My recent campaign for governor allowed me the amazing opportunity to experience the deep faith and boundless optimism of the people of Alabama. Words cannot express my sincere appreciation to all of you who made this journey possible. I am honored to be an Alabamian and blessed to have met so many of you over the past 18 months. Although we did not win the race, it is important that we continue to keep faith – it is important that we continue to believe in the promise of a better Alabama.
Last month, I outlined the impact of the digital economy on the City of Tuscaloosa’s general fund revenue. With 68 percent of our proceeds coming from gross sales – sales taxes, use taxes and business licenses – internet sales have all but evaporated the City’s revenue growth.
The honor of serving as mayor is earned by your trust, and ultimately your ballot. Across political, racial and socioeconomic lines, the people of Tuscaloosa affirmed with emphasis that we must never stop believing in our great City. The results were humbling to say the least.
This summer, West Tuscaloosa and our entire community accepted a challenge not of our choosing. Stillman College, a difference maker in our community for more than 140 years, faced a $1 million shortfall due to slow cash flow. If this shortfall was not addressed, it was likely that Stillman College was going to close its doors.
After the April 27, 2011, tornado, our goal was to build back stronger, safer and smarter. The Gateway Innovation and Discovery Center exceeds these three facets. In fact, I was impressed at every step of this building and development process, and was blown away with the final product.
Life is not fair. Life is too fragile. These two truths converged unmercifully at 5:13 p.m., on April 27, 2011, when a deadly EF-4 tornado with winds of 193 mph swept into the southwestern edge of this city, and took aim at the heart of Tuscaloosa. In a matter of six minutes, 12 percent of the City was destroyed.
Tuscaloosa’s world changed forever, yet, out the darkness, a confident hope emerged.
For our children, the world has never been a more difficult and complex place, especially as it relates to the value of an education. According to most experts, two out of three jobs created in the next 25 years will require a minimum of a two-year degree with a heavy concentration of digital literacy.
Technology is creating a doubled-edge sword in forecasting the next generation of job opportunities. On one end, we have individuals who do well in school and are well versed in the digital revolution, thus they are poised to succeed. Conversely, for those who fail to achieve academic success, low skill jobs are disappearing from the landscape rapidly. The next time you visit Home Depot or Lowe’s notice the amount of self-check-out lines, as just one small example.