Fox hopes to capitalize on Marengo’s potential

Published 9:12 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2008

After nearly two months on the job, Debra Fox, executive director for the Marengo County Economic Development Authority, is hoping to capitalize soon on all the potential she’s seen in her travels around the county.

“Marengo County is poised to grow due to its geography and its natural resources,” she said.

Rural counties, specifically those in the Blackbelt, have been a hot topic in recent weeks and months. However, headlines have been far from flattering. Citing rising unemployment rates and industry popping up just beyond practical driving distance, many national media outlets have all but written off developing this area.

“That’s just wrong,” Fox said. “There are plenty of pockets of success in rural counties. Demopolis and Marengo County are certainly two of them.”

The key, she said, to attracting future success stories is to help the county’s current ones grow.

“There’s an interesting statistic that says 80 percent of all new jobs in an area will come from existing business,” she said. “One hundred percent of all job loss will do the same. It’s not all about getting businesses here. It’s about getting them here, keeping them here and seeing them grow.”

One of the keys to business growth, Fox said, was a healthy labor force, which begins while children are still in school.

“What we’re finding is that industries are looking for labor clusters of trained employees,” she said. “They’re looking for people who have a particular skill set and can go right to work.”

And while the county has yet to cut the ribbon on a new industry in her six weeks on the job, Fox said the response she’s gotten from industry looking for a new home has been positive.