If 2020 presented a host of unforeseen challenges, it’s safe to say that 2021 showcased growth and adaptability like never before in our community. And in this era of change, growth and adaptability were consistent themes throughout the year. If we’ve learned anything from the 2020s so far, it’s the ability to move onward and upward no matter how difficult things may seem. From a part of ULA making its way, WAY upward to moving onward with growth and development, it’s clear that 2021 has proven to be a pleasant surprise. As the year draws to a close, the Chamber would like to take a moment to highlight the top six stories from 2021 that made a substantial difference in our community - because we couldn’t choose just five.
The Chamber Blog
Reliable utility infrastructure had become a topic of national media conversation as we look towards the need to invest in our current systems and plan for future growth. Being able to count on our systems moving forward is a critical part of planning for a community. That’s the case across the country and in our own backyard, and Decatur Utilities is stepping up to the moment.
As a community, it is important for us to look back and reflect on a year of news and events that have brought us to where we are today. Needless to say, 2020 presented with it challenges few could have predicted. But in the conflict, there are stories that rise up to give us hope. With that in mind, the Chamber would like to share the top five stories from 2020 that make us excited for the future of Decatur-Morgan County. And since this has been a year when we could all use a little more to make us smile, we’re offering a sixth “bonus” story for good measure!
Your Chamber of Commerce is in the business of economic development. But perhaps more importantly, we are in the business of working to leave this community better for the next generation of leaders. To serve that mission, it requires a belief in being better.
I want to take a brief moment to discuss what is on the minds of our community as we navigate what the next several weeks and months will look like for Decatur-Morgan County relating to COVID-19 in the State of Alabama and in the north Alabama region.
As students enter high school, they often hear the questions, “What are your plans after school?” This well-meaning question posed by family members, teachers, and administrators can cause a fair amount of anxiety for the student that doesn’t have their life planned to their career.
The turn of a new year is often time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. It is a blank slate and a chance to lay the groundwork for what’s next. Your Chamber is always asking the question “how can we be better for our community?”
With that in mind, the Chamber is excited to announce a new partnership with Alliance Publishing Group of Birmingham in the production of our 2020 Community Guide and Membership Directory, which will publish in June of 2020.
As a community, it is important for us to look back and reflect on a year of news and events that have brought us to where we are today. At times, the news around us is focused on conflict, which drowns out the news we should celebrate. There is much happening in Decatur-Morgan County that shows our high quality of life, and we need to tell that story.
With that thought in mind, the Chamber would like to share the top five stories from 2019 that make us excited for the future of Decatur-Morgan County.
I’m on social media on a not-so-regular basis. My Facebook feed is made up mostly of pictures of my friends’ cute dogs, recipes or encouraging notes from friends and families. To be honest, that’s really all I want to see. But there are these memes and a hashtag I’ve seen floating around lately: #FOMO.
Shopping for new school supplies reminds me of my own “back to school” memories. Trapper Keepers, highlighters, pencil sharpener, index cards and the like remind me of the excitement of seeing my friends again and exploring something new.
Now as a parent, for my own children to experience those emotions it requires me to release my twin daughters and college-bound son to people who will spend more time with them than anyone else aside from our family: teachers.
Residential development is a hot topic these days. With the economy on the upward swing and job opportunities continuing to evolve, you would think that residential development would be the next obvious area of growth, but is it?
In Decatur, we pass popular tourist sites like Point Mallard Park every day and may not even think of how it supports our community. But Point Mallard and others like Jack Allen Recreation Complex, the Old State Bank, the Historic Depot and Railroad Museum and our diverse restaurants are the backbones of our city and Morgan County.
(Editor’s note: This post is a portion of Board of Directors Chairman Willie LaFavor’s comments during the Chamber’s 2019 Annual Meeting.)
The 2018-2019 year definitely offered its challenges as we enlisted and secured volunteers, raised funds, and ultimately, accomplished our goal as the Chamber’s “One Vision” capital campaign closed out.
