• 81°

Industrial recruitment often ‘frustrating’

Industrial development: it’s the big catch word that elected officials and chamber directors throw out to the public. But, what work goes on behind it.

The Demopolis Industrial Development Board "quitely works in the background" to help recruit new industry to the area, said Olen Kerby, director. It’s frustrating at times, he said. "You can’t make somebody come, but we have so many things to offer, but we can’t quite get the hook into them."

The members of the industrial board are committed to the betterment of Demopolis and the securing of more jobs for the area, Kerby said.

The industrial board meets monthly. "We have a structured businesslike meeting," he said.

Kathy Leverett, president of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, keeps in contact with agencies such as the Alabama Development Office and groups such as the Partnership of Alabama and reports to board members.

Leverett recently announced her retirement, and Jay Shows will replace her as the point person for industrial development in January. Shows will travel more and put on exhibits promoting the Demopolis area, Kerby said.

He credits former chamber president Jane

Gross with first giving industrial development a higher profile in Demopolis. "Kathy has propelled it even further." Kerby expects bigger things in 2004 with two people dedicated to chamber and industrial development issues.

Leverett sends out several packages a week to potential retailers and land developers. She recently flew over Demopolis with a prospect looking for acreage, Kerby said, and they are coming back for another fly-over. Independent "finders" seek out site for different industries and corporations, he said.

There needs to be training facilities for people, he said. "You’ve got to have a level of education in your area. A catfish processing plant doesn’t take a high level of education, but we want to go that next step. That’s what we’re trying to do."

Demopolis officials have tried for 15 years to attract a community college, Kerby said. The new High Education Center, which will be built at the SportsPlex, will fit into the plans to educate a better workforce. "Some time in the future, that will help us get an industry."

Citizens in the Demopolis community who need the training will have to have the faith and committment that participating in a training program will give them a brighter future. There is no guarantee of a high paying job at the end of a training program.