Economic development or nostalgia?

Don Goetz
Posted 7/3/16

I am writing this letter based on my many years of study and experience in the area of economic and community development, but also with the intention of not offending anyone that may have an opinion …

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Economic development or nostalgia?

Posted

I am writing this letter based on my many years of study and experience in the area of economic and community development, but also with the intention of not offending anyone that may have an opinion that is opposite of mine. Hopefully, I can convert you if you are one of that group.

I do not have a “horse in this race” as I did not graduate from Walker High School. However, I am concerned about the City of Jasper.

Hopefully, you will believe that my assessment is accurate based on my experience, which is as follows:

I've lived in eight states, but I have made Jasper my home by choice for the last 35 years.

I have 40 years experience in management.

In Jasper, I have held positions in approximately 20 organizations including mayor of Jasper, president of the chamber of commerce, board of directors of SouthTrust Bank, Walker Baptist Medical Center and many others.

I am a graduate of Leadership Alabama.

I was also able to convince Sam Walton to locate the first Wal-mart Supercenter in the southeastern United States in Jasper.

My involvement in Jasper has been a blessing for me and, hopefully, beneficial to the community.

My concern is that we are attracting unwanted negative attention to our city because of a proposed name change to a school. This comes after many people have worked hard and long to change the image of Walker County, and I might add it is succeeding. Are we going to take a step backward now because of our bickering?

What do we really think is more important? Community growth or nostalgia?

New industry, national retail stores, potential home buyers or a developer could reconsider coming here because we are bickering over a name change. Growth will help most everyone, and we can still have “our happy memories of Walker High School.”

Companies planning to relocate go through a three-step process: 1.) List possible cities to relocate to. 2.) Find ANY reason to eliminate a city. 3.) Choose cities to visit.

That No. 2 worries me because every company has access to the internet.

Most cities of our size with one high school name the school after the city it identifies with. To name a few in Alabama: Andalusia, Arab, Cullman, Childersburg, Decatur, Demopolis, Dothan, Enterprise, Eufala, Foley, Fultondale, Fort Payne, Gardendale, Guntersville, Hartselle, Haleyville, Homewood, Hoover, Hamilton, Mountain Brook, Muscle Shoals, Oxford, Pelham, Prattville, Selma, Scottsboro, Talledega, Vestavia Hills and Winfield. Many people do not know Walker High School is in Jasper and a number of people still refer to it as Walker County High School. The name of the school on the diploma does not affect the status of the student. It opens the door to their future.

With the long awaited completion of I-22, Jasper has a lot of things going for us — an interstate highway, good retail tax base, school system, medical center, available workforce and proximity to Birmingham and Smith Lake.

Hundreds and hundreds of cities are looking for growth. The industrial development boards and chamber are doing a good job seeking new businesses. Competition is brutal! What do we want most? Keeping the kids here after they graduate or nostalgia? Let's not “blow it” over a name change.

Don Goetz, Jasper