Words by Al Blanton | Images by Ryan McGill
On Monday, the Walker County Commission approved a $100,000 grant that will fund a strategic plan for economic growth in the county. Several presenters and local leaders were on hand to discuss the impact and emphasis of the grant, including Director of Economic Development for the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham Jesslan Wilson, State Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper), and State Representative Matt Woods (R-Jasper).
The total grant amount was the sum of a $50,000 grant by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), matched with an additional $50,000 in-kind contribution from the Alabama state legislature through the Regional Planning Commission.
Wilson was enthusiastic about the ways the grant can benefit Walker County and stressed the need for an action plan to move the county forward.
“An aspect of this plan will be looking at Interstate 22 and the development potential we have off the interstate as well as looking at outdoor recreation,” Wilson said.
Rep. Woods also encouraged the Commission to emphasize outdoor recreation and infrastructure as part of a future economic development plan. Specific to infrastructure, Woods hopes that these funds can be used to develop the I-22 corridor with water and sewer at each exit.
“We cannot grow without this critical piece of infrastructure,” Woods said.
Senate Pro Tempore Greg Reed outlined several ongoing projects in Walker County, including the Heritage Landing development on I-22 and the solar panel farm in Oakman.
“All kinds of things are happening that are ours to enjoy, so when you’ve got a good thing going, the thing that’s important is pulling together with a plan,” said Reed. “Working together, we are going to be able to move in a direction that will allow our county to be all we want her to be.”
Citizens are encouraged to provide input so the action plan can be developed. A SWOT survey was available to those who attended Monday’s meeting, and feedback can be provided through the following link:
Wilson emphasized local, state, and federal collaboration to bring the grant to fruition. “You have so many people on so many levels of government fighting for Walker County and believing in Walker County,” she said. “We are so excited to be a part of this.” WL