Good news is happening in our area

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

If you turn on the national news, it is easy to grow discouraged. From ongoing terrorism issues to the sluggish economy, our nation continues to face a wide range of serious challenges.

That said, here in Southwest Alabama, we have had a decent run of positive news lately. I want to highlight some of the encouraging developments that impact every community in our area.

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I received word last week that the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development office is starting a Community Facilities Relending Program to benefit rural areas in Southwest Alabama and Northwest Florida.

United Bank, headquartered in Atmore, will serve as a lender for the program, and they will be able to issue up to $40 million in loans to local communities. This program targets rural areas with high and persistent poverty rates.

Funds from the loan program can be used on a range of essential community facilities or equipment including healthcare facilities, town halls, courthouses, childcare centers, fire departments, police vehicles, libraries, food pantries and more. This is certainly good news as many of our rural communities will be eligible to apply for these low-interest loans.

Baldwin County received some good news a few weeks ago when the Economic Development Administration announced a $846,583 grant for the Daphne Innovation and Science Complex (DISC). The DISC project is an important tool to help spur growth in the technology and science industries around Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

The Economic Development Administration also announced grants for the City of Atmore to construct an industrial access road and for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce to renovate and modernize the former Threaded Fasteners building.

The Poarch Creek Band of Indians in Escambia County was recently awarded a grant from the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Administration. The over $33,000 grant will help with emergency preparedness efforts.

In Clarke County, work has started on a new workforce training facility in Grove Hill. This facility is a major step in the right direction when it comes to encouraging vocational education and making sure students are gaining the skills they need to get a good-paying job.

We also received some goods from the Secretary of the Navy. He announced in September that a future Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will be named the USS Mobile.

This is a well-deserved honor for the City of Mobile, where the Independence-class of the LCS is built. I have been urging the Navy to name a ship after our great city for some time, so I was pleased to see the announcement finally made.

Another piece of good news relates to our local oyster industry. I was able to have an amendment successfully included in the Water Resources and Development Act when it passed the House a few weeks back.

My amendment calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to perform a Gulf Coast Oyster Bed Recovery Assessment. Our oyster industry along the Gulf Coast has taken a real hit in recent years, and I believe it is important for the Army Corps to work with the Gulf states on developing a plan to improve our oyster beds.

These are just a few instances of positive news for our area. Of course, these developments alone will not be enough.

I am committed to continuing to advocate for Southwest Alabama every chance I get. Thanks to our outstanding people, our area has unlimited potential, and I am excited to keep working on your behalf.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.