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Quality of life important for W. Alabama

The West Alabama Regional Alliance hosted a luncheon Monday to present their work in progress to area elected officials. Mayors, county commissioners and legislators attended the event.

The alliance is composed of 50 representatives from five counties: Marengo, Sumter, Perry, Greene and Hale. The alliance was formed initially because "we felt there were so many economic development opportunities we were missing," said Kathy Leverett, president of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce and an alliance representative.

Judy Martin, a member of Congressman Artur Davis’ staff in Tuscaloosa and a member of the Board of Directors at Judson College, is a co-chair of the alliance, and she addressed the Monday gathering.

Dr. Habib Bazyari, dean of the College of Business at the University of West Alabama, also spoke to the group.

The alliance has several committees which represent the organization’s goals: economic development, education or workforce development, tourism and marketing along with a new subcommittee on outdoor recreation.

Leverett described the alliance as "a grass roots" effort of concerned individuals to improve the quality of life in the region. The organization is not asking for a handout from elected officials, but rather paying its own way to develop solutions to issues of common interest.

A general brochure for economic development prospects will be developed, Leverett said. It will include testimonials from industry leaders and a list of industrial sites in the five counties.

Marengo County Commissioner Kent Tucker is the chairman of the education/workforce development committee. "We’re trying to find out how we can make our area attractive; what’s going to draw economic development," Leverett said. "Having a skilled workforce is top of the list."

The alliance expects to have a legislative taskforce to make trips to Montgomery to promote the area.

The alliance will announce a new tourism campaign this year and will publish a tourism brochure. Although Demopolis has promoted its tourism, the entire five-county region has not been promoted effectively, Leverett said. "That’s something that doesn’t cost you anything," she said. "You don’t have to build. The people will come because of things we already have." The tourism committee made a comprehensive survey of tourist sites (historic homes, churches, cemeteries, etc.) in the five counties and identified approximately 487 sites.

Based on the information gathered tour groups and bus companies can develop trips for the entire West Alabama region.

An alliance web site will also be developed by UWA in the coming months, and the database of tourist sites will be linked to that web page.