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.
Renasant Gateway Decatur/6th Ave. Streetscape
Every Exit is an Entrance to Something Better
It’s been said that one cannot judge the beauty of a path merely by looking at its entrance. And while that may be true, that hasn’t stopped our community leaders from working tirelessly for the benefit of residents and visitors alike. It’s finally time their hard work pays off - literally. This fall, Renasant Bank announced plans for a new Decatur location that will serve as headquarters for its Decatur/Morgan County market. Located at the intersection of Lee Street and Highway 31, the location will be a prime spot downtown and will fill a much-needed void.
In September, Fairfield by Marriott announced plans to construct an 80-room property at the intersection of Second Ave. and Moulton St. in our downtown Decatur district. The project is the result of the collaboration between government and private enterprise that will be a game- changer for the landscape of our business community, serving restaurants, retail, entertainment, government, and commerce. The site will be a prime spot downtown and fill a much-needed void. Since the announcement, plans are underway to develop a 200-plus space parking deck adjacent to the hotel to support guests and businesses.
What’s all this without a little self-care, right? As a subgroup born from the Chamber’s strategic plan, a group of city business leaders are spearheading the plan to develop an in-depth strategy to address not just appearances, but safety, walkability, burying utilities, efficient traffic flow, and creating a positive gateway to our city.
Each of these projects will be long-term revenue producers for our city and help attract other developers to our area and we are looking forward to seeing them come to fruition.
Cerrowire Locating in Morgan Center
Location, Location, Location
The multimillion-dollar Morgan Center Business Park in Hartselle has its first tenant. Cerrowire is planning to build a $100 million, 270,000 square-foot facility at the Morgan Center. It’s said that the jobs will have a minimum average hourly wage of $25.99 per full-time employee plus benefits.
Headquartered in Hartselle, Alabama, Cerrowire is a copper wire manufacturing company with plants in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, and Utah. They supply building wire and cable throughout North America for commercial, industrial, and residential use.
The new plant will produce metal-clad cable which will be marketed to commercial construction contractors according to the company’s President Stewart Smallwood.
New Career Academies Complex
Success is a Project that’s Always Under Construction
In November, Decatur City Schools broke ground on the new Career Academies of Decatur complex. The new facility will be located at Danville Road and Westmeade Street. The Career Academies program currently serves well over a thousand students a year and the expansion of the program has generated a great deal of excitement. By providing a pipeline of talented workers, Decatur City Schools will help not only the students get a leg up but many of our employers as well.
Upon completion, the complex will include heavy equipment simulators along with classroom space for an EMT section, medical career facility, engineering program, and computer labs.
Construction on the almost 2,790 square foot building will begin in the spring of 2022.
ULA Lucy Launch
One Small Step for ULA, One Giant Leap (12 years to be exact) for Lucy
In October, NASA’s Lucy mission launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The mission is the first spacecraft launched to explore the Trojan asteroids, a population of primitive asteroids orbiting in tandem with Jupiter. All this wouldn’t be possible without big help from Decatur, Alabama. Why? Because ULA team members in Decatur, Alabama built the rocket.
Over the next 12 years, Lucy will fly by one main belt and seven Trojan asteroids. The Lucy mission is NASA’s first single spacecraft to explore this many asteroids.
Two Decatur Elementary Schools Gain Blue Ribbon Status
Excellence is the Gradual Result of Striving to do Better
Two Decatur City schools were designated as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. The state Department of Education awarded the Blue Ribbon School designation to West Decatur Elementary and Chestnut Grove Elementary. Each year, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes hundreds of public and private schools across the country for their commitment to educational excellence and their ability to overcome outstanding odds to properly educate their students. These schools received the National Blue Ribbon of Distinction, an award reserved for schools that boast students who meet and maintain high educational goals. The Blue Ribbon Award celebrates the idea that all students, regardless of background, ability or location, deserve an excellent education. We have so much to be proud of in Decatur-Morgan County and this just adds to the growing list.
Residential Development & Positive Census Growth
Grow Through What You Go Through
Speaking of growth, true quality growth of a community does not happen by chance. It’s the result of community and business leaders working together with a shared vision and common mission. For quite some time, residential growth has been at the top of everyone’s list. Well, it’s official... as of the 2020 Census, we’re growing!
The Chamber’s Residential Development Task Team, a direct byproduct of the One Decatur process and the Chamber’s strategic plan, has worked with city and county leaders and partners to ensure that more than 900 new rooftops within multiple subdivisions are being planned or ready for construction.
Regardless of the many challenges that our community and others have experienced throughout the pandemic, opportunities have been plentiful, and we’re headed onward and upward!