Much work and participation needed to bring industry to Atmore
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Last week's focus on putting together a strategic plan to improve the economic climate in Atmore and the surrounding area is a step in the right direction for industrial recruiters, economic developers and local residents.
Much has been made of concerns about the local economy, which appears to be showing signs of strength despite recent plant closings. One of the reasons is that we have had good news that local manufacturer Muskogee Metal Works has landed a $47 million government contract and will be expanding into the old Vanity Fair facility.
But this alone cannot bring the area's jobless rate down. It will take work n much work n to accomplish this noble and lofty goal.
Area leaders showed that they are not willing to bury their heads in the sand when they held last week's meeting at the Atmore Lions Club Community Center regarding strategic planning. Putting together a "strategic plan" is critical to our area's success. This plan, in simple terms, is the bringing together of people and resources to help emphasize our area's strengths while working to improve upon our weaknesses.
Giving these strengths and weaknesses the proper emphasis is essential. From both an educational standpoint and from recruitment standpoint, all of us need to know what we have that will appeal to a potential industrial prospect while knowing what we must overcome in order to bring new jobs to the area. Quite simply, we cannot move forward without a strategic plan.
The Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce working with city government officials n like Mayor Howard Shell and the Atmore City Council n has helped spearhead this process. But without our help n as business leaders working to protect our investments, as concerned citizens who want to see improvements in the area or as quiet homeowners and residents interested in having a better quality of life n this process cannot move forward.
So what can we do?
One simple word: Participate.
Organizers of this strategic plan will be holding meetings to gather feedback. Be there and provide it. They will be forming committees as a result of the comments they hear from local residents to improve things like infrastructure, education, health care and other "key" quality of life issues. Volunteer to serve.
It will take all of us working together in unison to prepare for the potentially rich future that's in front of us. With four-lane access to I-65, our location near coastal markets and I-10, and our proximity to the Hyundai plant in Hope Hull, we are in a position to reap immense rewards.
But we can't do it without participation from everyone. We can't do it if we have a plan that doesn't have community-wide support. And we can't make something good happen by simply wanting it to happen.
The best way to get everyone on board is by getting everyone involved in the decision-making process and in driving the plan forward. As each one of us sees key ideas n our ideas n put into the plan, we will buy into the plan more and more.
This is what will lead us to making change through the next phase n a comprehensive plan n that will help us make the changes that we all want to see made while working to enhance our strengths.
In the coming weeks and months, you will see, hear and read about our community's "strategic plan." Don't let the buzzwords deter your understanding of what we seek to accomplish. Just think jobs, improvements, and a better quality of life for you and for your children. Think of a brighter future, of a stronger economy and better roadways. Think of progress.
But most importantly, know that your help and input is essential to the community's success.