Existing industry group is growing
Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 17, 2003
An eight-county group of leaders from existing industries are getting better organized.
Regional Existing Industry Association dovetails representatives from industries in Pike, Dale Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee and Crenshaw Counties together for a common cause.
Scott Murphree is manager of the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Brundidge, and was recently one of the group's participants selected to serve on a nominating committee.
"I think (the organization of the association) is coming along fine," he said, noting a summer slowdown due to vacation schedules of various group members.
"We'll hit it hard first of August and get our officers and a leadership group formed," he said.
Marsha Gaylard, president of Pike County Economic Development Corporation got the group formed this spring.
She said the inclusion of eight counties was a good move for the existing industries, because they pull employees from the same pool.
"We've had good participation from Pike County, but we need other companies to join in the group - both in Pike County and the other counties as well.
Gaylard said the group had met twice so far, and that one key issue for the industries seemed to be the labor force.
"The automotive industry is sucking up the work force, and (the labor force)
was the number one issue they wanted addressed," she said.
Several state agencies were called in to make presentations on the labor force, covering topics from education to recruitment and training.
The state's latest unemployment figures show for May 2003 that of the eight-county consortium, Bullock County had the highest unemployment rate with 9.6 percent, and that Coffee County had the lowest at just 3.6 percent. Pike County had a 5.3 percent unemployment rate.
Those percentages translate into numbers of workers available to hire. For example in Bullock County, of the 4,490-member civilian labor force pool, only 430 were unemployed. In Coffee County, of the 19,540 people in the labor pool, only 700 are unemployed. Of Pike County's 13,560 May labor pool, only 710 are unemployed.
"We all share the same work force - every county involved in this organization, we pull from each other," she said.
Although the group was begun by Gaylard and her counterparts in the other counties, she said it was a group to be run by industry, not economic development, although economic developers have gained as well as the industry representatives.
"I felt it would assist us as
economic developers to know what's going on with the industries, and help us to better prepare for what existing industries need," she said.
Murphree said the group's regional nature had very positive benefits.
"It has a ton of potential in working with the Legislature and working with educators as well," he said. "I believe it's critical to do that (span eight counties), with the jobs and influx with potential employers and with all the potential growth,"
"We need to pull from the surrounding counties for employment and we need the group on the communications level also we need to be able to promote the region as a growth region for jobs and working together as a group, helps us do accomplish that."
Murphree said that one of the first labor-force issues the group would focus on is education of the work force.
"There's one common thread we've heard come out of both of the meetings: involved the educators at an early stage, and get them focused on vocational education and keeping the graduates in the area rather than them moving off to get jobs," he said.
While the existing industry association is focusing on labor, others are focusing on it.
Gaylard said the group had become a model that state economic developers wanted to emulate elsewhere in Alabama.
"The state has used the association as a model, they're using the regional association we formed to help develop the state's existing industry program," she said.
The association is also becoming involved in a database development project that is aimed at linking existing manufacturers with existing Alabama suppliers and vendors.