Where are the jobs?
When city candidates campaigned in recent weeks, the issue they — and voters — continued to push was economic development.
So where are the jobs in Brewton — and how can the city attract more industry? What are the tools needed for success?
Jim Searcy, director of the five-county Coastal Gateway Economic Development Alliance, said Brewton has already positioned itself as a city ready to grow.
“It’s always encouraging when candidates use economic development as a cornerstone for their campaigns,” Searcy said. “Mayor-elect Lovelace and Frank Nalty were always open and candid about what they believed Brewton needed to bring growth. (Mayor-elect Yank Lovelace) focused on workforce and workforce development coordination between K-12 and post-secondary education, including ASU-Southern Normal and Jefferson Davis Community College, to provide avenues for students coming through school and getting them prepared to present to industry as a ready workforce. That’s one of the things we market to industry and business — a trained workforce in Escambia County.”
Searcy said a trained workforce is the most sought after resource in an area when an industry or business looks to expand or to relocate to any area of the country.
“It’s been our experience that a lot of projects come in when there is a usable workforce in place,” Searcy said. “When all of the other necessities such as location, transportation and facilities is met, business and industry leaders look at the available workforce to determine their long-term success in business.”
Searcy said educators are on the right track, and business and industry leaders in the area are following up on the need for education.
“We’ve got a good education infrastructure in place here in Escambia County,” Searcy said. “JDCC does an excellent job in assessing the needs of business and industry and of making sure the voice of the industry is heard. The leaders in Brewton and in our education system want to make sure they provide education and training that allows students and industries to be successful here.”
Searcy also said he believed Brewton is a city prepared to move forward in growing business and industry for the area, but some limitations will be difficult to overcome.
“From what we know, Brewton is ready for economic growth,” Searcy said. “The major obstacle we face in Brewton is location. That’s something that’s going to be a long-term thing to overcome. Brewton is 20 miles off the interstate, which can be a problem for some companies as they consider location. Most companies want five or 10 miles to an interstate as being an prime location. One of our benefits here is that we do have a nice industrial park that has four-lane access all the way to the interstate. That shows that this area is ready and able to provide things companies are looking for in their own growth.”
Searcy also said the industrial park has been a good point of attraction for business and industry leaders in recent weeks.
“We do have an excellent industrial park here,” Searcy said. “We entertained a company that looked at one of the spec buildings there just three weeks ago. The space did not meet their needs, but now that company is aware that we have a spec building here ready to be home for someone. That can only be valuable information to have out in the business world.”
When looking at other benefits for the city, Searcy said the assets in Brewton will be the thing that could make a difference for a new business or industry in the future. “Some of the problems we face in this area are things we have some ability to correct in the eyes of industry leaders looking at Brewton,” Searcy said. “We may not be right on the interstate, but we do have some rail spurs in the city that will help negate some of the problems with service there.”
Searcy said many of the tools needed to help the city grow are already in place in Brewton — a fact that puts the city in a good position for attracting industry.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of being prepared,” Searcy said. “Brewton is in a good position for growth, but we have to improve in some areas and stay ahead of the game. Always being prepared is the key to successful growth.”