By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, August 24, 2016, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) announced that nearly $1 million in grant funds will be used to jump start a joint effort to develop new businesses, expand existing businesses and create jobs in northwest Alabama, which has been hit hard in recent years from the decline in coal mining as well as the shutdown of a paper mill.
Gov. Bentley said, “I have long been vocal about how important coal is to Alabama families and our State’s economy. With the federal government’s current war on coal, the impact has been experienced in many parts of Alabama. However, with the POWER initiative, there is federal funding to help our state with the economic impact to our economy. I support the Shoals Shift project because it will create needed jobs, launch new businesses and expand existing businesses.”
The Florence-based Shoals Entrepreneurship Center will receive the $997,150 grant for Shoals Shift, a comprehensive entrepreneurship program to support businesses and grow a digital economy in nine north Alabama counties as well as small portions of east Mississippi and south Tennessee.
The University of North Alabama and the Shoals Chamber of Commerce will partner with Shoals Shift for the project. The project is expected to create or retain 110 jobs, start 20 businesses and leverage $10 million in private investment. Local matching funds of $1 million have also been committed to the program.
The Executive Director of the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center, Giles McDaniel said, “Out of dozens of applications, we were one of the few groups selected. We believe that our project was selected because of its reach and scope. Our work will affect nine counties in northern Alabama and two additional states. It will also increase awareness of the importance of business start-ups and industrial diversification
The Appalachian Regional Commission announced the funding Wednesday in West Virginia as part of a federal initiative to diversify and strengthen the economies of areas that rely heavily on coal and related industries.
On Friday, August 19, 2016 Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted July unemployment rate is 5.7 percent. A big drop from June’s rate of 6.0 percent and well below July 2015’s rate of 6.1 percent.
Gov. Bentley said, “We continue to see decreases in Alabama’s unemployment rate, and increases in both of our employment measures over the year, which is a testament to the strong economic development efforts we have prioritized.”