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Prosperity fund accelerates job growth In Alabama coal counties

Published by
World Coal,


The Prosperity Fund's goal is to foster new start-up businesses and assist selected small firms in Fayette, Walker, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties, according to Corey Tyree, Ph.D., director of Energy & Environment-Alabama for Southern Research and project leader.

The Prosperity Fund's goal is to foster new start-up businesses and assist selected small firms in Fayette, Walker, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties, according to Corey Tyree, Ph.D., director of Energy & Environment-Alabama for Southern Research and project leader.

"Southern Research was founded to help Alabama remain resilient in the face of economic change by strengthening our existing industry and helping develop new ones," Tyree said. "This is about making what we have stronger, reinventing our economy."

The four counties being served by The Prosperity Fund represent the core of Alabama's traditional coal country, and they have been hit hard by the industry's decline. Since 2012, the counties have seen 12 000 jobs tied to coal mining disappear, resulting in US$800 million in lost wages.

"These four Alabama counties have accounted for 10% of the coal job losses in the nation," Tyree said. "But this initiative focuses on moving forward. We have to look for new approaches to job growth and seek out new opportunities for these counties."

Creating a support system

The Prosperity Fund, established as public-private partnership, will link Southern Research with community officials, business leaders and potential investors in a network to provide broad-based support for entrepreneurship in the four counties.

Tyree said the team will recruit and mentor existing businesses and start-ups, assisting them with fundamental activities such as customer discovery, market research and fundraising. It will work with venture capitalists, angel investors and other sources to raise funds to support business growth.

"This award is part of a blueprint for new jobs, fresh opportunities, and a robust economic future for Alabama," said ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl. "It is bringing added capital into the Region and will help Appalachia prepare to globally compete in manufacturing, technology, local agriculture, construction, and a variety of other industry sectors."

The Prosperity Fund has set a goal of facilitating the creation of 10 new businesses. Other objectives are:

  • Creating 80 jobs through business improvement and creation efforts.
  • Increasing business revenue by US$11 million.
  • Leveraging US$6 million in private investment.
  • Assisting 10 existing businesses.

Paul Kennedy, president of the Walker Area Community Foundation, said the Prosperity Fund can act as a catalyst for revitalization in a county with deep roots in the coal industry. Since 2012, Walker has lost more than 500 coal jobs, making it one of the 25 most severely impacted counties in the nation.

"Southern Research has 75 years worth of economic development experience," Kennedy said. "To be able to bring in a nationally recognised organisation with their technical expertise, networks, and knowledge to work with our businesses just really excites me."

Kennedy said he believes that entrepreneurial successes spurred by the Prosperity Fund can inspire others in Walker County.

"When people are getting laid off, everybody is kind of blue. First, it's the miners. Then it's the insurance company. Next, the restaurant," he said. "The same thing happens in reverse when there is a positive development. The excitement ripples through the community, and optimism ripples."

Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/coal/16062017/prosperity-fund-accelerates-job-growth-in-alabama-coal-counties/


 

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