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Dial: Economic recovery coming to Alabama

Gerald Dial has a simple way to tell how the economy is faring: He counts the 18-wheelers on the interstate.

“This month, 50 percent of the vehicles on I-20 were trucks,” Dial told participants of an economic development summit Thursday. “They’re carrying products produced by someone, carrying it to someone who will sell it at market. The economy is improving.”

The summit, hosted at the Country Club of Brewton by Alabama State University’s Southern Normal campus, also marked the graduation for participants in ASU’s USDA Rural Business Opportunity Program. Participants, grouped by county, presented model economic development plans for each county.

The Escambia County participants included Joe Watson, Jacqelyn Etheridge, Regina Watson and Anita McCreary.

Dial, a former state senator and former director of the state Rural Action Committee gave the opening plenary speech. He praised the participants in the RBOP program.

“You’re making a difference,” he said.

Dial noted that just a few years ago, the state had 3.4 percent unemployment — but the collapse of the national economy has affected the state. Unemployment is now at 11 percent.

“Where we were and where we are is very different, in a very short period of time,” he said.

But Dial said that the foundation the state is laying now — including through workforce development and education efforts — will help the state come out of the recession.

“We’re training people to be ready for the economy’s recovery that we’re going to see,” he said.