Let me start off by saying this. I have lied in East Alabama (Anniston, Alexander City, Dadeville, Camp Hill) for most of my life. 20 years ago, there were plenty of jobs to be had, the textile mills hired just about anyone who needed a job. And the military supplied many jobs in the region. Today, most of those jobs are now gone. And most of the East Alabama region is slowly dying. It’s almost like you can stick a fork in it. I wanted to write this post to the representative representing most of East Alabama, R-Mike Rogers from Saks.
Over the last 20 years, things have gotten very ugly in the East Alabama region. Alexander City and Tallapoosa County used to be a job magnet. Back in the 1980′s, anyone literally could get a job at Russell Corp. And many kids out of school went straight to Russell or Avondale. But in the early 1990′s, NAFTA was signed, and the jobs began to leave. Today, Alex City is struggling with many people out of work, and for the lucky few that have jobs, most are low-paying. Some people are willing to travel hours away for a job! And there was that reality show on History Channel called Bamazon that featured unemployed workers mining for gold in the Central American jungle.
Up the road in Sylacauga and Talladega, many jobs from textile mills like Avondale also ruled the landscape. But in the 1990′s, those jobs also began to leave. Today, many industries are gone and for the few that are left, hundreds of people apply to them with only a lucky few being hired. The situation is so bad, an article from Credit.com and Yahoo! News named the Sylacauga/Talladega area the 5th poorest region in America. The article bases its list on the annual American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Of course, the leaders of the communities are not happy with this article. They would tell you that the Sylacauga and Talladega areas are full of opportunity, what opportunities?
Up the road in Anniston/Oxford, the area has struggled with the closing of Fort McClellan that took away thousands of jobs. The Anniston Army Depot has also experienced job losses. Things don’t get better with Anniston being polluted with PCB’s and many people experiencing poverty. Sadly, according to the Milken Institute and the list of 179 small metro areas, the Anniston / Oxford area is the second worst performing small metro area in America for 2013. Yep, I did not make that one up, with many jobs leaving and being replaced with low-paying retail and restaurant jobs, I believe this ranking is accurate.
And I know this is not in Rogers district, but in the Gadsden Metro, things have not been better. There have been some times when the Goodyear plant almost closed down. And several industries have closed down such as the Gadsden steel mills. Most of the jobs replaced have been those low paying retail and restaurant jobs. Sadly, a 24/7 Wall Street analysis has named Gadsden the fourth poorest city in the United States. Poor Gadsden, way back in 1989, A Rand McNally article in listed Gadsden as one of the “Seven Worst Cities to Live in the United States.” Could things get any better in East Alabama economic wise?
So, I also wanted to talk about some of the things Mike Rogers has done and has been featured in the news. Let’s start with the story that Rogers made inappropriate comments during a luncheon. According to the Alabama Association of Realtors, Rogers made homophobic remarks to a realtors group in Montgomery on January 23rd. Equality Alabama Chairman Ben Cooper wrote:
“when you marginalize our community, we will not be silent. You allegedly joked about how nice it was to be called ‘Honey’ and ‘Sweetie’ by a woman at an Alabama restaurant rather than a D.C. men’s room. And you went on to mock our nation’s capitol as a ‘cross between Detroit and San Francisco’ — an obvious reference to Detroit’s racial makeup and San Francisco’s vibrant gay culture. Comments like these are racist, homophobic, and hurtful, and they will not be tolerated.”
Let me say this, I support the rights of homosexual people. Homosexual people in Alabama already have a very tough time surviving because of the wrong views of many people. Sadly, some homosexual people have been attacked in Alabama and some have even committed suicide. And that is not right! Homosexual people should have the same rights as everyone else, and that includes marriage!
Next, Rogers has been talking about how the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) will be bad for businesses in the East Alabama district. While I do agree about some of the aspects of Obamacare and how it’s going to hurt the economy. Could Mike Rogers be doing something else? Like helping in the recruitment of badly needed jobs in East Alabama. Outside of the Auburn / Opelika area, the entire East Alabama region is becoming one of the poorest regions in America. I have talked too many people from Alexander City to Anniston (including me) who are relying on food stamps, disability, or welfare to get by because there are no jobs available.
When you add in statistics that the Anniston and Gadsden metro housing markets are some of the worst in America, and the stories I have heard from people saying officials in Talladega are purposely keeping some businesses out, things are not looking too peachy for East Alabama. And that is why I am writing this post. It’s time East Alabama had someone who cares about the well-being of the people living here. Most people in East Alabama are struggling! If people were not struggling, we would not have that History Channel reality show.
It’s time East Alabama recruited more jobs. Yes, some jobs have been recruited, and the Auburn / Opelika area is one of the best ranked regions in America. But what about Anniston, Centre, Sylacauga, Roanoke, Rockford, and other places in the 3rd Congressional District. East Alabama needs tens of thousands of jobs to get back up to speed. People are sometimes having to drive a couple of hours a day just for a job. Or if people have searched and searched without any luck, they have simply given up and gone on food stamps or disability. It’s time East Alabama had someone who would help get jobs here and turn around the economy, if that means Mike Rogers needs to be replaced by someone new elected, than so be it!