Update from the chamber

Don’t forget Bentley and Sparks breakfast debate

The monthly Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce breakfast will be held tomorrow, Sept. 23, at Twin Oaks. The program begins at 7:30 a.m., will be sponsored by St. Vincent’s Blount, and features the respective Republican and Democrat nominees for governor, Dr. Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks.

Bentley is a retired physician from Tuscaloosa and has served two terms (2002-2010) in the Alabama House of Representatives. Sparks is a former DeKalb County commissioner and is completing his second term as Alabama commissioner of agriculture and industries.

A larger-than-normal audience is anticipated so it is important for everyone to be served and seated by 7:30 a.m. to give maximum time to the candidates. Chamber business will be abbreviated to ensure this goal is met.

The candidates are making the economic recession the main issue in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Both Sparks and Bentley said the state needs leadership to navigate the faltering economy.

Bentley’s number-one issue is to put Alabamians back to work. The way to grow the economy and help state budgets is by providing a business friendly environment and cutting government pension and health insurance costs, he says.

Sparks platform includes proposals to establish a state lottery and legalize and tax other gambling in the state as a way to raise money and fund college scholarships.

Road construction and infrastructure development are important parts of both candidates’ plan for job creation and economic development.

Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, says both candidates for governor have been supporters of public education. He expects AEA to stay out of the governor’s race and focus on legislative races.

The Sept. 23 breakfast will be the 100th such gathering since I began as the chamber executive director. I anticipate it will be the best attended meeting during my tenure. It is imperative that you arrive and be served and seated before 7:30 a.m.

Breakfast sponsor

St. Vincent’s Blount corporate generosity allows the chamber to present this month’s program to the general public at no charge. Sean Tinney, president of rural operations, will speak at the breakfast on behalf of St. Vincent’s as the health care provider strives to bring quality health care to our community. Physician recruitment, a 24-hour emergency department, intensive care, surgical services, orthopedic services, diagnostics, physical therapy and community wellness services are areas that St. Vincent’s Blount provides to the citizens of Blount County.

Grand opening and open house

New chamber member Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio and owner Towanna Robbins will have an a grand opening and open house Friday, Oct. 1, at 9:30 a.m. The studio is located at 215 1st Avenue East in Oneonta and the store number is 274-7901. You are invited to register for a drawing to win a $100, $50, or $25 shopping spree. A free gift will be given with the purchase of two products (while supplies last). Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.

August unemployment rate

Alabama’s unemployment rate has fallen for the fourth consecutive month and is below the national jobless rate for the first time since November of 2008.

Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees announced on Friday, Sept. 17, that Alabama’s August jobless rate dropped to 9.2 percent, down from 9.7 percent in July. One year ago, August 2009, the state’s jobless rate was 10.6 percent. The national jobless rate for August 2010 was 9.6 percent.

The August jobless rate represents 192,825 unemployed Alabamians, down from July’s 202,308. In August 2009, there were 223,585 unemployed persons in the state. This drop in unemployed Alabamians caused Surtees to remark: “This marks the first time in nearly two years that Alabama’s unemployment rate has been below the national average. That is most definitely a sign that Alabama’s economy is slowly but surely recovering from this economic recession.”

The August 2010 rate showed that 42 of 67 Alabama counties had a drop in the jobless rate. Also, 33 counties had jobless rates of less than 10 percent. Nine counties had jobless rates of 15 percent or higher.

The counties with the lowest unemployment rates during August were as follows: 1) Shelby, 6.8 percent; 2) Madison, 7.1 percent; 3) Coffee, 7.3 percent; 4) Limestone, 7.4 percent; and 5) Pike, 7.5 percent.

The counties with the highest unemployment rates during August 2010 included: 67) Wilcox, 21.3 percent; 66) Greene, 18.8 percent; 65) Dallas, 17.8 percent; 64) Monroe, 16.2 percent; and 63) Perry, 16.0 percent.

Blount County’s jobless rate in August 2010 was 8.3 percent, down from 8.5 percent in July. This was the 11th-lowest jobless rate among Alabama’s 67 counties. There were 25,585 in the Blount County civilian labor force in August 2010, an increase of 130 from July 2010. There were 23,455 Blount Countians with jobs in August 2010, an increase of 166 from July 2010. There were 2130 unemployed Blount Countians in August 2010, a decline of 36 from July 2010. One year ago, August 2009, the unemployment rate in Blount County was 10 percent.

Chamber leadership program

Applications are being accepted at the chamber office for the 2010-2011 Leadership Class. The program consists of nine once-a-month meetings studying the organizations, processes, elected officials, utilities, state agencies, people, and different facets of government that make Blount County a remarkable and unique place. Tuition is $250 for the class, including all meals, transportation, and learning materials. Also during the spring, participants will take a chartered bus to Montgomery for a state government day.

Conclusion

Thank you for your continued support of the Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce. We are working to promote all facets of the county, provide quality programs, and bring business and jobs to the area. By working together, we are making a very good community even better.