Economic development in region focus of symposium

Published 5:10 pm Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ron Sparks, director of the Alabama Rual Development Office, was one of several speakers Thursday at the third biennial regional economic symposium in Brewton.

Workforce development and partnerships between business/industry and educators were echoed by speakers at the third regional economic symposium Thursday.

Leaders of business, industry, government and education gathered in Brewton for the symposium sponsored by Alabama State University, State Rep. Alan Baker, the Brewton Area Chamber of commerce, Escambia County Industrial Development Authority and Coastal Gateway Regional Economic Development Alliance.

Dr. Joseph H. Silver Sr., president of Alabama State University, said the economic stresses experienced over the past few years could not exactly be called a recession.

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“What we were experiencing was not really a recession,” Silver said. “We were experiencing a restructuring of the economy. That restructuring had created a miss-match of talent to jobs.”

The first speaker to approach the topic of workforce development, Silver said a serious look at developing an environment where workers are ready to meet industry needs is necessary to have a successful future in Alabama.

“To address the issues of economic development and sustainability, we need to look at how we are retooling our workforce. We are part of the problem. We did not realize the changes and we now need a restructuring of the processes that we use to train folks for jobs. We need to make sure we are relevant partners with business and industry to produce students they need.”

Also speaking at the event were Joe E. Sumners, director of the Economic and Community Development Institute; James Tim Martin, president and CEO of Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority; Dr. Dan Ban, president of Jefferson Davis Community College; Amy Brabham, vice chancellor of the Alabama Career and Technical Education and Workforce Development; Alan Baker, state representative for District 66; Alvertha Penny, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of South Alabama; and Ron Sparks, director of the Alabama Rural Development Office. Keynote speaker was Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield.

For more information on comments by speakers, see the weekend edition of The Brewton Standard.