As outgoing Chairman Tim Lovelace told you earlier, our goal was $2.5 million. We expect to meet that goal and pledges are still coming in! Chamber CFO Leissa Chittam tells me that we are going to exceed our original goal. What an accomplishment! Some of you might rightfully say, our work is finally complete, so let’s sit back and coast after all that fundraising work. We all know the reality is the real work is just beginning.
It’s hard to believe that this my tenth year to participate in the Chamber’s Total Resource Campaign (TRC) for Decatur and Morgan County. When my employer first talked to me about volunteering with TRC, I was skeptical that I had anything to offer. He encouraged me to attend the training session before I made a decision. I was met with some of the most friendly and energetic co-volunteers who were eager to help a beginner learn the process. The staff at the Chamber was also a tremendous support group, reassuring me that I was in the right place!
There is much to be said about all that is happening in Decatur, Morgan County and our region. From downtown revitalization to comprehensive planning and major industrial growth and investment. Through all of these amazing things, one common factor is emerging: young professionals are on the rise.
It is time to prepare for a new year. As a community, it is important for us to look back and reflect on a year of news and events that have brought us to where we are today. At times, the news around us is full of conflict, which often drowns out the news we should celebrate. There is much happening in Decatur-Morgan County that shows our high quality of life, and we need to tell that story.
With that thought in mind, the Chamber would like to share the top five stories from 2018 that make us excited to be in Decatur-Morgan County.
We can all agree the past 12 months Decatur-Morgan County has seen more energy than in recent years. There are many reasons for this: among them, the soon-to-arrive Mazda-Toyota facility in Limestone County just a few miles from downtown; renewed movement of residential development in our city; a transformative city school system superintendent who is making changes in the district that will impact the next generation of graduates coming from the River City; an arts scene that continues to grow and attract creativity. There is a buzz about Decatur we’ve not heard in a long time.
I’ve been in and around the construction industry my whole life. It’s the family business, and being around it for as long as I have, I’ve come to understand there are certain principles to live by. One I’ve adopted over the years that always seems to be true: If you don’t start with a plan, it’s not going to work.
I’m writing this now thanks entirely to the work of a teacher. Not the message, necessarily, though that’s certainly the case as well, but the actual words, strung together in a sentence with nouns, verbs and adjectives to complete a thought from start to finish. And if you’re able to read this, you owe the same debt to an educator who opened your eyes for the first time.
Each day as I drive into the 3M site in Decatur, I’m reminded that across the entire site the one thing that makes our organization a success is our people.
Anyone in industry - a plant manager or a newly minted co-op student or a production operator - will tell you success comes from a trained team of professionals who understand they are a part of a team. They understand for their coworker to do their job well that they themselves have to focus on and succeed at the task at hand.
The 2018-2019 school year will be historic for Decatur City Schools.
We will be moving into two brand new, state-of-the-art high school facilities and launching a Career Technical Center on the old Austin High campus. The high schools will launch new career academies that will help parents and students identify potential college and/or career pathways, helping steer young people on a course to success. Our high schools will also begin a 1-to-1 ChromeBook initiative that will provide every student in 9-12 grades with a laptop. And that's not all. Not by a long shot.
All over the state, at every level of government, the issue of fixing Alabama’s crumbling road and bridge system is a policy matter that has risen to the forefront over the past few years. Alabamians are looking for answers to address the ever-growing list of road and bridge problems that plague our state, county and city roadways.
A year ago, I heard John Joseph in a speech make the observation that Decatur-Morgan County may be in the middle of a rebirth and we don’t even realize it. In a recent conversation, John agreed that today we can say for sure that we are in the middle of the emergence of our area as one of the South’s most vibrant communities.
As any professional marketer or communicator will tell you, getting your message to break through and land with your target audience is the difference between getting lost in the noise and success for your brand.
Breaking through requires something different. Something outside the norm. But it also requires doing your research on how to find your audience. Gone are the days of buying an ad in a newspaper and KNOWING people would be talking about it the next day. Now, it’s about page clicks, impressions and return on investment (ROI). Marketing is now very different, but the Chamber understands that.
This is an exciting time to call Decatur home.
