Shotgun Hill is much needed

Published 4:22 am Wednesday, January 7, 2004

By Staff
One of the most difficult things to do -- especially in the public arena, where every move is open to endless criticism -- is to think and act differently, making decisions and pushing initiatives that go against long-standing "conventional wisdom." But take practically any major change for the better, break it down, analyze it, and somewhere along the line you'll find somebody taking a new approach in tackling an old problem.
Community and civic leaders in Brewton, Escambia County and neighboring communities seem to be taking this realization to heart. By adopting a regional approach to luring industry to this area, they are going against the grain, turning the old realities of territorialism and "us against them" thinking inside out.
So we have more than just one or two people exhibiting "outside the box" thinking. We've got a wide-ranging group of interested individuals and decision-makers who've realized that a new plan of attack is in order for taking on a problem that plagues them all -- a shortage of high quality jobs in their communities.
But even though there are many now on board with the new regional approach -- and hopefully more to come -- the building process that has brought the project to this point has been going on for a while, and those who got the process started deserve kudos for having seen the potential here.
Brewton's Yank Lovelace, in particular, has been a major force in getting and keeping the ball rolling.
The upshot of Lovelace's efforts -- along with efforts of many like-minded people throughout the area -- is that a 507-acre regional industrial park is within hailing distance of becoming a reality.
There is much work left to be done, and the spirit of forward-thinking cooperation that's fueled the project so far must continue. But it's not pie-in-the-sky optimism to believe that in the not too distant future, a team of businesspeople from our area will be travelling the United States, marketing an industrial site with an ideal location -- right next to I-65, within easy driving distance of communities with ready workforces and high standards of living.
Plans for the park, named the Shotgun Hill Industrial Park, are progressing nicely, and it's hard not to imagine what a huge benefit to eastern Escambia County it would be if the current plans come to fruition. Job creation here has been slow -- some would say stagnant -- for a while. Many of the things people have wanted to see happen simply haven't come about.
A local businessman recently told me that his company ran an ad for a good-paying job and got well over 400 applicants in response, which tells you how hungry the communities here are for more and better employment opportunities.
Any number of industries that would fit perfectly into the proposed Shotgun Hill park could provide those.
Those who've brought the project this far have done an outstanding job. They should stay this regional course, working in the give and take fashion a multi-jurisdictional project like Shotgun Hill requires.
A big part of a better future for our communities seems well within reach now, and every reasonable effort should be made to grasp it.

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