City of Helena designated an ‘Alabama Community of Excellence’

From left, ACE executive director Sidney Hoover and Alabama League of Municipalities executive director Ken Smith present Helena Mayor Mark Hall with Helena’s ACE award on May 14. (Contributed)

From left, ACE executive director Sidney Hoover and Alabama League of Municipalities executive director Ken Smith present Helena Mayor Mark Hall with Helena’s ACE award on May 14. (Contributed)

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTSVILLE–The city of Helena has been designated as an “Alabama Community of Excellence” after successfully completing the Alabama Communities of Excellence program, a comprehensive three-phase approach to economic and community development for cities with populations between 2,000 and 18,000. The ACE program provides a “one-stop shopping” development approach for helping Alabama’s smaller towns to plan, grow and prosper.

“Communities with eligible populations must complete a competitive application process in order to be considered for the ACE program,” said Sidney Hoover, executive director of ACE. “The two main criteria used in selecting ACE participants are 1) the level of local commitment to the ACE program, and 2) the community’s capacity to support the ACE program.”

Helena’s achievement was recognized during the Saturday, May 14opening session of the Alabama League of Municipalities Annual Convention held in Huntsville.

Ken Smith, ACE partner and executive director of the Alabama League of Municipalities, and Hoover, presented a plaque to city officials.

“We are so proud of Helena for successfully completing all three phases of the ACE program,” said Hoover. “Their dedication to community development should be commended. The ACE program would not be possible without the funding, hard work and participation of the 16 ACE Partner organizations. Throughout each of the three phases, ACE Partners use their collective expertise to work with each community to assist it in successfully achieving its unique goals.”

ACE Partner organizations include: Alabama Association of RC&D Councils, Alabama Association of Regional Councils, Alabama Department of Commerce, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama League of Municipalities, Alabama Municipal Electric Authority, Alabama Power Company, Auburn University – Government and Economic Development Institute, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc., Information Transport Solutions, Inc., Jackson Thornton and Company, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Regions Bank, Southeast Alabama Gas District, The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development and The University of West Alabama.

Thirty-one communities have previously been certified as Alabama Communities of Excellence: Alexander City, Arab, Atmore, Brewton, Childersburg, Demopolis, Elba, Eufaula, Evergreen, Fairhope, Fayette, Foley, Graysville, Guin, Gulf Shores, Guntersville, Haleyville, Hartselle, Headland, Heflin, Jackson, Jacksonville, Leeds, Livingston, Millbrook, Monroeville, Montevallo, Rainsville, Saraland, Thomasville, and Valley. The addition of Helena brings the total to 32 Alabama communities that have achieved designation as Alabama Communities of Excellence.

During the graduation ceremony, Hoover explained ACE’s three-phase approach to community development.

“Phase I is known as the assessment phase. During this time, a comprehensive report card detailing a community’s unique assets and weaknesses is prepared and presented to the community along with recommended strategies and actions,” said Hoover.

“During Phase II, the Leadership Development and Strategic Planning component, each community must establish a leadership development program, and prepare an up-to-date strategic plan. Phase III is the Strategic Plan Implementation and Comprehensive Planning segment. Issues addressed during Phase III include comprehensive planning, commercial business development, education enhancement, infrastructure, health and human services, retiree attraction, tourism, economic development and quality of life.”

To maintain the Alabama Community of Excellence designation, a community must be recertified every three years. Helena will be eligible for recertification in 2019.

ACE was created in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation organized for the purpose of utilizing the collective expertise of its partner organizations, ACE provides participants with a “one-stop shopping” type of experience for the community development programs and tools needed to insure long-term success. Through ACE, the tools needed for smaller communities to plan, grow and prosper can be found through one organization.