Montevallo meets with statewide city planning organization

Excellent schools, a friendly atmosphere and several other positive traits could fuel growth in Montevallo, said a group who gathered Dec. 16 to discuss the city’s future.

About 30 Montevallo officials and representatives from several city businesses and organizations met for one of the first times with representatives from the Alabama Communities of Excellence program, as they kicked off the city’s involvement with the statewide organization.

During the meeting, those in attendance listed the community’s strengths, and identified keys to recruiting businesses and new residents to the Shelby County city of about 5,000.

Participants listed the city’s parks and recreation offerings, school system, the University of Montevallo, the city’s small-town feel and friendly residents, its arts and music offerings and established downtown as Montevallo’s greatest strengths.

The Alabama Communities of Excellence representatives noted the list of strengths, and said they planned to keep the list in mind as they help city leaders develop a growth plan for the future.

“We want to know what you feel this community’s assets are,” said Ben Wiseman, the American Communities of Excellence team co-captain. “What do you love about being in Montevallo?”

The meeting came shortly after the state community program selected Montevallo as one of its 2009 focus communities. Montevallo leaders completed an extensive application process, and the city was one of five other Alabama cities to be selected to inclusion in the program this year.

Through the free program, Alabama Communities of Excellence representatives will “live” with the city over the next two years, and will make suggestions to city leaders in an attempt to strengthen Montevallo’s economy and quality of living.

“We don’t want to charge the communities a penny,” said Lamar Smith, director of community development for the community organization. “Alabama has 15 certified ACE cities, so it’s a little bit exclusive.

“We don’t have any pre-conceived notions about Montevallo. We are all about observations and recommendations,” Smith added.

After working with the city for about two years, the Alabama Communities of Excellence team will identify areas of improvement for the city.

If the city demonstrates it is actively working to better those areas, the organization’s board of directors can agree to declare the city a program graduate, and award the city a $5,000 grant.