TUSCUMBIA — Colbert County residents have the opportunity to shape the future of the west end of the county for the next five to 10 years.
Auburn University’s Economic & Community Development Institute is assisting western Colbert County communities with the development of a comprehensive strategic plan.
Colbert County Extension Coordinator Danny McWilliams said the plan will assess local assets and address the needs of the community. Community leadership, education and workforce development will be some of the top priorities.
“Our goal is to unite the community, to get people to work together,” McWilliams said. “We have issues in western Colbert County, just like every place, but we can work together to improve the area and bring some pride back.”
McWilliams said two meetings have already taken place and at least six more meetings are scheduled. Residents of western Colbert County are urged to attend the meetings to help plan the area’s future.
“We’re bringing the community together to try and help them map out a plan for where they want to be 10 years down the road, five years down the road,” McWilliams said.
He said he got the idea after hearing the institute’s director, Joe Sumners, lecture on the importance of crafting a locally driven strategic plan.
“All I could think about when I heard that talk was Cherokee,” McWilliams said. “This idea is open to anyone in western Colbert County that loves the community.”
McWilliams, who grew up in Cherokee, stresses the strategic plan is not just for his hometown, but for all of western Colbert County. When completed, the plan will belong to the community, he said, not to any city council or county commission.
Auburn’s Economic & Community Development Institute will put the plan together after gathering information from the community and input from the public.
Commissioner Charlie Hovater represents the west end of Colbert County, which includes the communities of Pride, Barton, Red Rock and Riverton-Rose Trail.
Hovater said the strategic plan will help western Colbert County prepare for anticipated growth.
“You’ve got waterways, rail, natural gas, power lines, everything in place except an interstate highway,” Hovater said.
McWilliams said there would also be benchmarks to be met during the implementation of the plan.
State Farm Insurance Agent Bill Alexander also grew up in Cherokee and raised his children there.
“There’s preparation that any community always needs to have at some point in time,” Alexander said. “Cherokee probably needs some refreshing, if you will, with all the strife that’s occurred there recently.”
Today, however, Alexander said he sees the town unifying. He said he thinks education should be a main focus of the plan.
“One of the greatest assets a community can have is education,” he said.
Alexander said one of the first things a new company interested in the Shoals or relocating families ask about is the quality of the schools.
“Education is key as we recruit industry,” he said.
McWilliams anticipates holding two meetings per month in February, March and April.
The goal is to assess where the community is now, where they want to go, how long will it take to get there and how they get there, McWilliams said.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.
What: Community planning meeting
When: 6 p.m., Monday, Feb. 4
Where: Barton First Baptist Church