Macon Co. looks to the future, with or without Victoryland

SHORTER, AL. (WSFA) - As closing arguments are made in a gambling corruption trial at a Montgomery federal courthouse 25 miles from town, attention is once again being drawn to the area surrounding Victoryland in Macon County.

The gaming facility has been closed for months as its owner fights legal battles on state and federal levels. The idle business is a massive economic loss for the area and its unemployment rate.

Residents are eager to find out what the verdict will be in Montgomery, but they're equally as concerned with the verdict on what will happen to their own community.

The sign welcoming visitors to Shorter, Alabama - a small town halfway between Auburn and Montgomery in rural Macon County proclaims: "A town on the move", but it's gearing down to a much slower pace. Residents say it's the sign pointed toward Victoryland that explains why traffic is so sparse:

"We still have a lot people ask about Victoryland," explains County Commissioner Drew Thompson. "We have to tell them they are only running simulcast. Then, the next question is where is the closest casino?"

Victoryland was the economic engine for the county. Now, the once busy gaming center employs just 20 to 30 people. Looking up at the sign to embattled Victoryland developer Milton McGregor's empty Oasis Hotel, it begs the question, what is the new "Oasis" that will bring life to the poor county's dry economy?

Thompson says to attract businesses, they're planning to lay sewer lines at two different interstate exits. It's a "must" to maintain the funding they had relied on from Victoryland.

"Ultimately, the occupational tax pays bond notes. Without the dollars from Victoryland, we will have to dip into the General Fund to pay the notes," Thompson, who owns a gas station across the street from Victoryland, explained.

Another answer to Macon County's economic woes could sit just miles down the interstate at Moton Field. While it's home to the Tuskegee Airmen, an overhaul on the airport is catching national attention.

Golden Eagle manager Sylvester Williams says, "With the project we are putting together, the airport could bring in a lot of industry. It could help revitalize Tuskegee and Macon County itself."

The runway is structured to land large private aircraft, complete with hangar space, maintenance and a flight school. Williams wants to "...bring as many people through Tuskegee as we can."

It's a new wind blowing through Macon County, taking to the sky for inspiration to point a sleepy community in the right direction.

There's no official word of when a groundbreaking at Golden Eagle Aviation may happen.

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