Chamber breakfast another success

Update for the chamber of commerce

The chamber breakfast held on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at Twin Oaks was a tremendous success. More than 160 people attended with several elected officials from adjoining counties as guests. Thanks to all who braved the terrible weather to be a part of a great Blount County project—renovating the old Blount Memorial Hospital (see Ron Gholson’s related article in today’s paper).

This month’s breakfast will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at Twin Oaks. The program will begin at 7:30 a.m. and will be sponsored by Regions Banks. Our featured speaker will be Sue Johnson, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters. She has been associated with the agency since 1991. Sue has over 18 years of experience in the social service profession and holds degrees from Judson College and Bessemer Technical College.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a one-to-one youth mentoring program that provides adult role models for children in need of positive influences in their lives. These relationships allow children to develop sound values and positive self-esteem and to become productive members in our community.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters satellite office in Blount County was established in 2008. There is an ongoing outreach and recruitment for volunteers and corporate and community partnerships in the Blount County/Oneonta area. There is an active program at Susan Moore School. Jim Tuttle is in the process of identifying 30 adults to mentor for one hour a week at Oneonta Elementary School. If you are interested, please call Jim at 559-1008 or 939-5590.

Regions Bank is a full-service financial institution serving all of Blount County. The current bank has been operating in our community in the same location for more than 50 years. Regions Bank is an active partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters. A Regions employee was chosen as the Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer of the year for 2008.

The general public is invited to learn about another great local partner that seeks to make Blount County better and that provides an opportunity to serve our most valuable resource—the children of the area.

December Unemployment Rate

Alabama Department of Industrial Relations director Tom Surtees announced on Friday, Jan. 23, that the state’s jobless rate for December 2008 is 6.7 percent. This is an increase from the November’s revised rate of 6.0 percent but below the December 2008 national rate of 7.2 percent. Alabama tied with Pennsylvania during the month for the 24th-lowest rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In December, 14,400 jobs were lost with most of the monthly downturn resulting from losses in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality services, manufacturing, education and health services, construction and government. Over the past 12 months, employment declined by 41,900. The manufacturing industry recorded the greatest loss, losing over 17,000 jobs. The trade, transportation, and utilities and hospitality industries followed, losing 8600 and 5000 respectively.

On Monday, Jan. 26, county jobless rates were released for Alabama’s counties. These figures show that the unemployment rate increased in 61 of the state’s 67 counties. These numbers also indicate that 12 counties had an unemployment rate of 10.0 percent or higher.

The chamber breakfast speaker in November 2008, John Norris of Oakworth Capital Bank, was quoted in the January 24, 2009, edition of The Birmingham News as saying, “Alabama’s unemployment has a good chance of passing 7 percent in the next year and might even reach 8 percent.”

Blount County’s jobless rate increased from 4.9 percent in November 2008 to 5.7 percent in December 2008. Blount’s rate in November was fourth-lowest in the state and rose to seventhlowest in December. This increase in Blount’s unemployment rate represents 205 locals losing their jobs during December. Information released on Jan. 26 shows that Blount enjoyed the third-lowest unemployment rate for 2008.

The counties with the lowest jobless rates for December 2008 were as follows: 1) Shelby, 4.4 percent; 2) Madison, 4.5 percent; 3) Coffee, 5.2 percent; 4) Pike and Tuscaloosa, 5.3 percent; 5) Lee, 5.4 percent; 6) Houston, Limestone, and Marshall, 5.6 percent; 7) Baldwin and Blount 5.7 percent.

Counties with the highest jobless rates for December 2008 included: 67) Wilcox, 15.1 percent; 66) Chambers, 14.0 percent; 65) Winston, 13.1 percent; 64) Dallas and Perry, 12.8 percent; and 63) Lowndes, 12.1 percent.

Mountain and mid-western states enjoyed the lowest unemployment rates for December 2008. They were as follows: 1) Wyoming, 3.4 percent; 2) North Dakota, 3.5 percent; 3) South Dakota, 3.9 percent; 4) Nebraska, 4.0 percent; and 5) Utah, 4.3 percent.

States with the highest jobless rates include 51) Michigan, 10.6 percent; 50) Rhode Island, 10 percent; 49) South Carolina, 9.5 percent; 48) California, 9.3 percent; and 47) Nevada, 9.1 percent. (Please note: this ranking includes the District of Columbia, resulting in 51 survey areas.)

Town Hall Meeting

Sen. Richard Shelby’s town hall meeting will be held on Friday, Feb. 20, at the Oneonta City Hall. The meeting time has been changed from 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. but still will take place in the city council chambers.

This meeting will be a great opportunity to learn about the economic problems the nation is currently facing. Sen. Shelby will discuss the president’s proposed stimulus package, the depth and severity of the economic crisis, and the long-term implications. Following the senator’s remarks, he will answer questions, as well as welcome comments from the audience.

Elected representatives of local governments, the media, and citizens are welcome. The senator cannot accept requests for funding of local projects beyond Feb. 27. Local governments should go to to list requests online.

Since 1986, Senator Shelby has kept a campaign promise of visiting each county at least once a year. Please accept this as a personal invitation to come and join us.

Leadership Blount County

The monthly meeting of Leadership Blount County will focus on the different types of educational services available in Blount County. The chamber recognized the boards of education of the Blount County and Oneonta school systems during the January chamber breakfast. These two excellent systems are principal reasons for continued population growth in the area. The class will have an opportunity to visit schools in both systems.

Other education delivery mechanisms will include home schooling, the alternative school in Allgood, the career center, Snead State instructional site, and the GED center located in the Hope House. The GED center is operated by Wallace State Community College and is the largest in its service area.


The chamber breakfast is a great opportunity to celebrate democracy with a little “d.” Those attending in January heard an inspiring story of what can happen when members of a community come together, raise funds, and reach a consensus. Blount Countians saved a landmark and at the same time created an agency that serves needy citizens and county government, while serving as a model for other counties.

Four initiatives are underway that may result in new jobs for Blount County. Two are about to be realities, one is a high probability, and fourth is a work in progress—more on this later.

By working together, we are making a very good community even better.