Shoals residents brainstorm ways to spur region's economy

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — Creating high-tech jobs and attracting millennials are among the ideas emerging in discussions about how to spur economic development in the Shoals region of Alabama.

The TimesDaily reports that some of the discussion at a recent forum involved a desire for better-paying jobs.

A group looking for ways to enhance economic development in the region shared ideas recently, the newspaper reported. The aim is to make the Shoals a viable place to bring in people and retain those already living in the region.

The economic development group formed after a study released in February recommended that volunteers take part in groups that focus on specific issues in the Shoals.

One idea that arose involved expanding the Shoals Economic Development Fund. The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama has recommended using the fund for additional purposes and expanding the notion of economic development to include quality-of-life issues, the newspaper reported.

"Quality of workforce and quality of life are important," said Jackie Hendrix, who co-chairs the committee with Marty Abroms. "As such, the Shoals Economic Development Fund's purpose should be expanded."

Nathan Willingham, director of the University of North Alabama Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs, said it is important not to simply focus on ways to increase population when discussing economic development.

"Our investments in economic development need to be investments in opportunities for people here," Willingham said.

Others said that better-paying jobs are needed in the region.

"What I'm hearing is the jobs just don't pay enough to keep people," Ryan Moore said.

There also was talk of enhancing the Tennessee River's potential to add quality of life, which helps attract people and enhances the economy.

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Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/