SCCEDC’s Roberts Participates in Birmingham CREW Panel on economic priorities in the area

Bob Farley/f8FPhoto

Bob Farley/f8FPhoto

Birmingham’s CREW recently hosted a panel on economic development in metro Birmingham and brought in experts from Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Cullman counties.

Representatives from each economic development entity face different struggles, whether it is trying to convince potential incoming industry that despite a low unemployment rate, jobs are needed, or finding ways to keep more people in town instead of driving to Birmingham for work. In the case of Cullman County, recovery after a tornado’s destruction is still very much a priority.

Weighing in on the economy and the region’s path were: Jason Roberts, assistant director, St. Clair County Economic Development Council; Rick Davis, vice president economic development, Birmingham Business Alliance; Peggy Smith, director, Cullman Economic Development Agency and James Dedes, executive director, Shelby County Economic and Industrial Development Authority.

Shelby County

One of Dedes’ main focuses is on retention and recruitment in the area to keep the growing population secure.

“We’re noted for our rapid population growth,” he said. “We have close to 208,000 population in Shelby County and about a 107,000 labor force. The big challenge that we have is about 60 percent of our labor force leaves the county to go to work. So the big part of our mandate as an economic development agency is, “How do we work to help companies create jobs so those residents who live in Shelby County are also able to work in Shelby County and not have to get on Interstate 65 or certainly Highway 280 and travel in to work?”

Thanks to the plethora of jobs in and surrounding Shelby County, Dedes said there is a low unemployment rate. However, that creates a challenge for him recruiting companies. He said the lower the unemployment rate, the more arguments they have to make that employees are there.

But he said that doesn’t stop him and his agency from pursuing a “diversified economy” and gunning for more advanced manufacturing and health care projects.

“There are great jobs out there and we desperately need people to fill those jobs,” he said. “It’s a challenge not only at the county level, but the state level.”

By Stephanie Rebman Managing Editor Birmingham Business Journal

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