MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The wildlife tourism industry had a $1 billion impact on Alabama’s black belt region, according to the group Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association.
The black belt region, which is named after the color of its soil, is known as one of the poorest regions of the state. To boost the economy, the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association began investing in lodges and hunting grounds back in 2009.
Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, said the area lacks industry but is glad to use its natural resources.
“We are inundated with a successful industry called wildlife," Singleton said.
In 2018 the group said there was $1.4 million in total lodging taxes with a total of 363,900 visitors in the region. The black belt tourism industry brought $28 million in tax revenues into the education trust fund.
Counties in the black belt region according to Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association include Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa, and Wilcox counties.
Many counties in the region have 25 percent of their populations in poverty according to the group AlabamaPossible.
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said broadband access is needed to improve the economy. He said high-speed internet will provide access to more job opportunities.
“They’re going to be able to compete in the 21st century economy," Ainsworth said.
State officials anticipate looking at funding broadband access in the black belt during the 2020 legislative session.