It is the season when we read and see lists about the year past. In newspapers and on television we see "Top 10 Stories of 2014," "Most Read Stories of 2014," "Most Intriguing People of 2014," "Top Photos of 2014," etc. It seems like, more often than not, these stories are not of a positive nature.
If we were to make our list in Morgan County it would be stories about events and people who are changing our community in a very positive way. With that tone in mind, here is your Chamber's "Top Five Stories of 2014 That Make Us Proud to be from Morgan County."
Brewer Student Elected President of Boys Nation
Matthew Ellow was elected president of the 2014 Boys Nation in July. Since 1946, two boys from each state have participated in Boys Nation. You may recall the story about Bill Clinton, a representative from Arkansas, and his historic meeting with President John F. Kennedy during Boys Nation in 1963. If you have met Matthew, you won't be surprised he was elected.
Decatur to Build Two New High Schools
Early in 2014, the Decatur City School Board made the decision to build two new high schools. They will replace Decatur and Austin and – at a cost of $80 million – will completely change the perception of this community's commitment to education. This will make our community competitive in the recruitment of business and residents to our city. This is in addition to ongoing building projects in the County system, as well as at Decatur Heritage Christian Academy.
United Launch Alliance Launches Orion
In December, a Delta IV Heavy rocket made by ULA in Decatur was used for the historic test launch of Orion – NASA's new exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations in deep space, including Mars. This was just one example of the long list of successful launches made by the ULA Team since they began making rockets in Decatur. This particular launch was covered by the international media and it was a proud moment for us locally to have the world see the ULA logo on the top of the vehicle on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Cook Museum of Natural Science
Plans were finalized in August to build a $19 million museum in downtown Decatur. This regional attraction is projected to draw more than 200,000 visitors annually, not including school tours. This new 57,000 square foot multi-purpose exhibition and visitors center will be transformational for downtown Decatur; it will create incredible economic development opportunities for all our citizens and local businesses.
Alabama Center for the Arts, Phase II
Following the July groundbreaking, construction began on the $13.5 million music and drama building in downtown Decatur, creating a "destination" program for students from Alabama and neighboring states. It will also serve as an additional economic development engine that will continue to drive the revitalization of our city center. The 44,000 square foot performing arts facility will open in the fall of 2016 and will add curriculum to the existing visual arts offerings. Five new restaurants and multiple new businesses have opened, as well as several new community events have begun since the first phase was completed two years ago – all producing strong economic impact.