Archived Story

Economic development, liquor sales targeted as top issues

Published 11:52am Monday, June 13, 2011

Editor’s Note: This is the first of three stories in a series focusing on Hartselle strategic plan issues. Next week, the topic will be Community Identity, Infrastructure and Workforce Development.

The need for more economic development has emerged as the No. 1 issue facing the future of Hartselle, based on input from more than 25 community leaders who are working to have the city designated as an Alabama Community of Excellence (ACE).

A strategic plan reached draft form last week at a fourth ACE meeting, at which time an executive steering committee was suggested to speed up its implementation.

“The committee should have eight to 10 members and take responsibility for identifying individuals or organizations to play lead roles in finding solutions to problem areas,” said Mike Easterwood, a representative of the Economic Development Institute at Auburn University.

City Planner Jeremy Griffith agreed to organize the committee and schedule a follow-up meeting in three weeks. Afterward, the plan will be used as a resource for updating the city’s 20-year comprehensive plan.

The plan identifies “resolution of the legal sale of alcohol beverages” as a key factor in growing new retail and entertainment businesses. Another target is strengthening the retail development capacity of the Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce.

Recommendations for accomplishing the latter include increasing chamber staffing, conducting additional planning and marketing initiatives, improving relations and communication with, and among, downtown merchants and property owners and encouraging consistency in downtown store hours.

Eight recommendations are listed for bringing more retail development to the central business district and along major corridors, as follows:

• Created a strategy to fill market gaps as identified in the Buxton study (e.g., upscale clothing, shoes, electronics and grocery stores).

• Create a marketing place for retail development.

• Create a common marketing strategy for downtown businesses (involve the Downtown Merchants Association, Chamber of Commerce and property owners.”

• Develop a link on the city’s website that features retail development, listing available properties, existing commercial buildings, incentives and other advantages.

• Attempt to utilize existing buildings for new retail enterprises, especially downtown.

• Target the Alabama 36 and Interstate 65 interchange for new retail development; create gateway/highway commercial center.

• Target the U.S. 31 gateway for new retail developments and redevelopment of existing buidings and centers.

•Work with local property owners and potential developers to bring in new retail and entertainment businesses (Hartselle Development Board working in cooperation with the city, the Alabama Development Office and Chamber of Commerce.”

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