Bankruptcy, politics obstacles to JeffCo growth? - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Bankruptcy, politics obstacles to JeffCo growth?

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

Jobs are coming to parts of North and South Alabama. But they seem to be skipping over Jefferson County. Bankruptcy and politics could be the reasons Birmingham is missing out.

The Dollar General Distribution Center is open for business. The decision to come to Jefferson County was driven by an incentive deal put together by Bessemer, Jefferson County and the state.

"All that infrastructure gets the attention of those who want to invest dollars. Dollar General put 100 million here. Something had to have been going right to do that," said Ronnie Acker, president of the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce.

Acker points to the addition of the Norfolk Southern hub and thirteen industrial parks as markers of success.

Dollar General was the latest big deal. It was struck before the county's bankruptcy filing.

"Alabama is open for business. We need to do the same in Jefferson County," said Acker.

Opening Jefferson County to new business could involve an end to the so called war waged by some members of the Jefferson County Delegation against the commission.

"When you look at Huntsville, their legislative delegation is all in sync.Tthey are all in sync and able to recruit national companies," said Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos.

Petelos says bankruptcy is over but to move on, the county must gain businesses and partners.

"I think what we've got to do is get our delegation onboard," he said.

But Airbus and Remington each brought thousands of jobs to Mobile and Huntsville respectively. Dollar General brought 650.

Acker believes stability is all that matters. He says it's a lesson learned in Bessemer years ago when steel mills closed and unemployment rose to 33 percent.

"They've gone after a diversity of companies and now Bessemer isn't dependent on big plants," he said.

More economic development deals are expected soon.

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