Reporter's Note: President Obama is trying to get the economy back on an even keel. He might want to join me down by the riverfront in Montgomery, Alabama, where some folks seem to have some pretty good ideas about that, which is the subject of my daily letter to the White House.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/15/hank.williams.museum.jpg caption="A car on display at the Hank Williams museum in Montgomery, Alabama."]
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
I’m trying to be reasonable about this, but if I can’t get warm this winter even by traveling to Alabama, precisely where do I need to go? (Keep your sarcastic answers to yourself. I’m in no mood.) We flew down here to continue our Building Up America series, and after freezing our tails off in Austin last month I was just sure that we would be blessed with golden sun and the signs of an early spring here in Dixie. No such luck. Stiff, cold winds all day. Not a pleasant homecoming for one who used to live here, to say the least.
Still, I won’t rattle on about it. Aside from the pneumonia, I was nicely surprised by what I found in my old stomping grounds. Despite all the problems in the economy, it seems as if the local government folks, the Chamber of Commerce crowd, and developers have actually worked out a way to make things crank a bit downtown. They have built up a series of blocks around the minor league baseball stadium where the Biscuits play. (Yes, the Biscuits! One of the best names in all of baseball!) Now they have restaurants, hotels, a Hank Williams museum, and more. Enough that if I were a visiting business type I’d be pretty happy to go to my convention, maybe take in a ballgame, and then top it off with some excellent barbecue. Btw, don’t forget the banana pudding which my producer, Katie, mysteriously refused to even sample. Go figure.
Anyway, all of this activity along the river is encouraging because Alabama, in case you haven’t noticed, has had a hard time. Unemployment here, in the latest numbers, is over 11 percent, which is worse than it’s been in almost 30 years, which is to say since about the time I left town. (Coincidence?) Still, this effort seems to be working. I’m told that property values are rising, general interest in the area is up too, and all of that is fueling at least a little job growth.
Small progress, I think, is underrated. To borrow a baseball analogy, when an economy is down in the count everyone wants that big homerun: the new industry that moves to town and creates a thousand jobs, or that bailout that somehow rights the economy in an instant. But very often I think it is the accumulation of small advantages that really matters. In this little corner of Alabama, it looks like folks have figured that out in their own small way…and I’d bet on it bringing them big rewards as the national economy slowly claws its way back.
So give me a call if you can. I’ll be running around, but always happy to chat with you, especially to tell you about something promising I’ve seen. More tomorrow.
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