Partnership could help entire region

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, January 16, 2008

By Staff
Five southwest Alabama counties are banking on the notion that our region is at a critical point in economic development.
Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority - made up of Escambia, Conecuh and Monroe counties - joined with Clarke and Choctaw counties of the Twin Rivers Economic Development Partnership Monday, creating a super-region of leaders dedicated to improving the economy and quality of life for all.
CGEDA has already seen success in less than two years, with new industry coming to Evergreen and Monroeville. The partnership among the counties is key to success for the region.
The old model for economic development held that communities right next door to each other could be competing against each other, so why cooperate?
But as Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings pointed out, what is good for one city in the region is good for another. So many people are accustomed to commuting these days that a job in Brewton isn't a problem for someone who lives in Evergreen or Monroeville or many of the other communities in the new five-county region.
Coastal Gateway and Twin Rivers' embracing of the regionalism concept can only help all of the counties. With an infusion of money, the CGEDA office can afford to hire a new staff member dedicated to helping existing industry. That person could facilitate grants or other opportunities that would allow our current industries to grow and expand - and add jobs. And with the leadership from so many counties and cities coming together to tout the area, we have a lot of opportunities to share.
The partnership made official Monday should bode well for the future. With ThyssenKrupp coming to north Mobile County and the possibility of EADS getting a military contract, our entire region could benefit from the suppliers both manufacturers are likely to attract.
This is the right time to seize the moment for regional economic development. We will likely reap the benefits of Monday's announcement for years to come.