Sumners talks economic development at Chamber luncheon

Auburn University Economic and Community Development Director Dr. Joe Sumners talks about contributing factors in economic development at a South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon May 5. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

Auburn University Economic and Community Development Director Dr. Joe Sumners talks about contributing factors in economic development at a South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon May 5. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Harpersville native and Auburn University Economic and Community Development Director Dr. Joe Sumners returned to Shelby County on May 5 to discuss factors essential to producing economic growth and progress.

“It’s about creating wealth in a community, but it’s also about improving the quality of life,” Sumners said to dozens of people gathered at a South Shelby Chamber of Commerce luncheon at First Baptist Church of Columbiana on May 5. “Strong local economies are built on strong communities.”

Sumners said core economic development activities include business recruitment and attraction; business retention and expansion; entrepreneurship and small business development; commercial and retail development; tourism and retiree attraction and community development.

“It’s about recruitment and attraction, but it’s also about potential expansion,” Sumners said.

Economic development rests on coordination between the public and private sectors, he noted, and a strong private sector economy depends on effective government investment and decision-making.

The site selection process also plays a key role in development.

“Every community cannot compete for every project,” Sumners said. “We have to have strategies and visions that are realistic to our limitations and strengths.”

Site selection factors include human infrastructure and incentives and finance.

Sumners said strong community infrastructure is essential to have, along with citizen engagement and collaborative leadership.

Another pressing issue changing the face of communities today is workforce development.

“We are replacing people with technology,” Sumners said, noting a higher number of unskilled jobs are becoming obsolete.

According to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, the projected fastest declining occupations by 2018 are: Sewing machine operators; textile machine setters, operators and tenders; file clerks; order clerks; computer operators; and mail clerks and mail machine operators.

Projected fast-growing occupations by 2018 are: Pharmacists, physical therapists, registered nurses, computer software engineers, network systems and data communications analysts, physician assistants, home health aides, aircraft assemblers, mechanics and service technicians and welders.