Commission meets Faulkner, learns no one signed up for free workforce program

Published 4:52 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2016

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By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes County Commission met the man who will be helping the county with economic development over the next 11 months, Wednesday, and learned that while no one signed up for a free Ready to Work program designed to help qualify more Lowndes County residents for the work force, the program is not being abandoned.
David Hutchison, executive director of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission (LCEDC), introduced members of the Lowndes County Commission to Gary Faulkner of The Faulkner Group LLC, Wednesday. Faulkner began assisting Lowndes County with economic development on Oct. 3.
Hutchison told the commission, “I just want to sort of pass the mantle… not that I’m deserting you.”
Hutchison serves as executive director of both the LCEDC and the Butler County Commission for Economic Development (BCCED). However, he said as discussed over the past few months, the Butler County and Lowndes County group came to an agreement that The Faulkner Group would be brought on board to help with economic development projects (in Lowndes County).
Hutchison said in the transition to Faulkner, existing industry visits will be made in the next coupe of weeks.
Faulkner told Lowndes County Commission members prior to beginning a contractual relationship with the LCEDC that he looked at workforce and industrial properties in the county and that he looked at both the past year’s, and recent years’ successes.
He said, “I do see potential, obviously, here. I see growth in regional industries that could affect Lowndes County in a very positive light.” And he said, “Now is the time to get boots on the ground… look at the properties individually.”
Hutchison said one thing that hopefully can be changed in Lowndes County is that only 26 percent of the jobs in the manufacturing sector in the county are held by Lowndes County residents. He said, “We hope to bring that level up through Gary’s work and also Workforce.”
Hutchison said one way to bring the number of country residents employed in manufacturing in the county up is to get more people qualified to go to work and interview through the Workforce Development Program.
“Unfortunately, the program that was supposed to start yesterday (Tuesday) was not implemented because of the lack of participation in Lowndes County residents in signing up,” Hutchison said. He said the program was going to be done with Wallace Community College in Selma.
Hutchison said, “We couldn’t get anyone to sign up for the buses that were to pickup in Hayneville and White Hall.”
County Administrator Jackie Thomas said Tuscon Roberts, who serves as a consultant to the LCEDC, will try to offer the program again to Lowndes County residents in January if they can get 10 to 14 students signed up.
The Ready to Work Program would have sent Lowndes County citizens with a high school degree or GED to Wallace Community College – Selma for a free six-week program three days per week funded by the the LCEDC, the Lowndes County Commission and the South Central Alabama Development Commission.
Buses will have come to Hayneville and White Hall to transport up to 14 persons on a first come first serve basis who take the course to Wallace Community College and provide them $35 per week for lunch.
However, Hutchison said, “We’re not going to give up. We still think there’s potential and we’re still looking, trying to find young people who are out of high school that are not pursuing any other type of education.”
Over time, the Faulkner Group LLC is expected to become the primary contact for economic development activities in all of Lowndes County.

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