UA Vice Chancellor Jo Bonner discusses economic development in Tuscaloosa
By Allison Adams
The Tuscaloosa Area Association of REALTORS hosted Jo Bonner, University of Alabama Vice Chancellor and former U. S. Congressman, to share his views on Tuscaloosa’s economic development.
Bonner addressed nearly three hundred Realtors with a question: “How effective do you think the growth here in Tuscaloosa is progressing?” The room raised their hands after he asked how many thought it favorable.
“How effective do you think the economy is progressing as a nation?” he proceeded. There were only a few hands.
“How many of you want your taxes to increase?” he asked. No hands. Bonner informed the group of a recent talk he did where 80 percent of the crowd answered “Yes,” before quoting a recent Arkansas Democratic Gazette article which stated that the “U.S. must increase the national debt before it is too late.”
Bonner spoke of the many challenges facing our nation, stating that sometimes we just want to turn off the television. He encouraged all Americans to continue, as Tuscaloosa has, to push through with great strength, as shown by Nick Saban and his football team, as well as through activities such as the coat and can drive that went on just before he spoke to help those around us.
“America knows Tuscaloosa. Not only for great football, but as we know, we can all be in need in an instant. The Tuscaloosa Tornadoes showed the world how great this city is as they pulled together and not only re-built, but made it better,” Bonner said.
Jo Bonner thanked University of Alabama System Chancellor Dr. Robert Witt for bringing him to Tuscaloosa four months ago to join in what he called a “most impressive community.”
“Be very optimistic,” he praised, as he shared statistics on Tuscaloosa’s unfounded growth, as shared by Grayson Glaze, Associate Director of Alabama Center for Real Estate, at the University of Alabama System.
In 2008, 151 residential homes sold just before the recession began. Last year, 131 homes sold in the Tuscaloosa area. This year 180 sold. When America saw “anemic policies in Washington” in 2009 and 2010, there was actually a growth pattern in Alabama and Tuscaloosa not seen elsewhere. When an average house price here was $156,000 in 2009, it actually increased to $168,000 soon afterwards. Today, there is a $10,000 gap in average sales since 2008, with our average home price today at $178,000.
Bonner also spoke of great things regarding industry in Alabama, with Mercedes-Benz having a 20 year anniversary this year being in the United States and on Alabama soil. Today, Alabama is the fifth largest automotive state because it took a $250 million gamble. Growth projections are showing Alabama as the third largest in the next five years.
Airbus Alabama is making a stake in U.S. production in Mobile. 55,000 jobs exist now in the automotive industry that did not exist. The C-Class will join the ranks of U.S. manufactured Mercedes inventory.
Bonner spoke humbly of his upbringing in Monroeville and the blessed opportunity to work with an institution such as The University of Alabama.
“The University is the largest employer in the state,” he said. “And Tuscaloosa is the only city in the state to be home to a governor, two members of congress and an impressive young mayor making big changes in Tuscaloosa’s position in this state.”
When Dr. Witt came to the University there were 28,000 students. This year, there are 33,000, with an 81 percent growth in a decade. No flagship in America has achieved this. Bonner spoke of the quality of students at the University of Alabama with 28 percent of them never making a B. The faculty has increased by 47 percent, with goods and service needs trickling out into our neighborhoods and retail stores.
“Don’t sell your profession or the need for your relationships in the community short,” he told the Realtors Association. “You are helping people make the largest purchase of their lives and the next decade promises to be even better than Tuscaloosa’s past.”
Nikki Simmons, Executive Vice President of TAR, accepted the MAKING A DIFFERENCE AWARD presented by Moody Radio on behalf of the 370 realtors and 85 affiliates who make a difference in our community. The group collected coats and canned goods for area residents in need during the meeting.
“I am so proud of our members and the difference they make in our community and that they received the recognition they deserve,” Simmons said.
To find a REALTOR member in your area visit tuscaloosarealtors.com.
Photo Credit: Allison Adams
Allison is as REALTOR member of the Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors and a Women’s Division of the Chamber of Commerce and would love to help you take part in owning a piece of Tuscaloosa and West Alabama. Two O Five-914-2400 or allisonpadams AT gmail dot com.