Wal-Mart will have positive impact on economy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 11, 2001

Staff Writer

The new Wal-Mart Distribution Center being built in Pike County should have a significant impact on the county’s unemployment rate, which is only slightly above the national rate.

In August, the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations recorded Pike County’s jobless rate as 5.1 percent, the same as the previous month, but down from the 7.0 recorded a year ago.

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Wal-Mart representatives recently announced their intent to create 600 new jobs at the Brundidge facility, translating into jobs for those here in Pike County and outside the county, as well.

While Pike County may not have enough people to fill all the jobs, its neighbor to the north does. Bullock County recorded the second highest jobless rate ­ 13.8 percent ­ in the state for the month of August.

Marsha Gaylard, president of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce, said an available workforce played a major role in Wal-Mart’s decision-making process.

She said to fill the 600 positions, Wal-Mart needs a pool of 2,500 to 3,000 potential employees, making the county’s low jobless rate a mixed blessing until local recruiters convinced the company neighboring counties would contribute to the workforce.

"When they first asked for the available workforce they only wanted it from a 15-mile radius," Gaylard said. "I convinced them that we draw from a much larger radius. I told them that some people drive from as far away as 70 miles to work in Pike County."

Since counties in the region are not as fortunate in the area of unemployment, officials were more than happy to help Pike County land the contract, Gaylard said.

Over the year, the state witnessed the loss of 16,000 jobs in manufacturing, some of which were in southeast Alabama, making Pike County a good location for Wal-Mart.

Other losses were in wholesale and retail trade; transportation and public utilities; finance, insurance and real estate. Declines were also seen in the construction business.

Alice McKinney, director of the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, said "Alabama’s unemployment rate is only up one-tenth of a percent," compared to a year ago.

"While the rate showed a slight increase from July’s 4.5 percent measure, the increase was at a slower rate than the United States average."

Statewide, the unemployment rate ­ 4.7 percent ­ is below the comparable national rate of 4.9 percent.

August’s rate represents 101,700 unemployed persons, compared to 96,000 the previous month and 99,000 in August 2000.