Oppotunity is knocking for young adults

Published 3:25 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A number of city and community leaders had an opportunity to steal some face time with Delta Regional Authority Chairman Chris Masingill Tuesday.

There are any number of things that could have been pitched in person to one of the chief grant givers of the Southeast. Streets. Water projects. Building needs. But Chuck Smith and other community leaders deemed it appropriate to use the time to tell Massingill and others in attendance of the goal of expanding the Demopolis Higher Education Center.

Under the vision through which leadership is currently working, the facility would be expanded to include a technology/career center.

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The center could house any number of offerings beginning with welding and reaching to assorted other industrial skills courses. For a city that depends largely on heavy industry corporations such as RockTenn, Cemex, Foster Farms and others, the expansion of DHEC makes perfect sense.

Demopolis has a handful of problems plaguing it under the current economic climate. But the root of most of them is an age-old issue the city has yet to solve. The loss of its young people.

For years, the City of the People has never really been the city of young people. More specifically, it has never catered to young professionals on a large scale. That fact is evident in population numbers that only shrink.

More often than not, Demopolis’ young people graduate high school and go off to college. The completion of a college education scarcely brings them back home as job opportunities in the city are few and far between.

And what of those young people who choose not to go to college? Aside from retail, food service and factory work, there is little from which to choose. They too are faced with difficult decisions.

The expansion of the higher education center with a full-fledged technical/vocational school promises to provide local young people the opportunity to acquire specific skills they can quickly parlay into a career.

More importantly, the timing for the project could be just right. The city council voted Monday in favor of a bond issue that will allow it to purchase the land and begin work on the proposed Port of Demopolis.

It will be a long process, but the Port of Demopolis could bring countless jobs and even more industry to a city determined to buck the economic and migrational trends. More industrial jobs means a greater need for skilled workers. The need for skilled workers means the need for the retention of the city’s young people.

Whether it is intervention, fate, wisdom or just blind luck, civic leaders made two decisions in a span of two days that could lay the groundwork for breaking a seemingly endless cycle of financial frustration and young adult attrition.

Make no mistake. There is a hard road left to hoe in each case. The port is only in its idea stages and has many hurdles to cross before it even reaches its infancy. The DHEC expansion, which has been helped through partnerships with UWA and Shelton State, has to be granted funding before the construction process can even begin.

But for anything worth having, it takes groundwork before a foundation can be laid. And a strong foundation must be laid before something worthwhile can be built.

If city leadership will be diligent and stay the course, the waters ahead can be navigated and Demopolis can forge a lucrative, promising future.

Jeremy D. Smith is the community editor of The Demopolis Times.