Commissioners organize meeting to discuss economic development

Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2014

More than 30 people attended a work session hosted by the Chilton County Commission Monday night to discuss county economic development.

“The reason for this meeting is for us to start building a foundation for this county to grow on, and be successful in growing,” commissioner Shannon Welch said. “The people sitting in this room tonight make a great team. We all have to be partners in this, and the different keys in this room right now are the keys for us to be successful.”

The meeting started shortly after 5:30 p.m. at Jefferson State Community College’s Chilton-Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center where individuals gathered to discuss ideas on ways to grow Chilton County.

“It is good to see this room full of people,” Welch said. “Everyone here is interested in moving forward. You don’t represent numbers and bodies in chairs, you represent people who are interested.”

Commissioner Joseph Parnell echoed Welch’s statements challenging those in attendance to think about the future of Chilton County.

“I have heard statistics where a large number of our kids graduate and leave this county and never return,” Parnell said. “We need these people to stay, and for our county to grow and flourish.”

Parnell introduced various individuals in attendance of Monday’s meeting who represent different groups throughout the county, including the mayors from each municipality.

Tommy Glasscock, newly elected Chilton County Superintendent of Education, spoke to the group about his excitement with the future of education in the county.

“To see a group finally come to the table and talk about moving our county forward is a great thing to see,” Glasscock said. “We have struggled in the past just getting everyone to the table. I think one thing that is important for us to remember moving forward is that we might fight, get excited, argue or disagree, but at the end of it all we should be able to still go have dinner with one another.”

Glasscock applauded the commissioners for organizing the meeting and discussed ideas for how to change the perception of education in the county.

“Right now, we have a 19.6 percent rate of individuals in our county with a college degree,” Glasscock said. “I would like to see that number increase to about 30 percent. From an education standpoint, we are going to change, and if we line ourselves with a one, three and five-year plan and have the ability to hash things out and come to an agreement, then we will go forward.”

Mayors from Jemison, Clanton and Maplesville also showed support for growth in the county, and thanked commissioners for inviting them to participate in the meeting.

Thorsby’s Mayor Jean Nelson could not attend the work session due to the Thorsby’s Town Council meeting.

Representatives from the Chilton County Industrial Development Board, Alabama Power, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative, Chilton County Healthcare Authority, Chilton County Airport Authority, Chilton Water Authority, and others spoke in support for coming up with different ways to see the county grow and succeed.

“We want everyone to understand the moving pieces we have so we can figure out how to plan,” Parnell said. “I hope this will stimulate us into developing a one, five and 10 year plan for moving forward.”

Commissioners said they would like to schedule another meeting before Christmas and asked Chilton County Industrial Development Coordinator Fred Crawford and managing consultant for the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce Janice Hull to research how Chilton County compares from an economic standpoint to cities such as Greenville and Cullman.

“We have seen those areas and how fast those have grown,” Parnell said. “We have an asset that is better than them and that is our people. People are our most valuable resource. It might even be something where a group of us could go to Cullman and meet with different individuals who have helped grow that area.”

Everyone in attendance was asked to think about different ideas for the county they would like to see, and return to the next meeting with the ideas.