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Life in the Black Belt has been an adventure

Well, every phase in our lives must come to an end and for me, my Demopolis days are almost over.

In a little over a week it will be time for me to put my career here at The Times in the book of memories and head to Marietta, Ga.

One thing I have to say about my time in the River City and Black Belt is that it has been interesting.

By growing up in a neighboring county, I thought I knew all I needed to know about Demopolis and the Black Belt when I moved here in the fall of 2004. But, through the last year and a half I have learned so much more.

I learned just how much potential this area has. When you grow up in an area and there is very little there, you just assume things will always stay that way.

While I was in high school I never even considered the importance of industry, the need for jobs and the importance of leaving the door open for growth.

There are some things young people just don’t think about.

But, moving back to this area has opened my eyes to the many needs.

We need new jobs. We need new industries and we need growth.

Seeing the enormous impact of layoffs and the lack of other opportunities was a tremendous eye-opener for me.

I also learned that no matter how quaint and small a town is, drugs can ruin everything.

All over the Black Belt towns are losing their reputations as comfortable little stops off the road and becoming places people are advised to avoid.

Yes, there are needs and problems in the Black Belt, but there is also a great natural resource that can combat this problem…our citizens.

While learning about some of the problems we face, I also learned where the solutions are going to come from.

The people in rural Black Belt counties are well on their way to making a serious dent in the problems they face.

It’s even more encouraging to see cities and counties teaming up.

Between the Black Belt Action Commission, Black Belt Mayor’s Conferences and numerous other organizations, great things are well on their way and most problems will eventually have their solutions.

There are exciting things on the horizon for this reason and three things that can make them happen.

People must work together, have an open mind and have a forward-thinking attitude.

Fortunately, our local leaders possess all these qualities.

On that note, I have made a list of things I hope to see on visits to the Black Belt in the coming years.

I think the first thing everyone would like to see is fair elections. If an area can’t trust its leadership that area is spinning its wheels.

Voter fraud is an easy way to scare away anyone who is looking for a place to open a business.

It takes honest government to make an economy work properly. Without fair elections, the situation is never going to improve.

I also hope to see our rural counties pursue major manufacturers, but keep in mind we can do just as much good by bringing in several small scale employers.

The Black Belt might have to make a dent in their unemployment figures one small business at a time, but in the end, I think everyone will be happy with the results.

When a large industry closes, hundreds of people are left out in the cold. But, when a small business fails, the odds are good that another business can move in and take its place.

The last thing I hope to see is something we already have…local leaders working together.

In the last few years, local mayors, councilmembers and commissioners have moved toward the idea of regionalism.

This way, no cities or counties are competing against each other because they know what is good for one area is good for another. This is a winning attitude that needs to continue.

The last year has definitely been a learning experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Hopefully, the good news will keep rolling in.

-Rick Couch is news editor of The Demopolis Times. He can be reached by calling (334) 289-4017 or e-mailing news@demopolistimes.com