BSCC a partner in strengthening area economy

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/3/17

Bevill State Community College is helping to revitalize Alabama counties impacted by the loss of jobs in the coal industry.

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BSCC a partner in strengthening area economy

Posted

Bevill State Community College is helping to revitalize Alabama counties impacted by the loss of jobs in the coal industry.

BSCC has partnered with The Prosperity Fund — an initiative through Southern Research — to boost economic development in Walker, Fayette, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties.

A press release on the Southern Research website says the effort is important in replacing lost coal jobs.

“We’re working closely with local universities and colleges as part of this effort,” The Prosperity Fund Managing Director Steven Puckett said in the press release. “Working with companies, students get to attack real-world problems, like finding new markets and carrying out basic market research. These are activities that can help small businesses grow and create jobs.”

Puckett has helped Bevill develop an entrepreneur program as part of strengthening the economy, and students in the University of Alabama’s STEM Path to the MBA program are conducting research to determine ways Walker County’s timber industry can grow, which could help contribute to the overall mission.

Walker Area Community Foundation President Paul Kennedy said in the press release, “If you’re in the forest products industry in Walker County, you’ve got access to a lot of raw materials but not a lot of outlets for distribution. So, this has the potential to impact a lot of families if we can come up with new uses for the wood and wood waste.”

To illustrate the impact of coal industry jobs lost in Walker County, Southern Research noted in the press release that between 2012 and 2016, 2,500 coal jobs were lost in four Alabama counties, which equated to 10 percent of the nation’s industry employment loses.

The press release further states, “As the negative economic ripples have flowed through the entire region, the suffering has been particularly acute in Walker County, whose fortunes have long been tied to the coal industry. During that four-year time frame, the county lost 494 coal jobs with $41 million in wages.”

BSCC President Dr. Kim Ennis said she is happy Bevill State can be a part of the effort in helping Alabamians get back to work and ultimately helping to revitalize hard hit communities. She said their partnership with The Prosperity Fund can particularly help strengthen the small business climate.

“Small business is what America is built on,” Ennis said. “We realize that smokestack-chasing is not going to change things overnight, especially in our area.”

BSCC Director of Public Relations Tana Collins said the college’s entrepreneur program that will begin in 2018 will also help in the effort.

“If you don’t know anything about starting a business, it’s intimidating,” Collins said. “Working with The Prosperity Fund, we can provide them with the resources they need to get over that first hurdle.”