Saturday, March 11, 2017

Bill Crawford: Small towns can make it.

Rural communities in the South can succeed.

Thomasville, a small town in Alabama's poor "Black Belt," has thrived under the leadership of Mayor Sheldon Day. Indeed, Day has his folks believing it is "cool to be rural."

Census data shows Thomasville with 4,209 residents and a low family poverty rate of 13% compared to 25% for the whole of Clarke County and 19% for Alabama. The town's poverty rate has been in steep decline since 2010 as median household income jumped 28% from $28,234 to $36,146.

The 500 student Thomasville High School, with 48% minority students and 63% who qualify for free and reduced lunches, boasts a stellar graduation rate of 95%.

During his 20 years as mayor, Day has attracted over $700 million in capital investments and increased the number of industrial parks from one to five. He estimated 50% of the businesses along the Highway 43 by-pass in Thomasville have opened during his tenure and sales tax collections have tripled.

In 2013, Thomasville beat 62 other sites to secure the $100 million Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tubing facility, the first major manufacturer from China to locate in Alabama.


Day is especially proud of the partnership he built among the high school, Alabama Southern Community College, and industries. The dual enrollment program he championed in welding 14 years ago now includes industrial maintenance, information technology, pre-engineering, pre-nursing and sports medicine.

"Today there are more dual enrollment high school students at the Thomasville campus than regular students on Alabama Southern's main campus in Monroeville," Day said. Coupled with an intensive work-based learning program at the high school, the dual enrollment program, Day says, has been a "major catalyst to attract industry."

Fascinated by his success, Betsy Rowell, executive director of the Stone County Economic Development Partnership, invited Day to tour her county and speak at her annual meeting. "He has obviously had great success with partnerships in his area. Our local leadership needed to hear his message."

How is Thomasville succeeding in an area where most rural towns struggle?

Day said when he was first elected mayor in 1996 he spent time searching out the best models for rural development. He found that model in Tupelo. He studied Tupelo and became a disciple of Vaughn Grisham, director emeritus of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi.

Day points to several similarities. One is the broad cooperative spirit he has nurtured. "In Thomasville, the school, chamber, industry, and city are all partners," he says. "Everybody talks to each other to get things done." Another has been his intense focus on developing the local workforce. And, like Tupelo did with Toyota, he collaborated with an adjacent county, Wilcox, to create an industrial park to locate a major industry. Now, he is copying Tupelo's healthcare model and will soon build a new regional hospital.

No longer the student, he now lectures on how to succeed in rural communities at Auburn's Economic Development Institute.

"His insight was invaluable," said Rowell.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jackson metro could use a developer like that

Anonymous said...

Who is Bill Crawford. Nobody ever heard of him

Anonymous said...

3:52 - obviously not into keeping up with anything. Go back to reading your comic books and leave this serious blog stuff to the adults in the room. Many of us have not only heard of Bill Crawford, but some of us have actually even seen him. For what its worth, I'll put his knowledge base up against yours, and that is obviously sight unseen since your anonymous status could let you be most anybody. But I am assuming you are in the lower level IQ base of the JJ commentator.

noel said...

low family poverty rate of 13% AND 63% who qualify for free and reduced lunches? So 13% of the families have 63% of the kids or do we pay for free and educed lunches for people over the poverty line?

Anonymous said...

Amazing what getting a couple of plants into the area will do. Of course the other things being done helped to bring in the plants.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:19 He's talking about public school. Tons of kids go to private schools there.

Anonymous said...

1. Free & Reduced Lunch does not equal Federal Poverty Level. One qualifies for reduced lunch at nearly twice the FPL. That's a problem with the MAEP formula. "Poor" doesn't mean really poor, it means "poor" and up to 125% of the AVERAGE MS household income.

2. It is an interesting article and the man is to be commended. There are certainly some takeaways that can be applied to nearly any community. However, to model a town of 4000 people after a town of 40,000 is interesting. It seems like maybe luck had as much to do with it as planning. Also, Tupelo has done well over the long-term, but the past 15 years haven't been their best. They have lost some of their core citizenry (read: Middle Class) to the Lee Co. suburbs.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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