City hosting economic development forum

Creative Strategies for Economic Development is the focus for the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission’s leadership forum in Demopolis on Friday, March 1.

“Rural communities in Southwest Alabama can participate in the creative economy to grow jobs,” said John Clyde Riggs, director of the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission. “We’ve put together a topnotch agenda to inform businesses, creative people, and community leaders about these opportunities.” The forum will begin at 10 a.m. in the Demopolis Civic Center.

“All towns have creative assets,” said Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson. “We look forward to learning how to better take advantage of these assets.”

Malcolm White will keynote the event. White is the acknowledged father of Mississippi’s Creative Economy Initiative. As director of the Mississippi Arts Council, he spearheaded research and development of the initiative. As the current Tourism Director for the state, he promotes opportunities to communities of all sizes. His topic in Demopolis will be “How Rural Communities, Artists, and Businesses Can Participate in the Creative Economy.”

Tony Pasko will perform and discuss What Creative People Need to Know to Succeed in Business. A talented guitarist, Pasko is music director for the popular cable television show Duck Dynasty.

Two panel discussions will highlight creative opportunities. Discussing Business Opportunities for Creative People will be Johnna Bush – Portrait Artist, Grove Hill, Sheila Hull – SH Designs, Livingston, and Vicki Stoudenmire – Original Paintings, Selma.

Discussing Using Creativity to Grow Businesses  will be Charles Frazier – Weidmann’s Restaurant, Meridian, Miss., and Ben Burford – Davis Denny Advertising, Birmingham, also a member of Chevy 6 band.

The City of Demopolis is hosting the program. There is no charge for admission or for lunch, but attendees must pre-register online by February 22 at

Co-sponsors of the forum are the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, Black Belt Treasures and The Montgomery Institute.