HDB working for growth
Robert Francis, Guest columnist
A series of columns about the Hartselle Development Board (HDB) will appear during the next few weeks. This, the first, will address origin, membership, organization, symbolism of the logo, mission, procedures, incorporation and strategy.
Our city is a very desirable place to live and rear a family. It is commonly referred to as a bed and breakfast community. Consequently, and rightly so, it attracts new residents. Why not? The environment of Southern charm and hospitality is very inviting. But there is so much more – a superb school system, extensive parks and recreation programs, relatively low cost of living, excellent medical facilities, low crime rate, outstanding police and fire protection and state-recognized athletic programs; all anchored by strong family and church-based ideals. In fact, our city has been recognized as one of the "100 Best Small Towns in America" and as one of the "Top 50 Best Small Southern Towns in America."
The downside of this is that Hartselle has reached the point where residential growth exceeds balance with commercial growth. The city is strained for revenue to continue provision of quality services to its citizens. This became more pronounced and obvious during the recent decline in the economy.
Huge market gaps exist and out of necessity, residents must travel elsewhere to selectively shop for many items. This is undesirable and inconvenient, but more importantly, deficiency in commercial development deprives the city of significant potential revenue from its major source, retail sales. Sales tax from retail sales contribute about 60 percent of the city's total revenue. The next largest source of revenue, privilege licenses, contributes less than 8 percent.
For many years, Hartselle has remained complacent in focused, proactive recruitment of new business, both commercial and industrial, while neighboring municipalities have thrived. For example, Cullman, comparable in both size and demographics, has experienced significantly more business growth during the past several years.
Stimulated by the two studies mentioned last week, the Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce set out to do something about this. Patterned after the Business Development Board of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, the concept of HDB was formulated in the spring of 2002 and the board was formed this fall. Numerous work sessions yielded the basic framework, and membership was established, consisting of expertise in chamber activities, city government, real estate, banking, utilities, engineering and property ownership.
Advisory membership was selected to offer expertise in state and county governments, legal, economic development and transportation. Membership will be more fully discussed in a following article.
A logo that exhibited resolve to succeed was imperative. The logo above satisfies that requirement. The large triangle represents strength. The cornerstones, also triangles, are comprised of the entities necessary to insure success of the mission. "Teamwork," "Focus," and "Action" are displayed as the characteristics enabling success.
The mission of HDB is "to bring new industries and business to Hartselle and to support the expansion of existing Hartselle industries and businesses in order to support the balanced and sustainable growth of our community and to expand the economic opportunities and the scope of goods and services available to our citizens, while preserving Hartselle's family based quality of life."
It is recognized that the mission can only be accomplished through participation by property owners. Our job is to make known the availability of their property and to serve as the contact between them and prospective buyers.
Emphasis on timely and complete response to prospects is of paramount importance. Procedures address confidentiality with prospects with full board participation or single member contact, left to the discretion of the prospect. Active and aggressive recruitment of prospects is the number one priority. This is done through extensive corporate contacts and use of comprehensive marketing brochures. Marketing and recruitment will be discussed in a subsequent article.
HDB was incorporated soon after forming to permit it to function as an independent, legal entity. It is established as an Alabama corporation and is governed by a board of directors consisting of individuals in the community uniquely situated to attract and recruit business to our area.
The strategy of HDB is to:
Important to this success is community support and, hopefully, this series of articles will help build that support. HDB needs your involvement – "I tell you and you forget; I show you and you remember; I involve you and you understand." All can be Hartselle's ambassadors and I will explain how in the near future.
Robert Francis is a retired civil engineer and a charter member and current chairman of the Hartselle Development Board.