Commerce secretary visits Winston

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, center, visits Haleyville City Hall during a tour of Winston County to discuss economic development needs. Pictured with Canfield, from left, are State Representatives Proncey Robertson and Tracy Estes, State Senator Greg Reed and State Representative Tim Wadsworth.

HALEYVILLE  - Rural areas such as Winston County are finally getting on the road map for future economic development prospects, as was shown during a recent economic development meeting that brought personnel from the Alabama Department of Commerce to see and hear first hand about the area’s biggest needs.

State Senator Greg Reed was joined by the state’s Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield in Haleyville for a major economic development meeting attended by local officials form across Winston County as well as state officials, in an effort to get the county on the map.

David Roberson, president of the Industrial Development Authority of Winston County, presented a strategy to Canfield and state legislators based on several different points, telling the numerous strengths, as well as the weaknesses of the area.

“We know that all of us are stronger than one of us,” Roberson began. “So we  try to fit into the regional environment with the other counties in this area, participate with them in marketing and other programs to help try to attract and support businesses in this area.”

A big focus, Roberson continued, was upon existing businesses and industries.

“I grew up in this county,” said Roberson. “I wanted to be here because I wanted my girls to want to come back here. I am probably not unlike a lot of folks where their kids want to move off to a big city.”

The goal, therefore, is to bring those same opportunities from bigger cities to such rural areas as Winston County.

Yet, Winston, like other rural counties through the years, has fallen behind due to a lack of infrastructure and/or high-speed internet, forcing its residents to seek employment or better opportunities elsewhere.

“We continue to try to work on infrastructure issues,” Roberson noted. “In a county like Winston, we’ve got lots of needs.”

Winston County, he added, also works on recruiting new businesses.

Referring back to 2007, Roberson said many officials and community leaders across Winston County had the foresight to create the Winston County Cooperative Improvement District, joining municipalities with the Winston County Commission in order to promote economic development not just in the county, but in the region, Roberson recalled.

“When you only have a $7 million budget, you find a way to be creative,” Roberson stated. “You do things to create tax bases.”

The single biggest thing done by the Cooperative District was building an 800-acre industrial park about six miles from the I-22 corridor, he said.

“We couldn’t get much closer than that in Winston County,” Roberson said. The park sits right off Highway 13.

See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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