Commissioners discuss economic development, growth of county

Published 4:09 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It is no secret that the term “economic development” has frequently been used in Chilton County within the last six months as local officials work toward county growth. Probably the most asked question from residents within the county is what this term means, and members of the Chilton County Commission are working to educate those in the community about the potential growth.

“We get asked a lot from various people what the term economic development even means,” commissioner Shannon Welch said. “I think people also want to know when they might start seeing that development begin to happen.”

A core group of roughly 30 individuals including elected officials, local leaders and interested residents of Chilton County have been meeting regularly at work sessions scheduled by the Chilton County Commission to discuss various ways to see the county grow.

“We have had four meetings where we have individuals come and learn about how we can all lay the groundwork for growth,” Welch said. “I think in those meetings we have determined that we all share a common goal, which is to create a better community of life for those living in Chilton County.”

In the most recent work session held Feb. 19, individuals at the meeting were challenged to come up with a list of Chilton County’s assets.

“When you start trying to focus on the good things of this county, it is not hard to do,” commissioner Joseph Parnell said. “This county has some wonderful things to be proud of.”

It was decided at the Feb. 19 meeting that a special meeting would be called March 16 with commissioners, Clanton City Council and the Chilton County Industrial Development Board to discuss possibly buying some land for development.

The meeting will be held in an executive session, which is not open to the public due to logistics of purchasing the land being discussed.

“We are kind of in a period right now where there is a lull, but we don’t want the movement of those interested in the economic development of the county to die down,” Parnell said. “I have been overwhelmed by the amount of excitement these discussions have brought. Economic development is something that everyone who has attended the meetings has been united on, and I can honestly say that it is one thing that every commissioner stands united on as well.”

Parnell said it is important for those living in the county to remember that no matter where the development occurs in the county, it will benefit everyone who lives in the county.

“I think our community has decided that we don’t want to be a garden community,” Parnell said. “We have got to somehow grow our numbers.”

Welch said he recognizes a strong work ethic with “hard workers” in Chilton County who deserve amenities offered to them such as nice shopping facilities and good restaurants.

“It takes time, but these things can and will happen in our community,” Welch said. “We are very close to having pieces of the puzzle in place.”

Parnell said he wants to see recent high school graduates in the county struggle with a decision of whether they should attend college or get a well-paying job with a local business.

“I think it would be ideal for that decision to be a tough one for the kids in our county, where they are faced with the question of would it profit them to go to college or get a well-paying job,” Parnell said.

The next step in the process is coming up with a one-, three-and five-year plan of where individuals see the county headed.

“The opportunities for the county are limitless,” Welch said.