Leadership WC all about airport for 2017

James Phillips
Posted 4/9/17

In July 2016, a stakeholder focus group meeting was conducted to discuss marketing needs and strategies for the Walker County Airport.

Organizations represented at the meeting included the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, the Walker County …

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Leadership WC all about airport for 2017

Posted

In July 2016, a stakeholder focus group meeting was conducted to discuss marketing needs and strategies for the Walker County Airport.

Organizations represented at the meeting included the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, the Walker County Economic and Industrial Development Authority, the Walker County Commission, the Walker Area Community Foundation, Bevill State Community College and Sanders Aviation.

That focus group discussion resulted in a list of goals for attainable improvements at the airport. Those goals included improving the appearance of the airport and strengthening the image of the airport and improved community involvement.

With the newly released airport marketing strategy, officials with Leadership Walker County urged participants for 2016/2017 to take up the goals brought up from the focus group as their projects for the year.

Being a member of the Leadership Walker County Class of 2017, I was torn when I first heard the group would be focused on the airport. When I agreed to participate in LWC, I assumed we would be working on a project that tugged at the heartstrings more than the airport, something similar to past LWC projects such as the APEX playground, the Secret Pantry and the Safe Kids Expo. I had an idea of my own to attempt to put together a food recycling program, using area restaurants’ leftovers to help feed the hungry in our county. Working on marketing for the airport just didn’t seem as important to me at the time.

Thanks to my career experience, I feel I have a little bit better understanding of the importance of strong local airport than the average citizen, but even still, my heart didn’t skip a beat thinking about boosting awareness for the facility.

Even as we reached the halfway point of Leadership Walker County, I still wasn’t completely sold on the idea, but I think that is why I finally bought into the idea. If I wasn’t sold on airport awareness, who would be?

The Walker County Airport is an important facility to our community. Its value as far as economic development is as great as any other location in Jasper and a Walker County.

If we took a poll of area citizens, asking what is the one thing needed in our community, I would be willing to bet that “MORE JOBS” would be the overwhelming leading vote getter. A strong airport, combined with the work done by officials with our area retail and industrial development groups, helps to bring more jobs. In recent months, the strength of our airport has played a considerable role in landing an incredible industrial business such as Yorozu as well as retail stores such as Harbor Freight. Executives from prospective businesses often times land at our airport, which can be their first impression of the community.

Leadership Walker County teams will be giving their final project presentations later this week, and there are some good things that will be done by this 2017 group. Signage leading into the airport will be improved. Awareness for the job the airport does in our community will be raised through newspaper articles (see the DME front page today) and a social media campaign. There will also be a Walker County Day held at the airport later this year (some time in the fall) that will include a plane show, car show and plenty of fun things for families to enjoy.

My LWC team has put together a project to bring a play area to the airport that will allow local families to come out to the facility for a fun time. Our idea is for a playground and observation area to be placed at the airport. The playground will include some actual planes that children can climb through as well as traditional playground items. We are also hoping to place picnic tables and benches in the area. Some funding is in place for the idea, but we will also need to raise more to make the idea a reality.

I’m thankful for my time in Leadership Walker County. It has given me the opportunity to get to know some people in our community that I didn’t know, and it has allowed me to better some relationships that had been built in the past. I also quickly found out that a certain county commissioner and I couldn’t be near each other in the same room for very long without distracting the entire group.

The projects that we are working on at the airport may not be passion projects like have come out of LWC in the past, but the work we are doing will have a lasting impact on Walker County.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.