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Barlow named IDB director

It has been roughly two months since Whitney Barlow was hired as the director of the Chilton County Industrial Development Board.

Although it is very early in the process, Barlow is dedicated to helping the county grow its industrial standing in Alabama.

She was born in Wetumpka and attended Auburn University and Faulkner University’s Jones School of Law.

Prior to moving to Chilton County, she was executive director of the Monroeville/Monroe County Economic Development Authority in Mississippi.

“Over in Mississippi I did more of the tourism-type aspect and some retail and industrial,” Barlow said. “Workforce is not just an issue here [in Chilton County], but it is something we need to address.”

She plans to start by focusing on the industrial side of things as well as retail, which includes not just shopping locations, but also restaurants.

“With existing industries, it will be more about the workforce and what we can add to make their impact here better,” Barlow said. “Those are the people that are already here and supporting the community. You want to make sure to recognize them.”

She is currently working on implementing a 90-day plan for the county. The plan includes doing research, developing strategies and talking to local leaders.

According to Barlow, a community event will be put together as a way to gain input from the residents.

The feedback combined with analytics will help narrow down possible companies to be recruited and what type of retail would be good for the area.

“You don’t want to bring somebody [a business] in and then they struggle, because that’s hard on them and the community,” Barlow said.

Barlow views Interstate 65 as a major benefit and looks to utilize the five interstate exits that the county has moving forward.

“It’s a small town feel, but there’s tremendous potential,” Barlow said. “This is a perfect opportunity for Chilton County to create exactly what it wants to be, because you have your outside communities [Shelby and Autauga counties] that have already grown. We can stand back and assess what we want to be.”

However, she also realizes that there is a balance to be considered, because you do not want to add to the small town southern charm, but not lose it. It is a fine line, but something that Barlow is fully aware of.

According to Barlow, the goal is improving quality of life.

“You don’t want to lose that small town feel, because that’s what people are looking for,” Barlow said. “We have to grow wisely.”