The Heflin Industrial Development Board, with the help of Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, started work Wednesday on its economic development plan.
The group met with Greg Knighton and Greg Blalock of the EDPA and with members of committees who will help build the plan.
“This is not a strategic plan in the sense of some long theoretical document,” said Knighton, vice president of EDPA. “At the end of the day you’re going to wind up with a spreadsheet that’s going to be divided up by category that’s going to have action items on it.”
The plan will include people or organizations who will be responsible for each action and due dates, he said. The first step in creating the plan is for the board members to put together three committees: recruitment, retention and renewal to work on different pieces of the plan, Knighton said. The board had already appointed chairs and co-chairs to each of those committees and most were in attendance Wednesday.
Knighton and Blalock led the group through the process of outlining the focus of each of the committees and identifying who should be the members of those committees.
Knighton outlined how the state defined the role of each committee and asked the members how those applied to Cleburne County. He asked what type of business the county wanted to attract.
Tanya Maloney, executive director of the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce, said she thought automotive manufacturing suppliers and distribution centers would be a good fit because of the county’s access to the interstate. Board member Kevin Brown said before the county can start targeting industries it would like to attract, it needs to identify if it has the correct infrastructure to support those industries.
Shane Smith, Heflin city clerk, added the board needs to identify what buildings and sites it has available to market to potential businesses.
Blalock, director of building site and community database, said that in one of the communities EDPA worked with he helped officials build a list of their buildings and sites suitable for marketing and put them on the EDPA database where businesses could find them. Then, they set up a van tour for representatives from the power company, the gas company, anyone who was interested to introduce them to what the community had to offer, Blalock said.
The Cleburne County group decided the recruitment committee would identify facilities and sites in the county that are marketable to business, look at the infrastructure available, identify the county work force and resources available to the county.
Most job creation is going to come from existing industry, Knighton said. Retention is about meeting the workforce and infrastructure needs of those existing industries, he said. What are the biggest employers in the county? Knighton asked.
Maloney said L. E. Bell, Southwire/Forte and Cleburne County Schools are the biggest employers. Agriculture is a big industry in the county, she added.
“You want to have a dialogue with the companies,” Knighton said.
The group decided utilities and infrastructure, education and regional assets all need to be identified by the retention committee.
What is your vision of your community in 10 years? Knighton asked.
“I would like to see both exits, 205 and 199 expanded,” Mayor Rudy Rooks said. “Retail at the 199 and retail at the 205 along with manufacturing at 205.”
He wants to see small businesses in the downtown to maintain the small, hometown feel, Rooks said.
Anna Berry, who will be co-chairing the renewal committee, agreed. The community needs to “protect its rural heritage,” she said.
The group decided that the renewal committee should focus on retail business, the Interstate 20 Welcome Center, Cheaha State Park and Talladega National Forest, eco-tourism and agriculture.