Maddox aims for post-grad retention


CW/ Joe Will Field

Kayla Smith, Contributing Writer

As the end of the spring semester approaches, many seniors are making plans for their futures after they leave the University. Laurie Beth Beyerle, a senior majoring in marketing, has spent the past six months researching and applying to graduate schools across the country.

Despite what she describes as a positive undergraduate experience, Beyerle has not applied for a graduate program at The University of Alabama.

“I have loved the past four years I have spent here, but I want to go where I can interact with people outside of college,” Beyerle said. “I don’t want to feel like I’m in a college town all the time.”

On Jan. 29, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox proposed a plan called “Elevate Tuscaloosa,” through which he hopes to make changes in the city that will encourage students to stay after they graduate from the University.

“We want to retain the intellectual capital being created at UA,” Maddox said.

One of Maddox’s overarching goals is to encourage a change in Tuscaloosa’s economy from a retail-based economy to an entertainment- or experience-based economy. Some students, like Beyerle, feel Tuscaloosa’s current entertainment scene is lacking.

“My weekends are either spent at university events or bars on The Strip,” Beyerle said. “It doesn’t feel like there are a lot of things to do outside of that.”

Beyerle has applied to schools in cities like Boston because she’s drawn to the diverse opportunities available in larger communities.

“People in their twenties like to have a wider variety of entertainment options like those that would be available in a bigger city,” Beyerle said. “Also, the job market looks very different in big cities.”

Beyerle believes she would face a very small job market if she chose to pursue a career in marketing in Tuscaloosa or the surrounding area. However, Maddox emphasized the freedom that many millennials have in choosing their communities because of internet-based jobs and companies.

“Young people need a high quality of life in their community because they have the ability to create their businesses anywhere,” Maddox said. “We hope they will create businesses that will stay in Tuscaloosa.”

Maddox said 68 percent of millennials chose their communities based on mass transit, arts and culture, parks and recreation and education. Some of the beginning steps of the Elevate Tuscaloosa plan designate funding to local parks projects. In the future, Maddox hopes to create more mass transit options for the city.

Maddox said data has shown that building a community around core services like mass transit develops businesses and creates jobs. In the future, Maddox said he hopes to build Tuscaloosa’s economy through creating a market for recent college graduates.

“Every community is either moving forward or it’s moving backward, and young people are our future,” Maddox said.

Maddox proposed a one-cent increase in sales tax to accommodate the cost of his Elevate Tuscaloosa plan. In order to counteract the effect of a sales tax increase on low-income members of the community, including students, Maddox intended to lower the grocery tax.

The Tuscaloosa City Council voted against an increase in sales tax after a series of meetings held throughout February and early March. However, several members of the council said aspects of the plan were worth pursuing in the future.

The Elevate Tuscaloosa plan would have also increased funding to the Tuscaloosa National Airport. District 6 Councilman Eddie Pugh said he would still be interested in increasing funding for the airport, and he believes the changes made would benefit out-of-state UA students.

“I hope we will not only improve services at the airport, but we hope it could lead to flights coming in and out of Tuscaloosa plus with the upgrades would allow the large number of out-of-state students and their parents to use these local facilities making it more convenient to come and go into Tuscaloosa,” Pugh said.

Despite the setback, Maddox said he will continue to push forward with his Elevate Tuscaloosa plan. He said it’s still a valuable initiative and he hopes he will see aspects of the plan come to fruition at some point in the future.