Economic Development has three key principles: Pride of Place, a strong and willing workforce and a forward-thinking mindset. Tallassee has parts and percentages of all three elements, but if we could get everyone on the same page and singing from the same songbook – who knows what the future could hold for this town.
I’ve been in Washington for the past week and it’s fascinating to see how – adversaries who despise each other down to their very viscera – people can join looking at the greater good and work toward that goal.
So, what is that goal for Tallassee?
What is this city going to look like in the next 10, 15 years?
See that’s a tough question to answer because we are all stuck dealing with the ill-thought decisions of past administrations that it’s hard to look beyond the here and now.
Yes, we need a new pool – we’ve needed one for years; but also need buildings that aren’t decorated with mold and asbestos. We need to grow our population through annexation as has been mentioned, but the current infrastructure can’t handle that.
Infrastructure issues are being addressed as part of a $5 million bond issue that – over time – will pay for itself as the money being used to pay for the bond is already in the budget. The money used to pay for the bond issue will be the money that’s been used to repair the damaged pipe at the rate of a linear mile a year. This is essentially good debt because it pays for itself and doesn’t come out of the City’s General Obligation fund.
Beyond that though – where do we go and what’s the roadmap to get there? There are people all through this town that are passionate about being from Tallassee and remember it fondly through purple-tinted glasses. But where we are now and where the city was then are two different places. Had the administration at the time actively worked to improve the town for their grandchildren, we’d be in a much better place. But they didn’t.
They chose spectacle over substance and to be successful you need both. We know what the substance is – improving infrastructure to ensure that Tallassee doesn’t become a sinkhole or suddenly explodes one day – but what’s next? What’s the spectacle that we can all get behind?
I’m proposing a community-wide Pride of Place clean-up project.
The hillside overlooking the mill site is greatly overgrown. If we start working to clean that off and landscape what’s underneath, the view crossing the bridge is changed. Look at the backside of City Hall and other buildings and businesses throughout town – think of how the look of Tallassee would increase its perceived value. The better-perceived value something has, the more people want to be a part of it. The more we work – together – as a community to clean and clear overgrown areas of town, the better and more vested people will become in the future of Tallassee because now they have sweat-equity. Instead of taking opportunities to talk about how things were great years ago, let’s take an opportunity to look and focus on making this place great now and for the next 10 years, 20 years.
William Shakespeare once said of a small village: “I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” Tallassee has the potential to be that place. Our downtown is slowly growing into a CityCentre and we have new restaurants opening their doors. But we need that one thing to tie it all together to help put us on a path that will encourage people to waste hours exploring this city’s rich history. If I learned anything from visiting cities like Oxford, Huntsville, Wetumpka it’s that a fresh coat of paint can do wonders. We don’t need to focus on becoming the next Pike Road, the next Chantilly or even the next Huntsville.
We should focus on being the next iteration of Tallassee, the place our children come back to after college and invest in. People are proud to be from Tallassee. I’m not native, but this is my home and I proudly tell people I live in Tallassee. Let’s start looking at ways to help the landscape of the town reflect the pride people have because of it.
This is my challenge. This is my idea to bring the city together and have us move in the same direction fixed-focused on the future. The more we achieve together, the stronger we become as a community.
It’s that simple.