FLORENCE — A Greater Shoals work group is recommending expanding the purpose of the Shoals Economic Development Fund.

While the Broadening the Definition of Economic Development group stated it wants officials to explore expanding the overall purpose of the fund, they specifically mentioned the Shoals Scholar Dollar program as a possible beneficiary of it.

The group also wants the Shoals to explore better collaboration among resources, such as the Small Business Development Center and Shoals Business Incubator and The Generator, which is a location for University of North Alabama students who have innovative or other business projects.

The group recommends looking into ways to expand business opportunities, possibly including through funding.

The group also expressed the importance of branding for the Shoals.

"Branding is about more than a logo," said Alvin Rosenbaum, a member of the Greater Shoals steering committee who is coordinating the meetings. "It means targeting regions. It touches on services and industrial development. It touches everything."

The Shoals Economic Development Fund (SEDF) was a major discussion item during the meeting. The fund is supported by a half-cent sales tax in Colbert and Lauderdale counties.

The Shoals Economic Development Authority Board recommends uses for the fund to the Shoals Industrial Development Committee, which is made up of local elected leaders.

When a state legislative act created the fund in 2007, it specified that it must go toward economic development. The committee always takes that into consideration, and as a result has denied some requests.

Jackie Hendrix, who along with Marty Abroms chairs the Greater Shoals Economic Development Committee, is on the SEDA board. He said officials want to provide funds from the SEDF.

"That's the big misconception out there, is that we're sitting on a pot of gold," Hendrix said.

He said SEDA and the industrial development committee could look into ways to expand the fund without having to go to the Legislature to change the act's wording.

"When it was originally written, think about what the job creation model at the time was and what the new economy of today is," Hendrix said. "I think that's what we need to transition to. I'm in the camp of 'we can do all of that without legislation.' I think (the SEDF) is broad enough that we can do whatever we want as a community."

Scholar Dollars officials at the meeting said the program needs $400,000 annually, but raises only about $100,000. They would like the SEDF to provide the remaining $300,000.

Committee members appeared interested in having that recommendation pursued.

The committee is among six that formed after a Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama study titled "A Greater Shoals: A Pathway" was released this year.

Bank Independent President Macke Mauldin, former University of North Alabama President Robert Potts, Shoals Chamber of Commerce President Caitlin Holland and Rosenbaum formed the steering committee for the effort.

Rosenbaum said an overall meeting tentatively is scheduled for June 18, during which all the committees will present their recommendations.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


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