FLORENCE — Forrest Wright will retire from his position as president of the Shoals Economic Development Authority on May 31 after 28 years of leading the agency.

The SEDA board accepted Wright's retirement at Tuesday's meeting, and appointed SEDA Vice President Kevin Jackson as the new president.

Although Wright will step aside as president after May 31, he will remain as manager of properties until March, board members said.

During Wright's tenure, he managed the creation of more than 15,000 direct jobs and more than $2.6 billion in capital investments, SEDA officials said.

"It has been a privilege to serve this board and the Shoals over the years," Wright said.

Board members thanked Wright for his service, and gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion of the meeting.

"Thousands of people have jobs because of your work," board member Macke Mauldin told him.

"You'll be missed," board Chairman Ron Kirkland added. "We appreciate all you've done for us."

Billy Ray Moore said he remembers asking Wright for advice when he joined the board.

"You said, 'Do what's best for the Shoals area. Don't put one county over another, and don't put one municipality above others," Moore said.

Wright's retirement comes at a time when the commissions in Lauderdale and Colbert counties have expressed displeasure with SEDA, and are considering having individual county economic development agencies.

Wright always has stressed that it is important that the Shoals be one unified community that does best when it operates cohesively.

"For the past 28 years, it has been my privilege to work with and for a remarkable Shoals area," he said. "I am grateful to have been the beneficiary of a very supportive board of directors and local leadership that always had the best interest of the Shoals area at heart.

"The greatness of the Shoals today is built upon the efforts of those board members and local leaders, past and present, who worked tirelessly to come together as one community."

Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford calls Wright "the ultimate professional."

"He did a lot of work without regard for any one city or county," Bradford said. "He has always been a straight shooter about putting the facts out there and letting the officials make the decisions. His main goal was to deliver all the site possibilities to the client and allowed them to choose."

In addition to expansions at existing industries, Wright saw numerous industries come to the Shoals, including FreightCar America, North American Lighting, TASUS, CBC INGS and SCA Tissue, which today is Essity.

Wright was executive director of the 27-county Southern Kentucky Economic Development Corp. before coming to SEDA in 1991, according to information from SEDA.

He has a public service master's degree in regional economic development from Western Kentucky University, and has received the Alabama Department of Commerce's Dave Echols Award for Distinguished Service in Economic Development.

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

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