James to speak at breakfast next month

Update from the chamber of commerce

Blount Countians will have the opportunity to begin the review of those seeking to be Alabama’s next governor at the Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Sept. 23. For the 2006 election, every candidate for governor came to Blount County to speak to chamber members. We begin the 2010 gubernatorial process with Tim James, a Republican Party nominee. The program, sponsored by World Outreach Center, will be held at Twin Oaks beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Tim James, 47, is the son of Fob James Jr., a former two-term governor of Alabama. James attended Baylor Preparatory in Chattanooga, Tenn., and received his finance degree in 1985 from Auburn University.

James began his professional career in 1986 working in the construction business and later joined his brothers and father in forming Escambia County Environmental Corporation. He also owned and operated an asphalt construction business, as well as building and operating an incineration company treating non-hazardous industrial waste. In 1996, Tim James and a group of partners formed the Baldwin County Bridge Company, LLC, and managed all development of the Foley Beach Express, which is a six-mile, four-lane toll road and bridge, in Orange Beach.

James entered Alabama politics in 2002, running for governor of Alabama and finishing third in the Republican Primary. After the 2002 race, he continued to be politically active, including opposing the $1.2 billion tax plan in 2003.

Of his 2002 run for governor, James says, “I was in the wrong race at the wrong time.” This time, running to become Alabama’s governor in 2010, James says, “I think we are in the right race at the right time.”

James and his wife, Angela, have been married for 25 years and live in Greenville. They have three children, Fleming, Tim Jr., and Sarah.

To learn more about the Tim James Campaign for Governor, go to www.timjames2010.com.

Breakfast sponsor

World Outreach Center has a heart for Blount County, and its members are always looking for ways to show our communities how residents are valued. They do this through many outreach projects during the year, including Servolution – a month of community service during August – that involves local schools, nursing homes, senior centers, the Blount County Children’s Center, Hope House, and the Veterans Memorial Park.

World Outreach Center is led by pastors Frankie and Laura Powell, who are now celebrating their 21st year as co-leaders of this growing church. A special thanks to World Outreach, its leaders, staff, and congregation for assisting the chamber in bringing to our area another public figure of note. You many learn more about World Outreach at www. worldoutreachcenter.com.

Leadership Blount County

Applications for Leadership Blount County for 2009-10 are being taken in the chamber office. The class includes nine sessions, one per month, and a graduation banquet. Members learn about local government, processes, organizations, groups, institutions, and people that make the county function in an orderly and efficient manner. There is a cost of $250 for the class, and this includes all study materials, meals, and the trip to Montgomery by chartered bus. For more information, call 274-2153.

July unemployment rate

During the previous month, the jobless rate for Blount County and the United States dropped, while Alabama’s rate increased. Blount County’s jobless rate dropped to 9.3 percent in July from 9.4 percent in June. This reflects some local hiring, as well as improvement in the economy in the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area. I hope that this rate indicates a trend of job creation in Blount and surrounding counties. Only Shelby County in the seven county metropolitan area had a lower July unemployment rate than Blount. However, a disturbing fact is that fewer people are being recorded in each month’s workforce, indicating that unemployment benefits have either run out or jobless workers have stopped looking for work.

Blount’s jobless rate decline moves the county from the tenthlowest rate in June to the eighthlowest rate in July. As a comparison, Birmingham metro county rates were as follows: Shelby, 7.6 percent; Blount, 9.3 percent; Chilton, 9.8 percent; Jefferson, 10.4 percent; St. Clair, 10.6 percent; Walker, 11.3 percent; and Bibb, 12.6 percent.

A front-page article in the Saturday, Aug. 22, edition of The
Birmingham News
gives an explanation for the higher jobless rate experienced in the area, including Blount County, during the past months. A combination of lower educational attainment and a higher dependent on the manufacturing sector for jobs has contributed to rising unemployment. This assessment was given by John Norris, Director of Wealth Management at Oakworth Capital Bank in Birmingham. He also analyzed Blount County’s fundamental weakness in a February 26, 2009, article in The Birmingham News:
“Moving forward, Blount County must increasingly emphasize education and the development of its workforce in order to remain competitive in the global economy.”

Alabama counties with the lowest unemployment rates for July 2009 were as follows: 1) Shelby, 7.6 percent; 2) Madison, 7.9 percent; 3) Baldwin, 8.5 percent; 4) Coffee, 8.6 percent; 5) Houston and Lee, 8.7 percent; 6) Elmore, 9.1 percent; 7) Dale, 9.2 percent; 8) Blount and Pike, 9.3 percent.

Counties with the highest rates during the same period were as follows: 67) Wilcox, 24.9 percent; 66) Dallas, 21.1 percent; 65) Perry, 20 percent; 64) Conecuh, 19.4 percent; and 63) Chambers, 18.9 percent.

During the month of July, 47 Alabama counties had unemployment rates of 10 percent or higher. July’s jobless rate represented a 25- year high of 10.2 percent, up from June’s rate of 10.1 percent. July’s rate represents 215,377 Alabamians without jobs. A report by Crystal Jarvis in the Aug. 14 edition of The
Birmingham Business Journal
states: “Alabama’s unemployment rate will climb to near historic levels before it reaches its peak. The state’s rate will likely jump to 12 percent before job losses level off amid the economic slump.”

Nationally the rate dropped from 9.5 percent in June 2009 to 9.4 percent in July. The states with the lowest rates included: 1) North Dakota, 4.2 percent; 2) Nebraska and South Dakota, 4.9 percent; 4) Utah, 6 percent; and 5) Iowa, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, 6.5 percent. Alabama was ranked thirty-sixth at 10.2 percent.

States with the highest rates included: 51) Michigan, 15 percent; 50) Rhode Island, 12.7 percent; 49) Nevada, 12.5 percent; 47) California and Oregon, 11.9 percent; and 46) South Carolina, 11.8 percent. (Note: Washington, D.C., is included in this data, creating 51 survey areas.)

Conclusion

Blount County’s slight decline in the jobless rate was good news as local companies created jobs during the past few weeks.

The organizational session of Crime Stoppers will take place next week, initiating the beginning of a potentially beneficial law enforcement tool for all of Blount County.

The first session of the Strategic Planning Committee will be held at Twin Oaks on Sept. 9.

The school year got off to a great start with many individuals and groups collecting supplies for those in need at all area schools. This is an indication of the many good people and organizations that make Blount County a very special place.

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