More jobs means more investment
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell found herself on a district tour, visiting places in and around Selma Thursday, the same day it was reported the national economy had gained zero jobs in August.This marked the first time since 1945 the national job market had been stagnant. But, for those who live in Alabama’s Black Belt, much of which is located in Sewell’s 7th Congressional District, a month with zero job loss, would be an improvement.
Over the past few months, the unemployment figures in Wilcox, Perry and Dallas counties have inched ever closer or have easily surpassed the 20 percent mark, a statistic that has become constant in the Black Belt.
“Our economy is the No. 1 priority,” Sewell said. “The rest of the nation may have a cold, we’ve had the flu for a long time. So economic development in the seventh congressional district is paramount importance to this office and to me in particular.”
When asked what can be done to break this multi-generation trend of high unemployment, Sewell said it will be how the area promotes the assets we have.
“The best thing we could do is showcase the assets that are in these counties — the assets are its people,” Sewell said. “We’ve got to create the infrastructure to attract the industries that will allow us to break the systemic unemployment. We have to figure out a way to make this river work for us, to make Craig Air Force Base work for us … it’s not going to happen overnight.”
While Sewell, during her visit, touted industrial successes in other areas of the district, including those in Thomasville and Tuscaloosa, she admits that good news has not translated in jobs for those in Dallas, Perry and Wilcox.
“Rome’s not built in a day,” Sewell said. “Continuing to invest in human capital, education and job training, is something that’s important. Investing in innovation — some alternative energy sources, making sure that UAB’s that are in our district get research and development dollars in promoting innovation depot.
“I believe that we at every turn should make sure people have what they need to be the best they can be,” Sewell said. “What we need are resources and opportunities … it’s incumbent upon those who have been blessed to bless others.”
Investment in education and training is not the only investment Sewell said needed in the Black Belt.
“I think investing in our infrastructure, roads and bridges, (is) critically important,” Sewell said. “I love to see Craig Field be given resources so it can be … the hub that it was. It’s a resource that’s not being utilized to its capacity. We’ve got to figure out a way to harness that resource to make that work for this area.”