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Rolling out the red carpet

The South West Alabama Economic Development Alliance (SWAEDA) recently conducted a &uot;Red Carpet Tour&uot; of southwest Alabama designed to show off the industrial development potential of those areas.

The economic development directors of six counties – Baldwin, Butler, Conecuh, Covington, Escambia and Monroe – joined representatives from state agencies who are responsible for recruiting industries to the state in a tour of several area communities, highlighting the positive features of each.

&uot;SWAEDA was originally called the Alabama Corridors Region Alliance and was based around the southwestern counties that adjoined Interstate 65,&uot; said SWAEDA president Eric Basinger. &uot;It was established in 1991. Later the group incorporated counties that didn’t border the interstate and changed its name to SWAEDA.&uot;

The regional economic development group members lists marketing the region as their primary goal.

&uot;We want to give exposure to southwest Alabama in an effort to attract industry and further grow existing businesses in our area,&uot; Basinger said. &uot;Regionalism hasn’t been around too long; our group is one of the oldest.&uot;

The Conecuh County economic director said the group has been touted as one of the better regional groups of its type.

The group is strictly voluntary, Basinger said.

&uot;We put a lot of time into this endeavor though,&uot; he said, &uot;because we get a lot of benefit from it.&uot;

Those invited to attend the tour are project managers from organizations such as the Alabama Development Office, Alabama Power, Alabama Electric Cooperative, Alabama Industrial Development and Training and CSX Transportation.

&uot;Their job is to bring new industrial projects into the state,&uot; Basinger said. &uot;We want them to understand our region by getting a first-hand look at it. They have the whole state to consider, but we feel if they can get to know our area and see what we have to offer, such as available buildings, prepared sites and prime Interstate access, they will be more likely to suggest our region.&uot;

Basinger said the tours allow the directors to build relationships with key people in the recruiting process.

&uot;If we deal with them one on one and let them see our potential, they will have a sense of ownership in our area,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s a good thing for everyone.&uot;

Overall the group president said he was pleased with SWAEDA’s first red carpet tour.

&uot;Everything was perfect,&uot; Basinger said. &uot;I can’t think of anything I’d change. Every county had a great tour planned and everyone thought it was very interesting.&uot;

He said that even the economic directors found the tour informative.

&uot;We saw things that other counties were doing that we weren’t,&uot; he said. &uot;That gave us a chance to go back and improve our plans so that each county can be more competitive.&uot;

Basinger said the alliance is growing and will continue to do new things in the future.

&uot;We have taken a much more active role than was originally envisioned,&uot; he said. &uot;A lot of that has to do with what Ricky McLaney accomplished last year while president of SWAEDA. We really revved up with the automotive industry and did a lot of advertising. This year we are building on that with the red carpet tour.&uot;

SWAEDA officers for 2003 are Eric Basinger, president, from Conecuh County; Tucson Roberts, vice president, from Covington County; Marshall Rogers, secretary/treasurer, from Escambia County.

Other members of the alliance are Lance LaCour of Baldwin County, Ricky McLaney of Butler County and Sandy Smith of Monroe County.