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Sunday Discussion: The Problems In East Alabama Continues


Update:  According to Neighborhood Scout, Gadsden is ranked the 87th most dangerous city in America.  Anniston’s crime statistics are not much better.  And did you catch the announcement that Covalli’s Italian Kitchen is closing?

The last week has not been good for the East Alabama region.  First, Outback Steakhouse closed in Oxford on Sunday.  Several Outback Steakhouse’s in the country were also closed   Second, Sbarro closed many of their mall pizza locations last week, including the one in the Quintard Mall.  I believe there was one in the Gadsden Mall, which is closed as well.  And third, EMS workers in Gadsden walked off the job because they have not been paid in weeks.  What a lovely week for East Alabama, not!  In addition to the job losses, the Anniston Army Depot announced they are predicting around a $75 million budget cut for 2015.

While the budget is not set in stone yet, and Congress will depend on how much the army depot gets its budget cut, seeing the news of up to a $75 million budget cut for 2015 is not good!  I know the folks out at the army depot are saying the budget cut will not result in many job losses, but let’s be real.  A $75 million budget cut is going to result in a massive amount of job losses, there is no way around it!  Last year, the depot laid off over 370 people, but soon hired those people back.  My concern is how many people are going to be laid off if the $75 million budget cut comes true, and yes, more people being laid off is going to continue the destruction of the East Alabama region.

In the East Alabama region, jobs have been lost left and right.  Things are so bad, there was a reality show on History Channel that featured unemployed men going to Central America to mine for gold in the jungle.  Alexander City has lost over 10,000 jobs, Sylacauga/Talladega is the 5th poorest region in America, Gadsden is the fourth poorest city in America, and the Anniston/Oxford area is the second worst performing small metro area in America.  Yep, East Alabama is doing so good right now.  And that is the big problem, cities, counties, leaders, and chambers are not doing nearly enough to market the East Alabama region to recruit new jobs.

I know some of you are going to say, “well Oxford is doing okay”, well Oxford is starting to see a decline as well.  You just had Outback Steakhouse close, mostly all of the jobs recruited to Oxford are low paying retail and restaurant jobs that does not support a economy, and mayor Leon Smith just had a wastewater treatment plant named after him.  Nothing is better than having your mayor’s name on a sewer plant!  For Anniston, we are getting close to the halfway point of Vaughn Stewart’s first term as mayor, and we are still planning and planning.  I know there is a thing on Thursday night where they say they will announce their plans for Anniston, but we should have already have a plan in action now!  And what about the Clear Plan 2030 plans, why is that not moving forward as well?

It should not have taken almost two years of planning to get something moving!  That is the biggest problem for every city and county in the East Alabama region.  We plan, plan, and plan some more, but we don’t put those plans into action so people can come out of poverty.  East Alabama has some of the highest concentrations of people in poverty in Alabama, outside of the Blackbelt region.  I have talked too many people in the region who are struggling because there are no jobs, or opportunities for people to start something to get out of poverty.  Many people have simply given up any hope of advancing in their careers to get out of poverty, and these people are on food stamps, disability, welfare, or other government assistance programs.

There has been some good news for parts of Alabama job wise.  Like that Remington plant that is moving to Huntsville, that is bringing in new jobs.  But all of these job announcements are skipping over the East Alabama region including Anniston and Gadsden.  Why is the cities, counties, and chambers not actively recruiting to bring these jobs to East Alabama?  People need help now!  They don’t want to continue seeing our leaders planning and not putting those plans into action.  I mean, some people are getting so desperate and bored, they are going around and shooting horses, sheep and even zebras to death.

Unless our leaders in our cities, counties, businesses, and chambers changes how they do things, East Alabama will continue to struggle with massive job losses.  Maybe people living in East Alabama needs to really think about who they vote for in the next election?  You know, Republicans are always not going to do a good job, there are Democrats as well, but people despise the left because they are ruining America, right?  I wonder what will be the next TV show, or news story, or online video, that will embarrass the East Alabama region once again?  Unless we make some radical changes to market the East Alabama region, which will take some funding by the way, East Alabama will continue into that deep, dark spiral of a depression, and people will give up hope.

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