On Jan. 25, at the Chamber’s State of Healthcare Address, I was excited to share with the community news about Huntsville Hospital Health System investing an additional $20 million for capital improvement projects at the Decatur Campus. The announcement came on the heels of the hospital’s first strategic plan, about which I’m incredibly excited. Let me tell you why.
It is time to prepare for a new year. As a community, it is important for us to look back and reflect on a year of news and events that have brought us to where we are today. At times, the news around us is full of conflict and divisiveness, which quite often drowns out the news we should be celebrating in our community. There is so much happening in Decatur and Morgan County that shows our high quality of life, and we as a community need to tell that story.
When someone asks me “what does the Chamber do, anyway?” there are a long list of potential answers. Promotes the development of a healthy business community… advocates for public policy that helps recruit high-paying jobs… executes leadership programs that prepare the next generation of leaders… the list could go on and on.
But my favorite answer is always “the Chamber is in the quality-of-life business.”
At the end of the day, we all want to belong.
When I came to Decatur from Natchez, Miss., in 1991 to become president of this Chamber, my wife and I quickly became connected to the community. I met elected officials with whom I’d be working with on public policy issues. I connected with business owners and entrepreneurs who were innovative in their craft and creating something new you couldn’t find anywhere else. I met with education leaders about connecting the business community and students to prepare the next generation workforce. We all shared stories about what motivated us in the work we did and what we valued at the end of the day.
In April, I was honored to be handed the gavel to serve as Chairman of the Board for the Decatur-Morgan Chamber of Commerce for the next year. As I addressed the crowd of 230-plus Chamber members at our Annual Meeting, my main topic of emphasis was asking this question: “who are your Champions?”
(Editor's note: this blog post originally appeared on DecaturNext, a platform by John Joseph of Decatur Corridor Development)
Our kids really enjoy Delano Park, Decatur’s oldest park, created in 1887 . We have to keep them from picking the flowers, but they still like to look at them. They enjoy running around the Park’s open spaces and playing with other children there. It’s a perfect place to have a picnic and slow down a little bit.
It is a mistake, though, to think of Delano as “just a park.” A bigger picture exists, and I want to explore that here. Because it is a bigger picture we cannot afford to ignore.
We are in the midst of year 12 for the Chamber’s Total Resource Campaign (TRC), and an experience I wouldn't want to miss as a volunteer. It's interesting to look back and see how the program has evolved and its positive impact on local businesses, industries and our community.
The Decatur Jaycees have been called many things; everything from “good stewards” and “the future of our community” to “wild” and “rowdy young folks.” Many people have heard of the Jaycees, maybe because of Riverfest, or maybe even from the Morgan County Fair back in the day. But few know who we really are or our true purpose in the city of Decatur.
As we prepare for our transition into 2017, there is much talk about the top stories, the top newsmakers and the like in our daily media diet. With the divisiveness of political campaigns and conflicts around the world, it can be a challenge to remember we live in a great community and in the greatest country on the planet.
There are many, many stories among us that highlight the good in our community. We are headed in a positive direction, and this is an incredibly exciting time to live in Decatur and Morgan County. With that thought in mind, the Chamber would like to share the top five stories from 2016 that make us excited to be in Morgan County.
While on a recent phone call with a large national company, the young man with whom I was speaking asked me what the United Way was. Not until I mentioned the National Football League commercials that the name even rang a bell for him.
I was stunned.
Positive news is here in Decatur and you don’t have to look too hard to find it. While election seasons unfortunately bring with it forecasts of gloom and doom, when faced with facts, the weather looks bright for the River City.
Individually, each of the following is a flash of good news. Collectively, it shows a trend. The business climate in our city is strong.
Ray Mabus, former Governor of Mississippi and now Secretary of the Navy, once said that sometimes people become the victims of the “tyranny of low expectations.” It oftentimes becomes satisfactory to “settle” for something less than optimal.
Local chamber leaders simply must not be satisfied when someone tells us, “that’s the best we can do.” We should never accept the notion that “doing all right” is the norm and is acceptable. Our challenge as local chamber leaders is to find new opportunities, make difficult decisions, raise expectations, and tackle the status quo.
