Great Essay about the state of rural Alabama
This is a very informative and thought-provoking article from the Birmingham News, about a subject that is practically always overlooked during discussions of the 'bigger picture'.
for this discussion we'll consider as urban the 22 Alabama counties classified as Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and the remaining 45 rural. These 45 counties are home to 1.3 million of our 4.4 million residents.
(...) The Alabama Department of Industrial Relations says we lost 56,500 manufacturing jobs from 1990 to 2002.
(...) Where were these jobs? Buildings that once housed sewing plants are as common in rural Alabama as kudzu.
(...) People like Jerry Boothe, the mayor of Opp, where Opp & Micolas Mills closed last summer after decades of operation, leaving 600-plus people unemployed. With his budget $250,000 in the red, the mayor is trying to figure out what to do.
Boothe, half-jokingly, points out that Opp even lost the McDonald's. He said he had thought about writing to Dear Abby.
The article goes on to describe how Georgia had made more efforts in economic development of rural counties. The OneGeorgia Authority has more than 20 million dollars at their disposal.
We've seen it on our travels, too. The small towns in South Georgia tend to be more lively than their Alabama counterparts. If you travel Highway 84 from Valdosta westward, you experience hustling and bustling little towns like Quitman, Thomasville, Cairo, and Bainbridge, with antique shopping and sightseeing. Once you get into Alabama, it gets more drab. Cities like Andalusia, Opp, and Ozark don't present themselves as well as they could. Brewton is the light at the other end of the tunne.
Creating local opportunities is about making the most of what you have. Fortunately, it seems that towns like Andalusia are starting now to revitalize their downtowns now.
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