The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has caused ecological and economic damage to coastal areas such as Alabama's south Baldwin County. In "Alabama's Gulf Coast Cleans Up," staff writer Charles Davidson gives a firsthand account of the oil spill's economic, ecological, and psychological effects on the community.
Of major concern has been the area's tourism industry, which experienced a 50 percent decline from normal levels in the months of June and July, reports Davidson. The significant drop in tourism has affected jobs in the region, along with home values and tax revenues. Importantly, South Baldwin County and other coastal areas may be facing an uphill battle to rebuild their brand as vacation destinations, he notes.
Many of the people who depend on the Gulf to make a living were left without a source of income. Some were hired to assist in the cleanup efforts, others have received or are hoping to receive payments for lost income from BP. However, some community leaders like Tony Kennon, mayor of Orange Beach, have cautioned against depending too heavily on BP, writes Davidson.
Local governments are also struggling to find new sources to replenish lost income. The coastal area of Baldwin County is geographically a small part of the larger county, but it accounts for a large share of government revenues. Most local governments hope to receive payments from BP's $20 billion compensation fund, but the disaster has highlighted the need to diversify future economic development efforts away from tourism-related sectors, said Davidson.
For more information about how South Baldwin County is dealing with the oil spill's effect, read the full story, featured in the third-quarter issue of EconSouth.