I’ve been in and around the construction industry my whole life. It’s the family business, and being around it for as long as I have, I’ve come to understand there are certain principles to live by. One I’ve adopted over the years that always seems to be true: If you don’t start with a plan, it’s not going to work.

One thing became clear when the Chamber’s consulting team started to interview area leaders about the needs in our community in developing our five-year strategic plan The Partnership. There was nearly 100 percent consensus a critical issue in our market was the lack of new quality residential housing options in Decatur-Morgan County. Whether it’s single-family residential or high-end multi-family homes, we have a consumer demand that’s not being met.

When we have a demand without inventory, our community loses. This forces a newly recruited engineer to a local industry, a new Decatur City Schools teacher and their family from out of state, or a recent college graduate coming back to work in the family business to look outside Decatur-Morgan County for affordable and available options.

DSC 4120Once they establish themselves in Madison, Athens, Huntsville or another surrounding city, we have likely lost that opportunity to ever bring them back to this area. They find a church, open a bank account, discover a favorite local restaurant and get plugged into their school system. At that point, they’ve planted roots that are fed by that community despite where they work.

Just as important as having inventory is having a cohesive plan to address it. The Residential Development Task Team – made up of builders, realtors, appraisers, contractors, civil engineers, city officials, developers, young professionals and others – has already conducted strategy sessions. We are in the process of formulating the blueprint that will align the stakeholders, develop a community master plan and provide incentives that will entice builders and developers to our area. The Chamber’s task team is uniquely positioned to make this happen because of long-standing relationships and recognizing a sense of urgency in our community. 

Also, we have connected and continue to engage with our City Council to discuss zoning and land use issues, which was a major point of discussion coming out of the One Decatur comprehensive plan initiative. Some of these changes will be different from what our city has ever seen. But if we want to see something different, we have to do something different.

With the impending regional growth and the influx of a new workforce that will bring, now is the time and the opportunity for Decatur to establish itself as a great place to not just work, but to live, raise a family and have a high quality of life. We are at the intersection of great timing, a growing economy, a burst of new economic development and a new energy in The River City. We are well down the road towards the goal of saying “welcome” to new neighbors.

Jack Fite is president of Fite Building Company of  Decatur, and task team leader for The Partnership’s Residential Development initiative. This post is the third of a four-part series telling the story of The Partnership and how it will change the landscape of our business community. To learn more about The Partnership and how to get involved, please click here.