North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL


May 12, 2010

Business AdVise: All things Fultondale: Is it really that simple?

COMMENTARY — Sorry, I can’t sell you anything since you aren’t from Fultondale. Sorry, I can’t sell you anything since you aren’t from Gardendale. Sorry, I can’t sell you anything since you aren’t from “you name the city.”

Can you imagine a conversation like this in any of our North Jefferson businesses? Of course not. Business only wants more business, and the money will spend the same no matter where it comes from. 

This was part of the message from North Jefferson Business League speaker Greg Morris. If you do not know him, let me share with you that he is very experienced and credentialed in the venue of economic development. As a member of Fultondale City Council, he has helped to shepherd the growth of Fultondale. As an Attorney with Morris and Brumlow, he continues to work with the growth and development of Alabaster, as well as Leeds and Irondale. 

Morris was asked to speak to the league this week on economic development for Fultondale in specific and the North Jefferson area in general and here are a few of his ideas.

The challenge of growth for our area is both exciting and a bit circuitous. There have been wins and losses on the road to changing a worn-out mining town into a thriving community, and the challenges remain high with the stakes even higher.

It is easy to see the change and growth if you look around with Gardendale growing from 9,000 to 15,000 and Fultondale growing from 6,000 to 8,000 in the last 15 years. While the next 15 years hold much upside, how do you balance that with the loss of our hometown feel? How do you hedge and prepare for a beltline with clear impact, but that is far into the horizon with expectations of completion around 2033?

That far into the future, 23 years from now, seems so far off as to not be a real concern to many who are reading this article. Therein lies the warning. How we partner and build strategic partnerships today will not just define where we end up in 23 years, but it will determine if we are still a viable and competitive area in 23 years. This may be a harsh reality to some, but it is true.

And get ready for this one. According to Morris, “Get over yourself.” Now is the time to think about not just your own business or town, but how your business and town impacts and supports those businesses and towns around you. 

This makes our area ripe for regional development partnerships, and now is the time to get communities, leadership and business pointing in the same direction.  According to Morris, look to the example of Leeds and Moody. It has not always been without challenges, but if they can work together, so can we as members of the North Jefferson area.

Don’t just ask the question, “What drives growth for my community?” Look at the broader picture of what your North Jefferson area can be like for your grandkids.

Imagine with me a shining star north of Birmingham with great schools, power shopping, safe streets and community partnerships. Imagine an area with a commitment to education, service, and leadership.

Be a part of the solution.  Get out and learn first-hand what your potential leaders are doing and saying, and what their ideas mean for you.

How do you do this? Take ownership and hold leadership accountable. With low attendance at the recent local debate between candidates for our county commission job, we can certainly do better.

This position, according to Morris, will be critical to rolling out regional planning initiatives in our area. We need to find out a few things. How do these commission candidates feel about a manager for oversight? Can we break down any fiefdoms that exist? Can we have access for questions and standards of accountability? Will effort be transparent and will outcomes be managed? Good stuff to understand, and more importantly to follow up on, with our leadership. 

In the business world, we are big for our area, but not too big. There is tremendous room for strategic growth that will be sustainable and benefit the entire North Jefferson area.

And remember, take care of your customers, or someone else will.

You can find additional readings on my blog at  Teresa works for Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals and supports the Fultondale Chamber of Commerce.

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