State of the Community Focuses on the Future

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All three local officials on Thursday's Chamber in Session: State of the Community panel focused on seizing opportunities to move West Alabama forward.

Mayor Donna Aaron of Northport, Mayor Walt Maddox of Tuscaloosa, and Tuscaloosa County Probate Judge Rob Robertson used the Aug. 29 event, held at the Bryant Conference Center and presented by TTL, inc., to discuss how they would proceed with planned projects and improvements.

"If we didn't want to elevate Tuscaloosa, we'd call it status quo Tuscaloosa," Maddox said. "We need an economy that can attract people to Tuscaloosa more than just eight times a year for a football game."

Maddox said advances are already underway; the Elevate Tuscaloosa subcommittees are hard at work and baseline initiatives have begin to take off. "This is driven by all of you, and we hear you loud and clear," he said. "We couldn't have done it without the Chamber's support."

Aaron, who is currently in her first term as Northport's mayor, talked about the city's recent one-cent sales tax increase. "We'll use part for recreational and green spaces, and part to renew, recycle, and rejuvenate the community," Aaron said. "There are older buildings and older parts of town that need an uplift." Aaron said 10 percent of the funds would be set aside for debt service.

Rob Robertson, who was attending his first Chamber in Session event as probate judge, said his biggest challenge was making the transition into a position held by a 42-year incumbent. "Fortunately, my predecessor left the county in very good shape," Robertson said. "You'd be a fool to come in and make radical changes. My first goal was a good transition with good continuity of government."

Robertson said this is an assessment period for him, and he acknowledges how the community has changed over time. "We have to look at how we work together," he said. "We are working toward knowledge based economy, and we have a manufacturing sector that is changing."

"Less than 10 percent of our university graduates stay in the area," Maddox said, but noted that we are working hard to change that number. "Workforce and education has become a powerhouse with the University of Alabama and Shelton State, with the encouragement of the Chamber."

Chamber in Session: State of the Community was presented by TTL, Inc.

Gold Sponsors were Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q, Raymond James, and Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports.

Silver Sponsors were AT&T, BBVA, City of Northport, The Frazer Lanier Company, Ward Scott Architecture.

Bronze Sponsors were FastSigns, Hudson-Poole Fine Jewelers, Perfect Shine, Inc., The Radiology Clinic.

Table Sponsors were Alabama ONE, Buffalo Rock Company/Pepsi-Cola, Building & Earth Sciences, Inc., Burk-Kleinpeter, Inc., Chesapeake Consulting, Inc., City of Tuscaloosa, FNB of Central Alabama, JamisonMoneyFarmer PC, Robertson Banking Company, Synovus, Tuscaloosa City Board of Education, Tuscaloosa Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Tuscaloosa County Board of Education, University of Alabama System, Way, Ray, Shelton & Company, P.C.