“Getting Ready to Work”

Published 10:51 am Friday, August 14, 2009

Butler County’s elected officials are not sitting back and waiting for the unemployment situation to resolve itself.

They’re taking action.

A special press conference was held yesterday at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Greenville to let the public and media know about an upcoming one-day event entitled “Getting Ready to Work.” The program, which will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at LBWCC’s Wendell Mitchell Conference Center, is designed to offer tips, ideas, suggestions and assistance programs to the unemployed and help them find a job.

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Ricky McLaney, Director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development, said the county’s unemployment rate is 13.9 percent. When data for July is released by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations later this month, McLaney expects that figure to rise to nearly 16 percent because he said the full effects of Chapman Forest Products’ closing hasn’t impacted the local job market yet.

Jesse McWilliams, Butler County Commission Chairman, said this is a message to jobseekers that elected officials in city and county government care about their situation.

“It’s important to let our citizens know we’re doing something,” he said. “When I first got into politics 10 years ago, our unemployment was about 18 percent. At that time, it was pretty difficult to get industries to locate in Butler County. But we put aside partisanship and worked together and these industries saw how well we worked together. Now we have new and improved school facilities, a new industrial park, and we still have a strong work force in Butler County.”

Mayor Dexter McLendon said he receives calls almost daily from people searching for jobs. He said he doesn’t feel like the jobless have become hopeless with the current economic situation, but city and county leaders are not waiting around until they do.

“We need to let our people know we care,” said McLendon. “We need to let people know what’s available. We want anyone that is unemployed in Butler County to come to this event and get information.”

McLendon said higher unemployment means less sales tax revenue for Greenville, Georgiana and the county, so it is imperative that elected officials address the issue quickly.

“When people aren’t getting paid they don’t spend and that means less sales tax coming in to the city, which means we have to start cutting people or services,” said McLendon. “Thankfully, we haven’t had to do that so far.”

Georgiana Mayor Mike Middleton attended Thursday’s press conference and said sales tax collections in Georgiana were down eight percent this year. He also hasn’t had to make any cuts to employees, but only because the city is already operating with a minimum amount of personnel.

“When you don’t have anyone to cut, you can’t cut,” he said.

At the program on Sept. 1, various state and county agencies will be represented, including: ADECA, AIDT Training, the Alabama Career Center, the Butler County Extension Office, LBWCC, Reid State Technical College, and Manpower, Inc.

Assistance with resume writing will also be offered, said McLaney.