Jobless rate declines for county, state

Published 9:06 pm Friday, October 22, 2010

Pike County is in the top five for Alabama’s lowest unemployment rates, at 7.5 percent this month. The county has had one of the lowest rates in the states every month this year, said Marsha Gaylard, the president of Pike County Economic Development Corporation.

“It’s extremely exciting from my perspective,” she said. “I’ve always realized that Troy and Pike County has some assets we should be thankful for.”

What assets? A diversity of industries keeps the county well-stocked for job opportunities – relatively speaking – and ensure that no one business could make or break local economics.

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“We’re blessed to have such a diverse industrial base,” Gaylard said.

Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations on County Road 37 is a large pull, with military-based industry in missile development, as is Sikorsky Support Services, with its helicopter development. Troy University is another steady player in the employment market, as is the food industry and what Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford calls “homegrown industry.”

Homegrown industries such as KW Plastics, for example. KW has its headquarters in Troy, with its characteristic smiley-face silo, and a sister facility in Bakersfield, Calif.

“We’re not overly dependent on any one segment,” Mayor Lunsford said. “We can point to a lot of things that can help.”

And now, with CGI Group Inc., a fast-growing IT and business process service center with an even faster-growing office at its Center for Excellence in Troy, the job outlook is poised for even more success.

CGI has promised and provided more than 100 jobs already, and is looking to move into the second phase of its expansion in Troy.

“We were blessed to get CGI at a time when it was hard to locate companies,” Gaylard said.

In the nationwide economic downturn, Troy held fast. Though many industries struggled to tread water locally, Gaylard can think of only one that actually had to close its doors.

“They’ve been very fortunate to survive,” she said. “It’s kind of amazing, but it speaks well of the industries we have here.”

The favorable rate is representative of the state as a whole. Alabama’s unemployment rate in September was 8.9 percent, down from 9.2 percent in August. Last September, the rate was 10.7 percent.

Unemployment may be looking up, but there’s still work to do, Gaylard said.

“That doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there without jobs, who are suffering,” she said. For those who have been looking for work, she suggested visiting the Alabama Career Center, to send as many resumes as they could, and to network for jobs.

“A lot of times people find jobs through other people,” she said.

With time, hard work and growing businesses, Gaylard said the goal is to move toward a 2 to 3 percent unemployment.

For Mayor Lunsford, it’s a good forecast – but as long as there are unemployed people in Troy, there are more opportunities for the city to pursue.

“We’re proud that we’ve weathered the storm better than most of the counties in Alabama,” Lunsford said. “But we’re definitely not satisfied.”