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The Chamber Blog

This space features conversations about issues affecting the Decatur-Morgan County area from leaders in our community.

The first comprehensive incentive package for STEM young professionals

The Best & Brightest

By John Joseph, Executive Director of the E-Center

The Best and Brightest Initiative is the nation’s first comprehensive incentive package for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) young professionals.  The program offers the following benefits:

  • Student Loan Repayment: Up to $15,000 of student loan repayment, payable at $3,000 per year for each year an accepted applicant lives in the Decatur, Alabama city limits (work anywhere you want)
  • Mentoring: Ongoing mentoring from community leaders
  • Getting Involved: Community involvement options at the Board and other influential levels
  • Networking: Networking with employers, peers, and colleagues
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Five ways to handle negative comments on social media


By Melea Hames

The internet can be a scary place, and people can be awfully brave behind a keyboard. Words that would never be said face to face are flung around on social media without regard to the fact that another human being is on the other side of the computer, phone, or tablet. You can post something totally innocent and be shocked to find a negative comment. So what do you do when faced with negativity on social media? First, you need to assess the situation and then determine your course of action. Here are five ways to handle a negative comment:

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How personalities affect the work environment


By Ruthie Jones

Dr. Larry Little’s book “Make A Difference: In the Lives of Those You Love, Live with, and Lead", helps us to understand ourselves, others and build healthy relationships.

Knowing yourself and how personalities affect the work environment will help develop healthy relationships, mutual understanding and respect.  If I don’t know myself, tendencies, quirks or personality then how can I interact with those that I work with, live with and love?  I may not agree with you or your actions but if I understand my personality or the other individuals make up, I can better relate to and connect with them on many levels rather than just writing them off.

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Decatur City Council President: Residential growth should be our focus


By Jacob Ladner

When I ran for City Council, I never thought I’d spend so much time talking about sewer. The topic seems to come up daily. What I have learned, however, is that sewer is our primary incentive in attracting residential development. A quick study of the growth that Huntsville has experienced over the last decade points to an aggressive sewer expansion plan that was executed over two decades ago. The name “Dallas Fanning” is legendary when it comes to growth through sewer expansion in Huntsville.

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Onward & Upward: NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP

If 2020 presented a host of unforeseen challenges, it’s safe to say that 2021 showcased growth and adaptability like never before in our community. And in this era of change, growth and adaptability were consistent themes throughout the year. If we’ve learned anything from the 2020s so far, it’s the ability to move onward and upward no matter how difficult things may seem. From a part of ULA making its way, WAY upward to moving onward with growth and development, it’s clear that 2021 has proven to be a pleasant surprise. As the year draws to a close, the Chamber would like to take a moment to highlight the top six stories from 2021 that made a substantial difference in our community - because we couldn’t choose just five.

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Broadband Access: Let's Close the Digital Divide

As we continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic, time has given us the chance to reflect on the long road we have walked as a state and a community.

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Your Chamber and our community: A belief in being better

Your Chamber of Commerce is in the business of economic development. But perhaps more importantly, we are in the business of working to leave this community better for the next generation of leaders. To serve that mission, it requires a belief in being better.

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A blank slate and smart business: Alliance Publishing Group

The turn of a new year is often time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. It is a blank slate and a chance to lay the groundwork for what’s next. Your Chamber is always asking the question “how can we be better for our community?”

With that in mind, the Chamber is excited to announce a new partnership with Alliance Publishing Group of Birmingham in the production of our 2020 Community Guide and Membership Directory, which will publish in June of 2020.

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All success starts with teachers

Shopping for new school supplies reminds me of my own “back to school” memories. Trapper Keepers, highlighters, pencil sharpener, index cards and the like remind me of the excitement of seeing my friends again and exploring something new.

Now as a parent, for my own children to experience those emotions it requires me to release my twin daughters and college-bound son to people who will spend more time with them than anyone else aside from our family: teachers.

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Engaging our region: The Cook Museum

The adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same” couldn’t be more fitting for the Cook Museum of Natural Science in Decatur. 

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Why does travel matter?

In Decatur, we pass popular tourist sites like Point Mallard Park every day and may not even think of how it supports our community. But Point Mallard and others like Jack Allen Recreation Complex, the Old State Bank, the Historic Depot and Railroad Museum and our diverse restaurants are the backbones of our city and Morgan County. 

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So, let’s talk a little business

(Editor’s note: This post is a portion of Board of Directors Chairman Willie LaFavor’s comments during the Chamber’s 2019 Annual Meeting.)

