Forum focus on ‘creative’ ways to grow economy

Published 7:25 pm Friday, February 15, 2013

Creative strategies for growing the economy will be the focus of a March 1 forum in Demopolis. The Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission will sponsor the leadership forum.

“Rural communities in Southwest Alabama can participate in the creative economy to grow jobs,” said John Clyde Riggs, director of the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission. “We’ve put together a top-notch agenda to inform businesses, creative people and community leaders about these opportunities.”

The forum will begin at 10 a.m. at the Demopolis Civic Center and will last until about 2 p.m.

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“All towns have creative assets,” Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson said. “We look forward to learning how to better take advantage of these assets.”

Grayson added that there are a lot of people in this area with talent that could help the area grow.

“Most areas in West Alabama and East Mississippi have people who are talented in some form of the arts, such as musical ability, other performing arts, writing, visual arts, graphic design and culinary art,” he said. “We want to foster an environment where these people have an outlet for their talents and perhaps make a dollar or two off their talent. Also, we want make business owners aware of how they could boost their own business by having artists on premise.”

Malcolm White will keynote the event. White is the acknowledged father of Mississippi’s “Creative Economy Initiative.”

As director of the Mississippi Arts Council, he spearheaded research and development of the initiative. As the current Tourism Director for the state, he promotes opportunities to communities of all sizes. His topic in Demopolis will be “How Rural Communities, Artists, and Businesses Can Participate in the Creative Economy.”

Tony Pasko will perform and discuss “What Creative People Need to Know to Succeed in Business.” A talented guitarist, Pasko is music director for the popular cable television show “Duck Dynasty.”

Two panel discussions will highlight creative opportunities. Discussing “Business Opportunities for Creative People” will be Johnna Bush, portrait artist from Grove Hill; Sheila Hull from SH Designs in Livingston; and Vicki Stoudenmire from Original Paintings in Selma.

Discussing “Using Creativity to Grow Businesses “ will be Charles Frazier from Weidmann’s Restaurant in Meridian, Miss., and Ben Burford from Davis Denny Advertising in Birmingham who is also a member of the ‘Chevy 6’ band.

There is no charge for admission or for lunch, but attendees must pre-register by Feb. 22 by emailing Co-sponsors of the forum are the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, Black Belt Treasures and The Montgomery Institute.