North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

September 9, 2011

Alabama Community of Excellence helps North Jefferson area

Business AdVISE

By Teresa Vise
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — Sen. Jeff Sessions holds many roles for our state in Washington, and he has accepted a strong role of support to the Pre-serving Rural Alabama agenda, which offers communities like ours technical assistance through the USDA for development as an ACE community. Area leaders attended the conference recently hosted by Jacksonville State University to learn more and work to bring that message back to our area.

An ACE Community (Alabama Community of Excellence) targets populations of a size between 2,000 and 18,000 for 11 specific points of developmental focus to include: Leadership development, strategic planning, comprehensive planning, commercial business development, education enhancement, infrastructure requirements, health and human services, tourism, economic development, recreation opportunities and QOL.

Presenter Nisa Miranda, director of the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, helped the group of over 100 attendees understand that to make an ACE community thrive it must have clean partnership with the mayors office, any economic development entities, the chamber of commerce, and of course schools.  According to Ms. Miranda, and speaking to a diverse audience of business leaders, chamber leaders, city leaders and institutional leaders, “Who drives this in an area?” She continued, “It is not the mayor, or city council, but you.” Success of an ACE community will be driven by a depth of involved leaders within a community appropriately trained and focused.

The goal of attendance at this meeting was to bring this information to the broader north Jefferson area to capture synergistic growth opportunities for all of our communities. Several communities across the state have graduated from this three-year leadership program, but only one from our area, Graysville. This is an ongoing process with recertification requirements to an ACE community three years after initial training completion.

We seek to learn more about these leadership training opportunities, and to move forward with participation. The ultimate purpose of this program is to expand the base of evolved community leaders assisting with the management of multiple community projects in the 11 specific points of focus. Ongoing leadership development is at the core of building an ACE community. Through the ACE process, there is an effort to create a new vision of growth which forms a combined effort between city government, businesses and citizens to make the vision of growth a reality.  

Participation in ACE leadership training will help our communities achieve much more as both distinct towns and community partners. Other ACE communities have accomplished industrial park developments, receipt of grant awards, completion of comprehensive planning, down town revitalization, Brownfield cleanup, disaster planning, improved waste water management and the formation of historical societies to name a few.

If you sit on a city council, serve as a mayor or hold a position on a chamber of commerce, economic or industrial development board, planning commission, or zoning board then this note is for you. ACE community development begins with the end in mind whereby leadership training can build the foundation for strong and defendable decisions built around sustainable regional collaboration.  

Speaker and professor Cheryl Morgan of Auburn’s Urban Studio summed it up beautifully by stating, “A community with a plan is more competitive. She can channel resources to the best advantage of everyone and can leverage resources for the best long term benefit.”