The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama has tapped the University of South Alabama to partner on a yearlong project with other universities and colleges in the state to create economic development strategies for counties in Alabama most affected by the Gulf oil spill.
The project is funded by a $593,500 grant from the Economic Development Administration, $400,000 from the Alabama Industry Competitiveness Foundation and the EDPA Foundation, and $78,000 in in-kind services from Aegis Technologies for a total of more than $1 million.
The project will engage resources from across the state and will result in both short and long-term strategic plans to encourage economic recovery and economic sustainability in eight Alabama counties, including Mobile, Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Monroe and Washington counties.
“The oil spill affected countless Alabamians and business owners,” said Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. “Although the Gulf Coast counties were ground zero for the spill, the impact is felt statewide, which is of even more importance during already challenging economic times.
“The collaboration of the business community, government and universities represents the best of Alabama, and this strategic approach to economic development is why Alabama will emerge from this crisis a stronger, more competitive state.”
With the EDPA overseeing the project, the organization and its partners will address workforce development, transportation infrastructure and health care needs in target areas.
USA will conduct economic impact analyses on suggested growth target sectors to help the region prioritize economic development projects that will provide the greatest growth opportunity. It will also partner with the University of Alabama at Birmingham on field work and strategies designed to lessen the economic impact on health care issues.
Leading the USA research effort are Dr. Donald Epley, USA Distinguished Professor of Real Estate and director of the Center for Real Estate Studies, and Carl Taylor, assistant dean of the College of Medicine and director of the Center for Strategic Health Innovation.
“We couldn’t be happier to be joining the EDPA and colleagues from around the state in this opportunity,” said Dr. Russ Lea, vice president for research at USA. “More than 23 USA researchers have been working on some $2.6 million in oil-spill-related research since the spill began. Thanks to this grant, they’ll be able to integrate what they’ve learned into strategies to help the affected counties and the state strengthen our region’s capacities for bouncing back from such events in the future.”
Other partners on the EDPA project include the Alabama Community College System, Auburn University and University of Alabama in Huntsville, which will collaborate with Huntsville-based Aegis Technologies.
The private, nonprofit EDPA assembled a partnership with research universities and the Alabama College System in applying for the grant.
“EDPA recognized an opportunity to leverage federal dollars to further a mission of ours: To identify the intellectual capital in Alabama that can be applied to economic development planning and build a framework for future collaboration,” said EDPA President Bill Taylor.
“We have valuable assets in the state and we believe there is a way to harness them in a more effective manner,” continued Taylor, who has also been selected by Gov. Bentley to develop a strategic plan to align Alabama’s job creation and workforce development resources. “The work done through this grant won’t stop here. It will result in a regional, collaborative process that can be replicated in other areas of the state to address critical areas of need and spur job retention and growth.”
The EDPA-led project connects with and builds upon efforts already under way in the region, including those by the Coastal Recovery Commission of Alabama. The commission was created by executive order in 2010 to analyze regional vulnerabilities exposed by the oil spill and to recommend strategies to make coastal Alabama more resilient in the face of future challenges. USA President Gordon Moulton served on the board of the CRC, which recently formed the Coastal Alabama Leadership Council to facilitate implementation of CRC recommendations.
When the new EDPA project is complete, the organization will present its findings to the Economic Development Administration, which will use the report to aid in prioritizing future federal funds to the region.