Pollyanna-styled optimists will always say progress is on the way, which in Calhoun County’s largest cities, is true. Though distinctly different cities, Anniston and Oxford have the simmerings of things going on.
Sometimes, however, it’s tough to see that.
That’s been the case the last few days as dreary news has trickled out. At Anniston Army Depot, the commander says hundreds of civilian employees are likely to be laid off as the Defense Department continues to shift its fiscal resources due to the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any way you cut it, a gaggle of unemployed former depot workers will be bad, bad news for Calhoun County’s economy — not to mention for the unemployed workers themselves.
Likewise, The Star reported last week that the Anniston-Oxford metropolitan area was one of only seven in the United States that had seen its wages drop over the last 24 consecutive months. There’s no way to spin that into some Pollyanna theme.
The color gray is a fence-sitter — neither dark nor light, or in this local metaphor, it’s neither optimistic nor gloomy. It is a mixture of both.
So look around Anniston and Oxford and see what’s going on. There may be more than you think.
In recent months, Anniston has opened the state’s top-rated aquatics center at McClellan and is nearing completion of its new judicial complex adjacent to Zinn Park. The new Department of Human Resources building sits a few blocks to the south. The new Social Security office has given the intersection of Quintard Avenue and 8th Street a refurbishment.
As if that isn’t enough, local entrepreneurs are planning this spring to open a brewpub in a historic train station just west of Noble Street.
Oxford’s playing the game, as well. The city has opened its pocketbook to renovate the aging Oxford Civic Center and construct a performing arts center in its downtown. And, finally, the much-anticipated Publix grocery is scheduled to open next Wednesday. (Yes, that’s the same Publix that at one time considered Anniston as a possible Calhoun County location.)
None of that is empirical data that confirms the economies of Calhoun County’s largest cities are on the upswing. These recent investments are spread across a list of responsible parties, from city governments to business people to national companies looking to expand.
Nevertheless, “new” things are going up and opening their doors. After so many years of recessionary pain, they’re sights for sore eyes.