Cotton is gone, Hyundai is here

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2002

The people of Butler County cannot, and should not at once, be able to fathom what happened in the midnight hours of Monday, April 1, 2002. It'll likely take time to sink in.

It was no "April Fool's Day" joke that night when Hyundai Motor Co. announced plans to build a $1 billion manufacturing plant in nearby Hope Hull, though it may have been mistaken for such.

Ever since cotton left as king, Alabama's Black Belt has withered in the drying dust. Jobs have left town for richer soil

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most times transformed into six-laned blacktop. And while the jobs have bid our region adieu, the faithful residents of this area have lived through an enormous fight.

That fight has not been against each other. Rather, the fight has been with a changing world that thrives on interstate systems and cheap labor.

Monday night, Butler County and the rest of Alabama's Black Belt finally won a round. No, our unemployed won't slip into manufacturing suits and begin work for $50,000 a year. But today, we awaken with something just as important: Hope; real hope.

The plant will directly employ 2,000 workers. Many of those workers will come from Butler County.

The plant will create dozens of new support industries,

some of which will land in Butler County.

Ten years from today, the county won't be the same. Our children and their children won't leave home for engineering jobs in some distant state. Instead, they'll come home after four, or six years in college, build a house down the street, and take the engineering jobs

that hopefully will be located throughout Butler County's industrial parks.

Yes, this should be a different Butler County, but don't expect any magic. Now, it's time to become serious about bettering this community.

If potential spin-off industries are to choose the outskirts over Montgomery, we must give them a reason to do so. Our young people must take education seriously. Our teachers must take educating seriously. Our parents must support the teachers. And our leaders must keep working on the appearance and perception of the county, and make it the highest of priorities.

No, we cannot fathom what will happen to Butler County, because nothing happens by itself. This is the day our depleted Black Belt has long desired. We must not forsake it.