Harry L. Seawright, Ninth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Dr. A.B. Sutton, Jr., Living Stones Temple, Fultondale

Father Manuel Williams, C.R., Resurrection Catholic Missions of the South, Montgomery

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National

Report: Alabama’s Black Belt lags behind state in economic prospects

Black Belt counties lag behind others in economic prospects and investments in businesses.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(APR GRAPHIC)

It took Marquis Forge five years and 18 banks before he and his partner were able to open their company, Eleven86 Water, in Autauga County, just north of the Black Belt, and a report released Tuesday shows how Black Belt counties lag behind others in economic prospects and investments in businesses. 

Forge, a former University of Alabama football player, told reporters during a briefing Monday that he considers Autauga County, which borders the Black Belt’s Lowndes County, part of the Black Belt, and said it shouldn’t have been so difficult to access the capital needed to start a business. 

The report released Tuesday by the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center titled “Black Belt manufacturing and Economic Prospects” is the last in the center’s Black Belt 2020 series, and found that only four of the state’s 24 Black Belt counties, as defined by the center, are above the statewide average of 22.4 businesses per 1,000 residents, and just one, Montgomery County, was above the 2018 statewide average of personal income of $43,229. 

Researchers also found that just three Black Belt counties are above the state’s average in gross domestic product being produced by counties of $45,348. 

“To achieve Governor Ivey’s ambitious goal of 500,000 a million more Alabama workers with skills by 2025, all hands have to be ‘on deck.’ It will require higher labor force participation rates, particularly in the Black Belt, where the average is 20 points below the statewide average,” said Stephen Katsinas, director of the university’s Education Policy Center and one of the authors of the report. 

“Due to smaller economies of scale, our approaches to  education, workforce development, and community building will have to be different to reach Alabama’s Black Belt,” Katsinas continued. “In the longer term, we first must define the Black Belt, because you can’t measure what you can’t define. Then we must do what West Alabama Works is doing–go where the people are to bring hope by connecting them to a well-aligned lifelong learning system that makes work pay.”   

Donny Jones, COO of Chamber of Commerce West Alabama and Executive Director of West AlabamaWorks, told reporters Monday that one of the keys to helping the Black Belt will  be helping state and Congressional legislators understand the nuances of rural Alabama. 

Jones said the state should look at how colleges are graded, and that many smaller colleges don’t get credit for putting students through programs that get them short-term certificates that lead to jobs. 

“Those are some of the things on the statewide level that we can really start to work on,” Jones said, adding that they’ve already begun teaching modern manufacturing in Black Belt high schools that gives students college credits toward an associates degree while still in high school. 

“I think that’s very important for individuals to understand the impact that we can have in our higher ed and our K-12 system, really works hand in glove to move the needle for workforce development,” Jones said. 

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Jim Purcell, State Higher Education executive officer of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, told reporters that it’s also important to look at one’s own community and identifying what is “unique and special,” and said he was recently in Autauga County, where he is from, and bought two cases of Eleven86 Water because he remembered how good the water there was. 

“I think that’s what you’ve done, is you’ve taken the gift that Autauga’s environment has and enhanced it, so that the people can benefit from it,” Purcell said to Forge. “I think that’s the key.” 

Asked what he’d tell state legislators to spur them to make changes so that other entrepreneurs wouldn’t have to struggle as hard as he did to open a business, Forge said he would ask for a clearer path for assistance. 

“Instead of digging down through a tunnel with a spoon I would have someone outline the tracks on getting funds and assistance from local, state and the national level, because there are funds out there,” Forge said. 

After going to 18 banks to get the financing he needed, he still had to liquify all his assets to make it happen, Forge said. 

“How many people are going to do that?” he asked. “We shouldn’t have to do that.”

To read all of the Education Policy Center’s reports on Alabama’s Black Belt, visit here.

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