Commission hosts second economic work session to discuss county growth

Published 4:57 pm Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Members of the Chilton County Commission hosted a second economic work session Tuesday at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center adjacent to Jefferson State Community College.

Due to the success of the first work session in October, where more than 30 people attended the event to discuss county economic development, commissioners scheduled a second work session to further the discussion of ways to grow Chilton County.

Since the Oct. 6 work session, local leaders and members of the community traveled to Butler County and Cullman and visited with the Birmingham Business Alliance to gather ideas to bring back to Chilton County.

“We went and visited Butler County and Cullman to find out what they did right,” commissioner Shannon Welch said during the work session. “We wanted to go and learn from them about the success they have seen in their communities and bring back ideas for our county.”

Commissioner Joseph Parnell greeted the roughly 30 people in attendance and thanked those who came for wanting to see the county grow.

“I look around this room at this group of people, and I see a bunch of doers,” Parnell said. “Forgive me for being excited, but I am really excited about the future of Chilton County.”

Parnell highlighted the fact that Chilton County has a “good story” with several things happening in the county that need to be highlighted including a new hospital, industry, and airport improvements.

Parnell spoke about the growth Cullman has recently experienced.

Chilton County Industrial Development Coordinator Fred Crawford gave a presentation during the meeting of things those who traveled to Butler County/Greenville, Cullman and BBA learned during their visits.

Crawford said in Butler County, industries include auto suppliers, metals and wood products.

On the education side, Crawford said all 10th graders in Butler County are introduced to the world of work with a higher academic excellence promoted.

Currently, Butler County has 337 members in their Butler County Chamber of Commerce, and their latest project took four years to complete.

In Cullman, Crawford told those at the meeting that the city of Cullman takes the lead as the Economic Development Agency and is a department of the city of Cullman.

On the education side, Cullman has two school systems including a city and a county with the city system ranking in the top five in Alabama.

Information gained from the BBA included learning the strengths in Chilton County, which include interstate transportation, rail lines, being located in the center of the state and work ethic.

Crawford also presented the weaknesses of Chilton County including too many people traveling outside of the county to work and industrial parks not being ready.

“We have got some things we need to work on, and things take time,” Crawford said. “Nothing is fast in economic development.”

Parnell suggested a future work session to have an economic development representative from Cullman come to Chilton County and speak about the growth Cullman has recently experienced.

“I think it would be good to bring her here so you all could hear how they have grown,” Parnell said. “In the meantime, I hope everyone will share their excitement about the future of this county with the people you know or work with. We are going to hit a home run soon. It may take some time, but we have tremendous leadership in this room, and we will hit a home run.”