Summit will address partnership between Alabama, Mississippi

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 27, 2004

LIVINGSTON – “Closing the gaps,” a second annual regional leadership summit, will be held February 6 at the University of West Alabama. The event will be attended by both Alabama Governor Bob Riley and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

The summit is sponsored by the 41-member Commission on the Future of East Mississippi and West Alabama, and will also feature appearances by Alabama Congressman Artur Davis and Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering.

The Commission on the Future includes representatives from Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry and Sumter Counties.

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The summit will put the stamp on the East Mississippi/West Alabama corridor as “a viable place” for industry, said Jay Shows, executive secretary of the Demopolis Industrial Development Board. The presence of two governors, congressmen and other regional leaders should highlight how the location of an industry at the state border makes sense.

The meeting will confirm “a stronger partnership between East Mississippi and West Alabama,” said Phillis Belcher, executive director of the Greene County Industrial Board. “We have the similar demographics. It would give the states an opportunity to pool resources and uplift both communities.

There have been various organizations, including the West Alabama Regional Alliance, working together from counties in both states to enhance the development of the area. Both governors are considering the creation of a joint industrial park.

“It’s got to be a win-win for this whole area,” Belcher said.

Shows said the governors will present their vision for the area, and then it will be the job of industrial development officials in each county to hustle and prepare the groundwork.

Belcher expects not only a vision for the future to be presented at the summit but also the nuts and bolts of how to get there. “I’m expecting action,” she said.

UWA officials say reservations are nearing maximum capacity. UWA’s Bell Conference Center seats 340 persons and over 300 reservations have already been confirmed.

“We are making arrangements for up to two overflow sites where citizens can view summit proceedings over closed circuit TV,” said Dr. Richard Holland, president.

Anyone interested in attending the summit should call James Mock at 1-205-652-3417.

In a related matter, Shows will attend a meeting of the Economic Development Association of Alabama this week in Birmingham.

It will be a chance for industrial development officials from cities and counties in Alabama to network, he said.