Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Decatur Daily. November 14, 2021.

Editorial: Local government cooperation pays off

The Issue

It took a decade, but the announcement that Cerrowire will be the first tenant in Morgan Center Business Park is a reminder that good things happen when local governments join forces.

The decisions in 2009 by Morgan County and its municipalities to continue annual payments to cover the debt service for a new industrial park seemed an obvious one.

After all, their use of a portion of their Tennessee Valley Authority in-lieu-of-tax money had resulted in the creation of the Mallard-Fox Creek Industrial Park on the Tennessee River in the 1980s, a dramatic success that continues to provide jobs to Morgan County residents and revenue to local governments.

Continuing those payments to fund a $16 million bond for creation of the Morgan Center Business Park in Hartselle seemed an obvious next step, albeit an expensive one as it meant the local governments would continue paying out a combined $1.2 million per year to cover the debt service.

Until Wednesday, the result of those payments was that beginning with the completion of Phase 1 of Morgan Center in November 2011 the county had an attractive park with a beautiful entrance, excellent infrastructure — and no tenants.

The absence of tenants became increasingly frustrating after Mazda Toyota Manufacturing announced in 2018 that it would build in Greenbrier. The Morgan Center Business Park seemed perfectly poised to attract suppliers, but one after another those suppliers have ended up in Limestone or Madison counties.

All of which made the announcement Wednesday by Cerrowire that it would build a $100 million plant at Morgan Center that ultimately will employ at least 130 workers especially sweet.

The 270,000-square-foot facility will produce metal clad cable, complementing the company’s copper wire manufacturing business. Cerrowire also has its headquarters and another manufacturing facility in Hartselle, and the new plant will double its Morgan County workforce.

Cerrowire’s president expects construction to begin the first half of next year with production beginning early in 2023.

The fact that the company already has firm roots in Hartselle, the home of its headquarters since 1983, is a positive. Hopefully that ongoing presence in Morgan County will help it to resist the attraction of greener pastures — or more accurately cheaper labor — that has lured some area companies to Mexico or overseas.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, chairman of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, correctly pointed out that the expansion by a company already intimately familiar with the county speaks well of the county’s future.

“Cerrowire’s decision to locate an additional manufacturing facility in Morgan County speaks to the preparation of our workforce, the quality of life in our region, and the continued strength of our economic future,” he said.

The company got financial incentives to locate at Morgan Center, not the least of which was a 50-year lease for $100.

Will the economic benefits of Cerrowire’s new plant be enough to make the significant investments on Morgan Center worthwhile?

By itself, maybe not.

But as Morgan County Economic Development Association President Jeremy Nails points out, Cerrowire’s presence may attract other tenants — a formula that worked at Mallard-Fox Creek Industrial Park.

Indeed, said Nails, other companies are currently considering locating at Morgan Center.

While it’s been slow to pay off, the cooperation between the county and its municipalities is finally bearing fruit. When local governments work together rather than compete, good things happen.

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Dothan Eagle. November 15, 2021.

Editorial: Overreaction

There’s been so much bad behavior at school board meetings across the country lately that it’s surprising there’ve been no reports of board members seeking hazardous duty pay.

The source of much of the discord is, not surprisingly, COVID mitigation procedures and/or vaccination requirements. Unfortunately, response to a public health crisis has become flash point for many Americans, including parents of school-age children.

That’s what prompted the National School Boards Association to send a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, requesting intervention from the federal government to respond to protests and threats at school board meetings.

If you see that as an overreaction, you’re in good company. State school board associations in 26 states – including Alabama — have distanced themselves from or cut ties with the national association over the memo.

In objecting to the national organization’s approach, Sally Smith, executive director for the Alabama Association of School Boards, tapped into what most would consider common sense.

“The Alabama Association of School Boards is extremely concerned about lack of civil discourse at board meetings and threats to public officials and school employees,” Smith wrote in a statement. “We believe any criminal activity should be investigated by local law enforcement agencies; however, we do not believe there is a need for federal intervention…”

The mere presence of a uniformed police officer at local school board meetings would go a long way toward maintaining decorum in the public forum. There’s no need to make a federal case of it.

END