The 2018-2019 year definitely offered its challenges as we enlisted and secured volunteers, raised funds, and ultimately, accomplished our goal as the Chamber’s “One Vision” capital campaign closed out.

As outgoing Chairman Tim Lovelace told you earlier, our goal was $2.5 million. We expect to meet that goal and pledges are still coming in! Chamber CFO Leissa Chittam tells me that we are going to exceed our original goal. What an accomplishment! Some of you might rightfully say, our work is finally complete, so let’s sit back and coast after all that fundraising work. We all know the reality is the real work is just beginning.

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If you want to run far, run together

We can all agree the past 12 months Decatur-Morgan County has seen more energy than in recent years. There are many reasons for this: among them, the soon-to-arrive Mazda-Toyota facility in Limestone County just a few miles from downtown; renewed movement of residential development in our city; a transformative city school system superintendent who is making changes in the district that will impact the next generation of graduates coming from the River City; an arts scene that continues to grow and attract creativity. There is a buzz about Decatur we’ve not heard in a long time.

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Community relationships lead to community successes

The 2018-2019 school year will be historic for Decatur City Schools.

We will be moving into two brand new, state-of-the-art high school facilities and launching a Career Technical Center on the old Austin High campus. The high schools will launch new career academies that will help parents and students identify potential college and/or career pathways, helping steer young people on a course to success. Our high schools will also begin a 1-to-1 ChromeBook initiative that will provide every student in 9-12 grades with a laptop. And that's not all. Not by a long shot.

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The time is now: The Partnership

A year ago, I heard John Joseph in a speech make the observation that Decatur-Morgan County may be in the middle of a rebirth and we don’t even realize it. In a recent conversation, John agreed that today we can say for sure that we are in the middle of the emergence of our area as one of the South’s most vibrant communities.

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This is YOUR hospital

This is an exciting time to call Decatur home.

On Jan. 25, at the Chamber’s State of Healthcare Address, I was excited to share with the community news about Huntsville Hospital Health System investing an additional $20 million for capital improvement projects at the Decatur Campus. The announcement came on the heels of the hospital’s first strategic plan, about which I’m incredibly excited. Let me tell you why.

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Top five stories from 2017 that make us excited to be in Decatur-Morgan County

It is time to prepare for a new year. As a community, it is important for us to look back and reflect on a year of news and events that have brought us to where we are today. At times, the news around us is full of conflict and divisiveness, which quite often drowns out the news we should be celebrating in our community. There is so much happening in Decatur and Morgan County that shows our high quality of life, and we as a community need to tell that story.

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We Belong

At the end of the day, we all want to belong.

When I came to Decatur from Natchez, Miss., in 1991 to become president of this Chamber, my wife and I quickly became connected to the community. I met elected officials with whom I’d be working with on public policy issues. I connected with business owners and entrepreneurs who were innovative in their craft and creating something new you couldn’t find anywhere else. I met with education leaders about connecting the business community and students to prepare the next generation workforce. We all shared stories about what motivated us in the work we did and what we valued at the end of the day.

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Who are your "champions?"

In April, I was honored to be handed the gavel to serve as Chairman of the Board for the Decatur-Morgan Chamber of Commerce for the next year. As I addressed the crowd of 230-plus Chamber members at our Annual Meeting, my main topic of emphasis was asking this question: “who are your Champions?” 

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Delano Park and Why It Matters

(Editor's note: this blog post originally appeared on DecaturNext, a platform by John Joseph of Decatur Corridor Development)

Our kids really enjoy Delano Park, Decatur’s oldest park, created in 1887 . We have to keep them from picking the flowers, but they still like to look at them. They enjoy running around the Park’s open spaces and playing with other children there. It’s a perfect place to have a picnic and slow down a little bit. 

It is a mistake, though, to think of Delano as “just a park.” A bigger picture exists, and I want to explore that here. Because it is a bigger picture we cannot afford to ignore.

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TRC: Learn what you're missing

We are in the midst of year 12 for the Chamber’s Total Resource Campaign (TRC), and an experience I wouldn't want to miss as a volunteer. It's interesting to look back and see how the program has evolved and its positive impact on local businesses, industries and our community.

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Not your grandfather's Jaycees

The Decatur Jaycees have been called many things; everything from “good stewards” and “the future of our community” to “wild” and “rowdy young folks.” Many people have heard of the Jaycees, maybe because of Riverfest, or maybe even from the Morgan County Fair back in the day. But few know who we really are or our true purpose in the city of Decatur.

