The theme for this year’s conference for the Economic Development Association of Alabama was “Partners in Progress.” Which, of course, made St. Clair County’s Don Smith the natural choice to lead it.
Smith, the executive director for the county’s Economic Development Council since 2009, was chairman of this year’s conference, which took place earlier this month in Mobile. Summarily, he was elected to the EDAA’s Board of Directors.
“The folks that are on this board and have been on this board are the ones that I have always looked up to early in my career,” Smith said. “Now that I’m on this board, I really do see it as an honor and a privilege, and an opportunity that I want to make the most of.”
The statewide honor also belongs to St. Clair County. Smith said the county’s esprit de corps between municipal and county officials is unique around the state.
“In St. Clair County, we are known for working together, for the benefit of the entire community – not this ZIP code or that,” he said. “That really was able to be transferred into this conference.”
Smith has been working in economic development eight years, and has been a part of the EDAA ever since then. He said that he has seen a demographic shift during his time there.
“When I first started eight years ago, the membership at the EDAA was a lot of older males,” he said. “Now, eight years later, a lot of those folks have retired, and a new generation has come through and replaced a lot of those pillars of the organization.”
As a member of the statewide board, Smith said he will be able to help guide legislation for the state, as well.
“It allows me to have direct input on legislation that economic development – that will allow us to be more competitive nationwide,” he said. “The EDAA also has a three-member team that meets with the state alliance, in putting together and implementing the strategic plan for the entire state. I’m not on that committee, but I have that possibility. As well as making sure that we’re doing things the right way in Alabama, with more of a long-term approach.”
Smith said his selection also is a step for St. Clair County.
“There are a number of decisions that are made that affect the community statewide,” Smith said. “Now St. Clair County will have a direct voice in those matters. Those decisions that have been made in the past have been beneficial for our community, because we do take a progressive toward economic development.”