Meeting addresses fostering business growthTalk focuses on what residents living south of the railroad tracks want to see in their community

Investment and the job growth spurred by it would always be welcome for Odessa’s south side but private businesses would ultimately decide where to settle, District One Odessa City Councilman Malcolm Hamilton said Friday during a town hall-style meeting.
The modestly-attended gathering drew about 30 people for a two-hour talk that centered on what residents living south of the railroad tracks would want to see happen in their community.
Considering what are the prospects of turning south Odessa into a hub of business opportunity and economic growth garnered much of the attention of the session that was sponsored by the Black Chamber of Commerce of the Permian Basin.
While creating job growth in an area known for its blight was on the mind of some the attendees, Hamilton said that while city leaders might be able to sway private businesses into considering the south side for a location, “at the end of the day these businesses where they want to locate.
What needs to get done is to fight the negative stereotype the south side has garnered over the years as a bad location.
Hamilton after the meeting said he laughed when someone referred to Snyder Street in a bad light because he grew up there and returned after 20 years.
Hamilton mentioned during the meeting that media coverage of street crime mostly tells of illegal activity happening in areas away from the south side, and Snyder Street in particular.
Mayor David Turner, who sits on the Black Chamber of Commerce board, said the city hired a company two weeks ago called Retail Coach that will look into what prospects the south side would have.
“So, we’ll start working on it,” Turner said.
Greg Williams, another board member, said that fostering economic resources through an educated workforce would ultimately bring in the businesses. Or in other words, the more people are college educated they would in turn create businesses that would create wealth and that in turn would draw in more investment, Williams explained.
“The way out is education,” Williams said.
But Staci Walton, a history teacher at Bowie Middle School for the past 23 years, questioned why businesses would come to the south side because of the incessant congestion, noise and foot traffic the nearby cemetery has. There is often two funerals a day during the week, according to Walton.
Gene Collins, another Black Chamber of Commerce board member, said there needs to be an urban plan.
There were few answers Walton gained from the meeting.
“That’s why this little chat isn’t working,” Walton said.