Work session focuses on assets and opportunities

Published 4:19 pm Friday, February 20, 2015

The topic of economic development in the county continued Thursday night at a work session hosted by the Chilton County Commission.

The meeting was held at the Alabama Power Conference Center at 5:30 p.m. with members of the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce, the Chilton County Industrial Development Board, the Chilton County Commission, Clanton City Council and county residents in attendance.

“We are going to have to chase economic development together,” commissioner Joseph Parnell said as he opened up the meeting. “We need to start looking at a method to get to the end.”

In scheduling the work sessions, commissioners have tried to create an open forum for individuals to talk about the future of Chilton County.

“We are at the point of putting our plans for growth into place,” Parnell said.

Ephraim Stockdale, a facilitator provided by Alabama Power, generated discussion among the group of about 25 on naming the “assets” and “opportunities” within the county.

Stockdale opened up the discussion by asking if everyone in attendance knew one another.

“I look around this room and I see different faces, but I am wondering if you all know one another,” Stockdale said. “If you don’t all know one another, I suggest you get to know each other because you can’t work together if you don’t.”

Stockdale asked for those in attendance to name out all of the assets in Chilton County and wrote each one down on an easel-type board in the center of the room.

Terms including location, transportation, good railroads, educated workforce, land development, good law enforcement, good healthcare on the way, reasonable cost of living, low tax structure, good existing industries and a junior college were just some of the terms thrown out from the group within five minutes of Stockdale asking the question.

“I think it is important for you all to identify the strengths within the county,” Stockdale said.

Stockdale then asked, based on the assets named from the group’s discussion, for people to name the opportunities within the county.

The ability to recruit well-paying industries with benefits, the opportunity to recruit additional retail, the chance at improving education, recreational opportunities, and a junior college were discussed.

Stockdale then posed the question of how everyone wanted Chilton County to look in five years.

“This is a difficult question because if you have people on different teams, they are going to have different ideas for how they want the county to look,” Stockdale said.

Commissioner Shannon Welch said he would like to see the county growing economically with more places for people to be employed.

The subject of purchasing land as a tool to start the process for growth started a discussion with members of the group.

Chilton County Industrial Development Coordinator Fred Crawford told Stockdale there is a special meeting March 16 for the purpose of meeting with the Clanton City Council and the Chilton County Industrial Development Board to discuss possibly buying some land.

Crawford told commissioners at a Feb. 9 commission meeting that he would like the meeting to be held in an executive session, which is not open to the public.

Stockdale said once the meeting was held on March 16, the group could meet again and talk about the outcome of the executive session.

“It sounds like purchasing some land is your first step in moving forward, and then we can all get back together after that meeting and figure out where to go from there,” Stockdale said.