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County’s strategic plan focuses on ‘retaining youth’

Chilton County’s economic development strategic plan was introduced during a community meeting on May 16.

The plan included findings from a study conducted by Next Move Group, which is an economic development firm that laid about a recommended plan based on the opinions of Chilton County residents.

“You’ve got to have stuff like this [economic development plan] so that you can keep the small town feel, which is why you live here,” IDB executive director Whitney Barlow said. “The purpose of the plan is to strategically grow like you want to.”

According to the firm, the No. 1 goal expressed by the people of Chilton County was the interest of retaining the county’s youth and developing a young professional recruitment program.

Barlow expected retaining the youth to be high on the priority list.

“Most people that I talk to say that they want their kids to come back so they can be around their grandkids,” Barlow said. “You can’t enjoy your grandchildren when they live hours away.”

Achieving this goal would focus on ways to entice high school graduates from the county to come back and start careers in their hometown after college graduation.

“One of the biggest things is getting with the board of education and finding out a way where we can stay in touch with the youth [after high school graduation],” Barlow said.

According to Barlow, several education initiatives have already begun even while the plan was still being finished.

“In the fall we’re going to try to do an exhibition day for career tech and bring each high school to Jeff State [Clanton Campus],” Barlow said. “It’s going to be hands-on and dealing with virtual reality and drones. It will be good for them to really be able to see the careers out there.”

On the business and industry side of things, it is in the works to have an existing industry luncheon at some point during the summer.

Barlow is very interested in developing a trail system that easily integrates the future happenings at Exit 212 with downtown Clanton.

“Implementation is the next step,” Barlow said. “One of the first things we’re going to do is to get the “five corners” committees set up.”

The “five corners” committees will meet quarterly to discuss the interests and help give a voice to the various communities in the county.

These will be five different committees that will represent Jemison, Thorsby, Maplesville, Verbena and Clanton.

“We’ll have to be strategic with the things that require us to put an initial investment in, because of all the initial investments we’re putting in everywhere else,” Barlow said.

The meeting was held at Central Alabama Electric Cooperative in Verbena.