Reopening business is one thing to Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, restarting the city's economy is another. That is why the mayor and the city council are working to finalize his "Restart Tuscaloosa" plan. It is a $15 million plan to get the economy of the city rolling again according to Maddox.

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The city and local businesses are dealing with the loss of revenue produced by students at the University of Alabama and Stillman College when they are on campus. Forty-nine percent of Tuscaloosa's economy vanished when they left town. Lost is major income from the cancellation of A-Day, graduation weekend and big entertainment shows at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. Maddox labels those losses, "catastrophic".

Added to the lost event revenue is the near 10% unemployment resulting from the month-long total shutdown of retail businesses. With restaurants continuing to only be able to fill take-out orders and barber shops, salons and exercise facilities remaining closed; Tuscaloosa's economy is still in intensive care.

4th District Councilman Lee Busby's fears irreparable damage has been done to some local small businesses, "I think every city in the country right now is worrying those who were not the strongest in the pack may fall out completely."

But Busby believes it is not just the marginal businesses that are feeling the pain, "Everybody is going to be hurt. There is going to be trouble for everybody."

That is why Maddox is proposing  "Restart Tuscaloosa", what he calls a plan of action. It will invest $22.7 million dollars into communities, neighborhoods, jobs, services and the city as a whole.

Maddox is also recommending a $4 million dollar investment in equipment, cyber technology and personnel for public safety. Through programs such as "Transport Tuscaloosa" and "Elevate Tuscaloosa," Maddox wants to keep road projects moving forward. The primary emphasis is on neighborhood roads, sidewalks, gutters and curbing.  He wants the projects to go to bid by October to provide jobs to aid in the employment comeback.

The mayor is also recommending $1 million to go to the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama's Small Business Relief Fund to help small businesses within the city experiencing the COVID19 financial crunch. Each council district will get $50,000 to help businesses see positive impacts. Funds must be dispersed by the end of this year.

"This is about keeping our businesses alive during this crisis," Maddox vows. Maddox points out every city in America has seen an economic shutdown but in Tuscaloosa's case, like other college towns, the city saw a significant portion of its economy leave town when college campus classes were shutdown. That accounts for about a half-billion in the local economy laments Maddox.

The "Restart Tuscaloosa" Plan includes investing $3 million in the local hospitality industry. The goal is to allow restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues to still be alive when the economy fully reopens and students return. To help, Maddox wants more events at the Amp, more entertainment district activities, more "Live at the Plaza" concerts, more sporting events and more art festivals to attract tourists and the community to jump-start the economy.

"This not the time to take a step back," Maddox emphasizes, "it is a time to be forward-leaning."

The mayor and council are working on his "Restart Tuscaloosa" plan today and tomorrow as well as the 11th and 12th of this month. Maddox then plans to put the plan to a vote after the May 12th work session.

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