Declining population a concern for Black Belt

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 6, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-It takes people to make a difference and unfortunately, the Black Belt is losing more and more people every year. At Friday’s meeting of the Black Belt Action Commission Vickie Locke, a member of the commission pointed out some of the problems facing the area as far as attracting new families and boosting the areas population.

Locke said growth has been slow during the last few years and that could have a very negative impact in the representation for the state.

“We are not growing as fast as we need to,” Locke said. “Over the next few years there is a possibility we will have less representation based on our population. This is particularly critical for people in the Black Belt.”

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Locke said the commission should keep this in the back of their minds as they design projects. She said they should consider ways of drawing new families to the area and keeping them.

“We need to be thinking along those lines as we put together our projects,” Locke said. “We need to look at how we can draw more people to this part of the state. The other part of it is to look at the demographics of the people in the Black Belt. There are a lot of older people who are always going to stay there, but the younger people, who are going to have all the children are leaving.”

Locke said the problem was one she had given a lot of thought. Unfortunately, she had not received a great deal of positive feedback. Locke said the best thing the commission could do was ear this information in mind as they went about their work.

“Over the last few weeks I have been asking questions about this,” Locke said. “The people I have asked have not demonstrated too much interest so I don’t know if this is something we need to pursue aggressively. We do need to consider it as we work on our projects.”

Tourism was considered one of the keys to drawing people to Alabama and the Black Belt. Locke said they should focus on getting people to visit and hopefully stay.

“We need to encourage people to come to our state, visit our state, live here, stay here, have children,” Locke said. “The worst case scenario is we need to think about what will happen if we do absolutely nothing. We need to look at the way things are going now and the fact that we could be down to six representatives instead of seven.”

Representation is not the only area that the declining population would deal a heavy blow. It could also represent a tremendous loss of federal funds and other money that could be available. Locke suggested they continue to consider solutions to the problem before it is too late.