Going global is more than a catchphrase. It means workplaces will no longer be tied to geographic regions; someone in India could telecommute and manage an office in Anniston. Maintaining economic stability in the new economy will require active decision-making by the city government.
Internet technologies will become the foundations of a vast global workplace, and there will be many benefits for Anniston residents. Job flexibility will allow more family time, and highly technical jobs will demand higher paychecks.
Groups such as Calhoun County’s Economic Development Council will need to actively pursue companies and provide incentive packages for them to relocate to Anniston.
Local developers and officials say this will require more than tax abatements and readied land. With all of the available placement options for a company, Anniston will have to prove that it is the best option.
This means making Anniston a place where people want to live and raise their children.
Anniston has the opportunity to capitalize on its proximity to Atlanta and Birmingham. Inciting positive economic development requires fixing the schools, increasing parks and recreation and boosting the cultural attractions in town. What differentiates Anniston from other cities is the combination of urban amenities with the feel of small-town life.
As towns and cities in America and abroad begin to look more alike, amenities such as locally owned restaurants and shops will enhance a city’s appeal with potential residents.
A new old downtown
Noble Street in 50 years will not resemble what it is today.
After the city government invests in a professional landscape design, there will be a phased implementation of eye-friendly features. Trees will shade the sidewalks, and pedestrians will hear the sound of a fountain along with the humming traffic.
The building facades will move back in time, rather than forward. The Alabama Historical Commission will again offer investors free architectural design services to help accurately restore the buildings to their former glory.
Restorations of the historic structures might also be coordinated by a nonprofit revolving loan fund organization that will purchase, stabilize and sell the buildings to new owners who will use a variety of tax incentives to restore the buildings properly.
A business recruitment and retention program headed by The Spirit of Anniston will offer amenities for small business owners such as specialized consultants and city-enacted tax abatements. The new black chamber of commerce will help black-owned businesses get off the ground.
These small businesses will cull their clientele from a new set of residents. A University of Wisconsin–Madison study shows that over the next 20 years, Atlanta suburbs will expand past the Georgia line. These people will choose Anniston because of its small-town atmosphere and will expect an assortment of restaurants and boutiques.
In addition to more locally owned stores, there will be new cultural amenities: a civil rights museum, local arts center and a vintage bicycle museum. Noble Street and the rest of the downtown business district will be a vibrant commercial district of niche businesses, offering many opportunities for local entrepreneurs.
Technological advances at the Depot
As the area’s largest employer, Anniston Army Depot is an important part of this town’s economic puzzle.
The technological innovations of the future will drastically change the type of product the depot employees will be working on. Lightweight titanium materials will encase tanks powered by fuel cell batteries. Already, the Army and private industry are working on the development of these future combat systems.
As the plant expands and Depot employees become more highly specialized, the Army will start granting the Depot more contracts for production of tanks rather than just refurbishment. There will also be an increase in auxiliary businesses that create the necessary parts for the tank.
This expansion into tank production will go hand-in-hand with an increase in jobs for research and development. These individuals will help the Depot become a leader in the field of military vehicle production.
All of these jobs require a smart, knowledgeable workforce. Gadsden State Community College’s class offerings will develop with the job market — offering advanced electrical and engineering training. Moreover, they will expand their cooperative education agreement with the Depot to improve the work viability of their graduates.
This educated workforce will entice employers like BAE Systems to move to Anniston, creating a community of military vehicle production industries.
Medical center at McClellan
There’s no way to look at the economic future of Anniston without considering one of its major assets, the former Fort McClellan.
Today a few properties operate there, such as Lowe’s, the golf course and The Anniston Star, but in 50 years, there will be hundreds of jobs on the property.
One major employer on the base will be a large private medical complex that’s in its beginning stages now. When complete, the building will house everything from an outpatient surgery center to a full-service spa.
The company building the facility, Intellimed, expects to have between 130,000 and 180,000 square feet of space that will employ physicians, nurses and a variety of support staff. The complex will create jobs for people at a coffee shop, food court, florist and even a woman’s clothing store, all in the goal of creating a positive medical experience for the patient and her family.
The McClellan medical complex represents a new phase in medical care, where the mode and means of care are directed by the patients’ needs, not a bureaucracy. Because the center will be a private business, it will be able to evolve quickly with changing medical technologies. In five years, a large part of the center will be dedicated to a cancer treatment clinic. In 50 years, the managers hope and expect that clinic to change to a cancer curing clinic.
Though the complex will only be a part of McClellan’s future economic force, people will always need medical care, and this complex will employ local workers for years to come.