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United Way: A Smart Investment

While on a recent phone call with a large national company, the young man with whom I was speaking asked me what the United Way was. Not until I mentioned the National Football League commercials that the name even rang a bell for him.

I was stunned.

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21 Examples

Positive news is here in Decatur and you don’t have to look too hard to find it. While election seasons unfortunately bring with it forecasts of gloom and doom, when faced with facts, the weather looks bright for the River City.

Individually, each of the following is a flash of good news. Collectively, it shows a trend. The business climate in our city is strong.

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Our "Best & Brightest"

This is the perfect time for young professionals to live in Decatur.

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The tyranny of low expectations

Ray Mabus, former Governor of Mississippi and now Secretary of the Navy, once said that sometimes people become the victims of the “tyranny of low expectations.” It oftentimes becomes satisfactory to “settle” for something less than optimal.

Local chamber leaders simply must not be satisfied when someone tells us, “that’s the best we can do.” We should never accept the notion that “doing all right” is the norm and is acceptable. Our challenge as local chamber leaders is to find new opportunities, make difficult decisions, raise expectations, and tackle the status quo.

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"I want to lead"

What is one quality you love about the United States? There are a hundred responses you could give, and they is not one “right” answer. However, there is one thing everyone can agree makes our country strong: the ability to vote.

In our history, hundreds of thousands – maybe even millions – of people have died to protect our right to vote. It is our voice in shaping the future of our country. No one under any circumstance should take that right for granted.

But what is just as important as the right to vote, is the willingness of citizens to stand up and say “I want to lead.”

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It's a Mother-Daughter Thing

If you have ever stopped to think about the construction industry, you would realize it is quite a unique field. The construction industry affects everyone’s life and it offers products whose value can increase over time. It is also an industry where brick & mortar meets cutting edge technology and offers a wide range of challenging employment opportunities.

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A thank you to Richard Shelby

Since he has been in office, Senator Richard Shelby has put Alabama and its workers ahead of all other things.

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The Top Five Stories from 2015 that make us excited to be in Morgan County

As we reflect on 2015 and prepare for the transition to 2016, there is much talk about “Top News Stories,” “Top Political Stories,” “Most Read Stories,” “Top Newsmakers” and the like. Unfortunately, in the interest of selling papers and racking up page views, these lists rarely appeal to our best nature or discuss how great it is to live in the best nation on the planet.

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The United Way: A Spirit of Community

When you interview for a new position, especially in a new community, it’s an exchange of thoughts and ideas that both sides hope will lead to a good fit.

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Companies have choices. Let’s make sure they continue to choose us.

Now more than ever, corporations have numerous options when deciding where to invest their capital dollars. Our local companies not only compete with other U.S. operations, but other corporate facilities throughout the world.

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Collaboration is Power

Collaboration is a powerful word and an even more powerful concept.

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River Clay: Making History

A city center is often where a great deal of a community's business is coordinated and where government resides. Having a vibrant center has become an important indicator of the strength of a community. More and more, communities are investing in new infrastructure and making a dedicated effort to make their centers more inviting and successful. In recent years, Decatur's leaders have made the revitalization of ours a high priority goal.

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It is amazing...

As I complete my one-year tenure as board chair, I tried to decide what was the most memorable part of this exciting ride. While proud of all the programs and initiatives started and expanded this year, the thing that stands out for me was meeting so many great people from our community. These folks, while wonderful in their own rights, were part of a bigger picture – a picture of a community coming together to make this a better place.

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Want to make a difference? SHOP LOCAL!


That's the number of people it takes to make a difference in our community.

And what is the single easiest thing one person can do to make a difference in our community? 

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Visiting "the issues"

As we approach the election season and the end of 2014, it is time for us to look ahead and make plans for what already appears to be a dynamic 2015 for our country.

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Leadership: All Shapes and Sizes

Being part of the Leadership Committee at the Chamber is like many things in life – the title and the reality don't always match.

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Not Your Normal Summer Break

Have you ever asked a high school girl, "what are you doing this summer?" Did you expect her to answer "a little welding, little electrical work and perhaps a chance to meet my future employer?"

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It's Never Too Late

Well, I guess it is never too late to learn new things.

This is my first ever blog post, which goes to the subject of this piece.

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The Chamber thanks its Strategic Partners for their support.

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