Economic Development Issues for Rural Alabama


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Economic Development Issues for Rural Alabama


Economic Development

  • “Economic development is a process by which a community creates, retains and reinvests wealth and improves the quality of life.”



Economic Development Principles

  • 1) The ultimate goal of economic development is to improve the quality of life in the community.

    • Businesses are attracted to communities that are good places to live, work and conduct business.


Economic Development Principles

  • 2) A strong economy requires a strong community.

  • Economic development requires a foundation upon which to build.

  • Roads, water, gas, electricity and sewers are necessary for economic growth – physical infrastructure.

  • At least as important is the community’s civic infrastructure of strong local leadership, vital community institutions, public involvement, and a community mindset of pride and optimism.



Economic Development Principles

  • 3) Successful communities are developed from within.

  • Control of a community’s future is in the hands of its residents. Only they can decide where they want to go and then take the actions necessary to turn vision into reality.

  • Sustainable economic development occurs in a community that develops its own capacities instead of relying on others to do it for them.



Rural Distress in Alabama

  • Alabama Commerce Commission:

  • “Clearly, there are two Alabamas, one urban and one rural. The first is enjoying relative success, although there are deeply distressed pockets within our urban areas. The second, for the most part, is making little or no progress and continues to keep Alabama from being recognized as a successful competitor.”



Alabama Rural Distress

  • County June ‘03 Unemployment

  • Washington 17.4%

  • Wilcox 15.4%

  • Lowndes 13.8%

  • Dallas 13.7%

  • Sumter 12.9%

  • Greene 12.7%

  • Bullock 12.5%

  • Choctaw 12.0%

  • Perry 11.7%

  • Lamar 10.9%

  • Hale 10.5%

  • Butler 10.1%

  • Randolph 10.0%



Alabama Rural Distress

  • County Lowest SAT Scores

  • 1. Bullock

  • 1. Macon

  • 1. Perry

  • 1. Sumter

  • 2. Barbour

  • 2. Greene

  • 2. Lowndes

  • 2. Wilcox

  • 3. Marengo

  • 4. Butler

  • 4. Coosa

  • 4. Pike

  • 4. Russell

  • 5. Chambers

  • 5. Clarke



History of Economic Development in Alabama

  • Throughout the 20th Century, Alabama’s economic development strategy was built on low taxes and unskilled, low-cost labor.

  • In the later 20th Century, the U.S began to export low wage, polluting industries; new focus on high technology.

  • Alabama was poorly positioned to compete when question became not “what does labor cost” but “what does labor know.”



“The State of the South 2002: Shadows in the Sunbelt Revisited” (MDC, Inc.)

  • “National recovery won’t bring jobs back to the rural South. Production has moved to other countries with lower wages, or plants have substituted technologically advanced machines for people. Tens of thousands of jobs are not coming back.”

  • Gone forever is the kind of economic development strategy that Alabama and other Southern states used for decades to lure industry: “Enticing companies from afar to relocate with the bait of cheap land, low taxes and a surplus of hardworking but undereducated workers. That old recipe no longer works.”



Tax Burden

  • TOTAL PER CAPITA STATE AND LOCAL TAX REVENUE (FY 2000)

  • STATE TAXES NAT. RANK

  • Georgia $2,841 25

  • North Carolina 2,664 31

  • Florida 2,624 35

  • Kentucky 2,517 39

  • Louisiana 2,436 41

  • South Carolina 2,379 44

  • Arkansas 2,230 47

  • Mississippi 2,214 48

  • Tennessee 2,185 49

  • Alabama 2,117 50

  • National Average $3,100

  • Alabama: 68% of Nat. avg; 75% of Georgia’s tax burden



Property Tax Revenue 2002 (Per Capita)

  • PROPERTY TAX REVENUE PER CAPITA (FY 2000) 

  • STATE PROP TAXES NAT. RANK

  • Florida $882 22

  • Georgia 725 33

  • South Carolina 668 36

  • North Carolina 572 39

  • Mississippi 514 40

  • Tennessee 507 41

  • Kentucky 426 45

  • Louisiana 390 46

  • Arkansas 361 48

  • Alabama 301 50

  •   National Average 885

    • Alabama: 34% of Nat. avg.; 54% of other southern state avg. ($561)


Education Spending

  • EDUCATION SPENDING PER K-12 PUPIL (2000-01)

  • STATE SPENDING NAT. RANK

  • Georgia $7,620 19

  • Kentucky 7,047 25

  • South Carolina 7,012 26

  • North Carolina 6,364 39

  • Florida 6,254 40

  • Louisiana 6,010 41

  • Mississippi 5,699 44

  • Tennessee 5,693 45

  • Arkansas 5,684 46

  • Alabama 5,210 47

  • National Average $7,463

  • Alabama: 70% of national average; 82% of other southern state avg.



Rural Schools

  • Local funding for education in Alabama’s rural school systems is only 57% of the local support provided to school systems in the state’s metropolitan areas.

  • County and city school systems in Alabama’s 45 rural counties average $793 per student in local support.

  • County and city school systems in the state’s 22 counties located in metropolitan statistical areas average $1,386 per student – a difference of $593 per student.

  • (Source: Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, Samford University, “Local Support for Public Schools: Tax Rates and Revenues Per Student, 1999”).



Economic Growth

  • ECONOMIC GROWTH

  • (% change in employment 2002-03)

  • STATE NAT. RANK

    • Florida 4
    • Tennessee 10
    • Mississippi 12
    • Arkansas 16
    • Louisiana 18
    • Georgia 25
    • Kentucky 28
    • South Carolina 32
    • North Carolina 40
    • Alabama 41


Economic Growth

  • INDEX OF STATE ECONOMIC MOMENTUM (September 2002)

  • STATE NAT. RANK

    • Florida 5
    • Tennessee 12
    • South Carolina 20
    • Georgia 22
    • Arkansas 23
    • Kentucky 24
    • Mississippi 25
    • North Carolina 27
    • Louisiana 33
    • Alabama 38
  • The Index looks at one-year changes in: 1) employment, 2) personal income, and 3) population



  • “But this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

  • 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NKJV)

  • or

  • “You get what you pay for”



Beyond the Interstate: The Crisis in Rural Alabama




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