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Pavement only part of solution

Any discussion on economic development in West Alabama hinges on two key words: education and transportation. Community leaders, politicians, even barbershop peanut galleries make the same arguments.

In large part, that assessment is correct. If the workforce isn’t educated, industry executives won’t even turn off the car. If the roadways can’t handle more than one car in any one direction, the same executives will take the outbound lane of slow traffic.

Is that a new phenomenon in the recruitment of economic development? Absolutely not. Corey Ealons, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, said his office hears the talk constantly. And even before Davis was elected congressman for this district of Alabama, he knew the economic arguments.

A Different Approach

At the same time a young girl stumbled to school a couple of hours late in Demopolis, District Attorney Ed Greene looked over a docket of cases in his Fourth Circuit, which includes Hale and Perry counties.

More specifically, those young men don’t have fathers at home.

Gary Palmer has studied social issues in Alabama for nearly two decades. Of keen interest to Palmer and his organization, the Alabama Policy Institute, is the role of the family in a young person’s life.

So what does marriage, single homes and young people who are tardy for school have to do with economic development? Plenty, according to Riggs, who deals with as many industries as nearly any person in Alabama.

If solid character values are instilled in young people by their parents, their lives and ambitions change, according to Riggs.

If that ever happened, the opportunity to bring industry and economic development to West Alabama changes.

Leverett, who doubles as director for both the Demopolis Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Development Board, believes economic growth in every part of West Alabama is possible. She also knows the value of having a workforce that displays a foundation of character.

And Ed Greene, who sees too many without those character qualities, knows a change in upbringing could have an enormous impact on economic growth.