What is one quality you love about the United States? There are a hundred responses you could give, and they is not one “right” answer. However, there is one thing everyone can agree makes our country strong: the ability to vote.
In our history, hundreds of thousands – maybe even millions – of people have died to protect our right to vote. It is our voice in shaping the future of our country. No one under any circumstance should take that right for granted.
But what is just as important as the right to vote, is the willingness of citizens to stand up and say “I want to lead.”
If you have ever stopped to think about the construction industry, you would realize it is quite a unique field. The construction industry affects everyone’s life and it offers products whose value can increase over time. It is also an industry where brick & mortar meets cutting edge technology and offers a wide range of challenging employment opportunities.
Oftentimes, the subject of long-term care and the needs of aging relatives is the elephantin the room. No one wants to talk about it, but addressing it now and making plans early can result in more options and less stress for everyone in the family. It’s a decision that impact the “baby boomers” in our community who are integral to the history of our area.
As we reflect on 2015 and prepare for the transition to 2016, there is much talk about “Top News Stories,” “Top Political Stories,” “Most Read Stories,” “Top Newsmakers” and the like. Unfortunately, in the interest of selling papers and racking up page views, these lists rarely appeal to our best nature or discuss how great it is to live in the best nation on the planet.
Now more than ever, corporations have numerous options when deciding where to invest their capital dollars. Our local companies not only compete with other U.S. operations, but other corporate facilities throughout the world.
A city center is often where a great deal of a community's business is coordinated and where government resides. Having a vibrant center has become an important indicator of the strength of a community. More and more, communities are investing in new infrastructure and making a dedicated effort to make their centers more inviting and successful. In recent years, Decatur's leaders have made the revitalization of ours a high priority goal.
The importance of effective communication in the workplace cannot be stressed enough. It is an indispensable entrepreneurial skill that can be learned and nurtured for improved productivity and successful achievement of goals.
North Alabama – specifically our beloved Tennessee River – is known as one of the richest bodies of water for sports fishing in the country. That's not just my opinion. Drive by Ingalls Harbor boat launch and the Pavilion during a tournament weekend and count the number of boat trailers. Better yet, count the number of different state license plates on those trailers. This area's reputation for sport fishing is represented in the diversity of the states that come here, both for recreation and competition.
As I complete my one-year tenure as board chair, I tried to decide what was the most memorable part of this exciting ride. While proud of all the programs and initiatives started and expanded this year, the thing that stands out for me was meeting so many great people from our community. These folks, while wonderful in their own rights, were part of a bigger picture – a picture of a community coming together to make this a better place.
If you live in Morgan County, you know what a great community this is to live, work and play. Awarding winning and high test score achieving school systems, low cost of living, several Fortune 500 companies who are engaged in the community and natural beauty that rival any other part of our country.
But sometimes, we have to remember to tell people about it.
It is the season when we read and see lists about the year past. In newspapers and on television we see "Top 10 Stories of 2014," "Most Read Stories of 2014," "Most Intriguing People of 2014," "Top Photos of 2014," etc. It seems like, more often than not, these stories are not of a positive nature.
If we were to make our list in Morgan County it would be stories about events and people who are changing our community in a very positive way. With that tone in mind, here is your Chamber's "Top Five Stories of 2014 That Make Us Proud to be from Morgan County."
Ask any realtor, and they will tell you the three most important factors in their business are location, location and location.
The same can be said when you're looking to market you own business or organization. Getting in front of the right audience at the right time can mean success or failure for your brand. So doesn't it make sense to use your marketing dollars in the most efficient ways possible?
This is why the Chamber's Total Resource Campaign (TRC) should matter to you.
500 volunteers. 500 volunteers hammering nails, painting walls, washing windows, cutting grass, gathering paper products. Each year, the second Tuesday of September arrives with Morgan County's finest stepping up to make a difference in our community.
As many know, this Chamber is about to embark on a capital campaign – the first in nearly five years. And as part of our pre-campaign feasibility study, our consultants gathered much insightful feedback regarding the Chamber's perceived performance to date and the plans for the future. Our consultants forced the interviewees to rank our program of work in relative importance to them. The results were telling.