Update from the chamber

And a Merry Christmas to all

The traditional Christmas program presented by the chamber on Dec. 16 had an audience of more than 200 people. Many of those attending proclaimed the program to be the best yet as our presenters, singers, and musicians gave inspiring performances.

Brother Bert Goodwin’s message, “The Reason for the Season,” incorporated many timeless lessons of the coming of Jesus. He also pointed out those same lessons are found in many people and places in Blount County today.

Presenters included Brother Bud Jones, who gave the invocation, and Jim Henderson, who gave the benediction. R.C. Smith led the Pledge of Allegiance. Scripture readers were Marlene Stroud, Terri Lowry, and Probate Judge David Standridge. Debra and Randy Beason, Chris Green, Jacki Manes, and Tom Prickett provided delightful instrumental music. Miss Covered Bridge, Stephanie Shelton, and Miss Wallace State Hanceville, Jordan Ratliff, sang traditional Christmas songs.

A special thanks to our sponsors Hornsby Steel, Hydra Service, the Jim Murphree Insurance Agency, McMillian Fabrication Works, and Triangle Marketing. Their generous support of the chamber made the program possible. Twin Oaks at Heritage was decorated in festive seasonal fare, and the breakfast included yuletide selections.

Recognition of retiring Oneonta City Schools Supt. Jack Housch reminded us of the many contributions made by local residents in bettering our community.

January breakfast

The chamber returns to our speakers program in January featuring Bradley Byrne, a candidate for the 2010 Republican nomination for governor of Alabama. Mr. Byrne recently served as chancellor of the Alabama two-year college system. Before that tenure, he served as a state senator from Baldwin County. You may learn more about the Byrne for Governor Campaign by visiting the Web site at www.ByrneForAlabama.com.

The program is tentatively set for either Jan. 27 or Jan. 28, depending on Mr. Byrne’s schedule. The program will begin at 7:30 a.m. at Twin Oaks.

The breakfast sponsor will be Sherrer and Sherrer, P.C., a full-service law firm in existence since 1965. The firm can assist you in the practice areas of real estate, domestic relations, criminal defense, wills and estates, and governmental affairs. Sherrer and Sherrer is located in Oneonta across the street from the Blount County Courthouse.

Blount County leadership

The second meeting of Leadership Blount County occurred Thursday, Dec. 17, with a focus on local health services. The purpose of this class meeting was to gain an in-depth knowledge of the many services available in the county.

Libby Nash did an excellent presentation on the Blount County Healthcare Authority and the many programs that body offers to local residents.

Bud Jones gave a tour of the Hope House and the new services being offered at the Family Services Mall (FSM). The FSM has been recognized by Governor Bob Riley as one of the 10 outstanding service providers in Alabama.

Presentations by a number of program leaders at the Blount County Health Department proved to be enlightening.

Following lunch at St. Vincent’s Blount, hospital Chief Operating Officer Sean Tinney and vice president of Operations Lisa Nichols gave a tour of the facility and new health services being offered at the Oneonta location. Quality service, expanded physician care, improved patient relations and efficiency, and an upgraded physical plant are just a few of the new features being offered by St. Vincent’s Blount.

A tour of the Magnolia House, a local assisted-living facility, provided to be one of the highlights of the day’s itinerary.

The last session was with Dr. Richard Craig, director of the Jefferson/ Blount/St. Clair Mental Health Authority. Dr. Craig led a spirited discussion on the prevalence of mental health problems in the local community and services that are offered to deal with such problems.

At the end of the class, the entire class gave high marks to the interest level and relevance of the day’s program content.

November unemployment rate

The Alabama Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) released unemployment numbers for November 2009 on Friday, Dec. 18. Director Tom Surtees announced the state’s jobless rate fell to 10.5 percent as compared to the 10.9 percent rate recorded in October 2009. This is the first decrease in the unemployment rate since September 2007. The rate represents 217,350 Alabamians without jobs as compared to 226,466 in October. Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Alabama had the 13th-highest jobless rate in the United States.

The report shows that 43 Alabama counties had jobless rates of 10 percent or higher in November in contrast to 49 counties in October. Three counties had jobless rates of 20 percent or higher in November as compared to four in October.

Blount County’s jobless rate continues to improve, dropping from 9.5 percent in October to 9.2 percent in November. During November, 2318 countians were out of work, while the number for October 2009 was 2405. Blount County had the ninth-lowest unemployment rate among the state’s 67 counties. Some 1314 Blount Countians were out of work one year ago.

The Alabama counties with the lowest jobless rates for November 2009 are as follows: 1) Madison and Shelby, 7.3 percent; 2) Coffee, 7.8 percent; 3) Pike, 8.2 percent; 4) Tuscaloosa 8.5 percent; 5) Houston and Elmore, 8.7 percent; 6) Lee, 8.8 percent; 7) Autauga and Cleburne, 9.0 percent; 8) Dale, 9.1 percent; and 9) Blount, 9.2 percent.

The Alabama counties with the highest jobless rates include: 67) Wilcox, 24.3 percent; 66) Monroe, 21.1 percent; 65) Dallas, 20.3 percent; 64) Conecuh, 19.9 percent; and 63) Chambers, 18.2 percent.

The states (and the District of Columbia) with the lowest jobless numbers for November include: 1) North Dakota, 4.1 percent; 2) Nebraska, 4.5 percent; 3) South Dakota, 5.0 percent; 4) Kansas and Utah, 6.3 percent; and 5) Montana and Vermont, 6.4 percent.

The states (and the District of Columbia) with the highest jobless rates are as follows: 51) Michigan, 14.7 percent; 50) Rhode Island, 12.7 percent; 49) California, Nevada, and South Carolina, 12.3 percent; 48) District of Columbia, 11.8 percent; and 47) Florida, 11.5 percent.

Although the jobless picture is getting better in Blount County, a disturbing trend is developing in the monthly numbers released by DIR. Fewer people are actively seeking work or their benefits have been exhausted. During November 2009, 25,270 Blount Countians were in the civilian labor force as compared to 25,404 in October. One year ago, 26,308 countians were in the work force.

Conclusion

The December breakfast featuring the traditional chamber Christmas program reminds us of the many good people and organizations in the county. That the program was done by local citizens underscores the tremendous talent level found in the area. This is another reason to give thanks for the high quality of life found here.

On behalf of the chamber, let me wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thank you for your continued support and membership as we work on endeavors to better the community.

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