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Latino to head up committee

By By Brian Blackley, Publisher
Getting community involvement and participation in building a comprehensive strategic plan to help improve the quality of life and to recruit new industries to the area is the goal of a new steering committee designed to spearhead the planning process.
Committee members met Tuesday at Gerlach's in downtown Atmore to discuss the first stages of the legwork that will help put together a plan that will, according to Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce President Alan Bell, "help us emphasize our strengths as we work to improve upon our weaknesses."
The meeting was held as a follow-up of an event that brought a group of industrial developers from the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service in Auburn to Atmore earlier this year.
According to Bell, the strategic plan is an essential part of looking ahead as Atmore works to add a crown jewel to its industrial base by attracting suppliers or industries to the area that could be related to the Hyundai plant in Hope Hull.
The goal, Bell said, is jobs.
Bell and Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Director Emilie Mims helped bring the group of 18 residents together, but, with the appointment of steering committee chairman Tom Latino Tuesday, want to let the committee run the process.
According to Latino and other committee members, it is imperative that the community's voice be heard as the plan moves forward.
Typically strategic plans in other communities target key infrastructural needs such as space accommodations, utilities, education, health issues, roads and bridges and access to cutting edge technology n all of which are vital to the success of industrial prospects.
Bell said he hopes the community meetings will help the steering committee specifically target these broad issues and spotlight areas within them for improvement and development.
The next committee meeting is scheduled Aug. 8 at 6 p.m. at David's Catfish House. At that time, Latino said, the committee will organize a schedule and locations for town meetings so that the public will have input into the plan.
Members of the steering committee are Brian Blackley with the Atmore Advance, the Rev. J. Kelly Brown of Atmore's First Baptist Church, Peggy Byrd with Alabama Power Company, Keith Castleberry with Maxwell, Haley &Castleberry Insurance and Real Estate, Lee Dabbs from United Bank, Gwen Dorriety with New York Life Insurance, Principal Beth Drew with Rachel Patterson Elementary School, Rob Faircloth with Faircloth Foods, William Grissett with Escambia Lawn &Rental Center, local resident Willie Hawthorne, Tom Latino, Susan McBride of Jefferson Davis Community College, Marshall Rogers of the Escambia County Industrial Authority, Jim Staff of Staff Chevrolet and the city of Atmore, Edie Jackson with PCI, and Louie Turner of Turner Funeral Home and the city of Atmore.
brian.blackley@atmoreadvance.com