Atmore's future bright

Published 6:18 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2007

By By Adrienne McKenzie
James (Jim) P. Hayes kept a packed house enthralled at the 61st annual Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet Monday night.
Hayes graduated from T.R. Miller High School in Brewton, and then went to the University of Alabama where he received both his bachelor's and master's degree in industrial engineering. He is the president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, which is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the economic growth of the state. He is the director of First Commercial Bank in Birmingham, and BancTrust Financial in Mobile.
Hayes discussed both statewide and local economic development at the Chamber banquet.
Economic Development Partnership of Alabama was developed in 1991. The main goal of EDPA is to focus on attracting and retaining industry and to ensure quality of jobs for citizens of Alabama. EDPA markets and promotes the state of Alabama as a location for businesses. The organization provides research along with information and proposals to companies that are searching for a location.
"Economic Development Partnership of Alabama was developed as a marketing vehicle and can help foster a better image for Alabama," Hayes said. "If we can get people to come and look at Alabama, we can get them to want to live here."
Hayes said that the engineering term for what the state needs to do for developing economically is called "an elegant solution," which means the solution that has the best effect on everyone who is involved. He said that the economic development in Alabama works with a "top down approach, bottoms up result."
There are approximately 70 corporate partners that have formed a group to promote a better image for this state. These partners include Mercedes, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai.
Hayes said that there is both good and bad news for the state of Alabama.
"Alabama has a great work ethic, which is the good news," he said. "But, we are running out of work, which is the bad news."
He said that Atmore will have challenges but can face those challenges with property.
"Atmore has product to sell – the property," Hayes said. "There are a lot of challenges but we can face those challenges with the possibilities for Atmore. We want Atmore to grow and prosper but don't want Atmore to not be Atmore anymore."
The combination of retail and industry on Interstate 65 was suggested by Hayes. He said that this blend could tie Atmore to the Mobile region.
Hayes believes that this community should feel positive about the potential of the town.
"We should be extremely optimistic about the future of this community," Hayes said.
Emilie Mims, Executive Director at the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce, was pleased with how well the banquet went.
"The banquet was very successful; the room was full, people enjoyed the food, the speaker as well as the announcements of awards," Mims said.
Mims also said that the room was at capacity, and that there were around 250 people in attendance.
Mims thought that Hayes had a great speech prepared for the crowd.
"I thought the message was exciting," Mims said. "It is interesting to see how Atmore fits in to the big picture."
Outgoing president, Dale Hurst, welcomed the 2007 president, Nancy Helton, during the banquet. Helton is the vice president of business development at United Bank, which is a corporate sponsor for this year.
"It's always interesting to have the change of leadership because I get to work with new people," Mims said. "Dale Hurst was a great leader as I expect Nancy Helton will be also."
Ralph Stacey, the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama attended the banquet as well. He spoke briefly about the importance of partnerships throughout the chambers of commerce of the state before he introduced Hayes as the guest speaker for the evening.
The banquet came to an end with the announcements of the Lifetime Achievement Award and Atmore's 2006 Citizens of the Year recipients.

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