Letter: Fox bids farewell

Published 1:48 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I am very excited to have the opportunity to work special projects, for a number of clients, under a newly organized LLC, Economic Alliance Associates. Not only will those services include economic and community development, but also maritime projects. The outpouring, of well wishes, offers of assistance, and requests for meetings, in response to an on-line announcement on Friday, December 6, has been both amazing and overwhelming.

From June 1, 2008 until December 31, 2011, I had the honor of serving as the first county-wide economic developer and executive director of the Marengo County Economic Development Authority. Given the severe economic downturn in 2008, it was the worst year ever to start an economic development. However, focus was placed upon building a brand and related imagery. We defined a niche and MCEDA is now seeing unprecedented levels of interest and requests for information. We should all take great pride in this surge, as it is on a par with much larger counties.

In the past year alone, MCEDA worked multiple state-level projects, with the Alabama Development Office. Marengo County was the only county in Alabama considered on two of those. That volume exceeds the entire past decade with regard to inquiries. Lack of immediate access to infrastructure hindered some deals and several offers made to private landowners, by prospects, were declined. However, quite a few projects are awaiting Marengo County’s progress before locating elsewhere.

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A Letter of Intent was presented to the Demopolis Industrial Development Board, at its December, 2012 meeting, for an anchor tenant and port operator at the Alabama-Mississippi Intermodal Complex. Smaller industries, such as Denali Organics, in Demopolis, and NorAM in Linden, as well as entrepreneurs are locating throughout the county. Major industries continue to do annual capital investment projects. An abatement application for RockTenn was also presented at the December DIDB meeting for its fourth annual capital improvement. Commercial development continues along main corridors.

MCEDA played a major role in applying for and securing a number of infrastructure grants which exceed $2.5 million. Although no Alabama projects received grants through the US Department of Transportation TIGER program, Demopolis was able to submit an unmatched 30 letters of support for its project and application. Additionally, support for the Alabama-Mississippi Intermodal Complex has now been secured from our Mississippi neighbors. A companion to the Marengo EDA, the Marengo County Economic Development Foundation, a (501)(c)(3), was incorporated and private sector donations have grown annually.

The start-up of an economic development office or authority is extremely labor intensive and requires unconditional commitment. Like a child, it needs a great deal of nurturing. You want to see it grow and prosper. You become attached to the region and its people. That is true of the many people from Marengo County with whom I have worked for the past three and one-half years. Tireless efforts have been made by city and county officials, the Demopolis Industrial Board, the Linden Industrial Board, the MCEDA board, and the Foundation’s private sector donors. Credit is also due to Joanna Hinson, the part-time assistant for MCEDA, and to one of UWA’s finest assets, Angelia Mance.

I brought excellent working relationships with merit employees and appointed directors, from key state entities, with me to Marengo County. Those relationships evolve over time and are based upon mutual trust. They remain strong to date. MCEDA has never missed a professional deadline or commitment. This county is geographically well-located and has amenities that are comparable to highly successful areas. It is at a crossroads where growth can and will occur.

Thank you to the citizens of Marengo County for the professional opportunity of working as MCEDA’s executive director. I wish for Marengo County great prosperity in 2012 and forward. Please remember me in your thoughts and prayers as I embark on my new venture.

Debra Fox