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.

Growing our city’s population should be our #1 focus. Residential growth should be the lens through which everything we do is seen. This means that right now, everything we do as a City Council should be able to point back to the impact it has on residential growth. Every dollar we spend, every vote we make should have a tie back to our primary goal of population growth. Why? Residential growth fuels the things we all want, like more retail options, new restaurants, more things to do, etc. Before developers invest their money into our community, they want to see a growing population and growing income levels. Residential growth also fuels better city services: more paving, more frequent trash pickup, litter control, more parks, etc. This is due to the higher city revenues that more people will bring. Capturing our share of the people moving to our region from all over the country also helps our school system as it continues to make strides in a positive way.

I’ve recently read or heard things like “Well, this Council just thinks ‘If you build it, they will come.’” Well, I would respond two ways to that. First, my answer is: Yes! Exactly! Is it a sure thing? No, it’s not. But that leads to the 2nd response: What if you don’t build it? Will they come? That answer is closer to a sure thing.

Another reaction I’ve heard is that we should only focus on making what we currently have better before we focus on growth. Imagine if a business thought this way. If a business only focused on the essentials of today, like turning on the lights, paying the bills, etc. without at least equal focus to investing in future growth, you’d see a company that won’t be around very long. Opportunities would pass them by because their heads were down, only focused on today. The fact is, we must do both. Yes, we will increase paving. Yes, we will fix drainage issues. Yes, we will increase our litter and mowing initiatives, while at the same time investing in future growth through infrastructure expansion.

Again, imagine a company that has launched an initiative to improve their current operations. During that initiative, a once in a lifetime opportunity for acquisition comes before them. Should their response be “Well, right now we are going to focus only on our internal operations, "No thanks.” No! Of course not. You take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of you. And guess what? We are in the middle of that once in a lifetime opportunity. North Alabama has never seen growth like this. Ever. We are in one of the top regions for growth in the country right now, according to recent numbers published by the Wall Street Journal. Should we look at that opportunity and say, “We will focus on that later. Only after we pave every road and mow all the grass.” My answer is no! Of course not. Now is the time to strike. The iron is hot!

I will attempt to sum all of that up this way: Our focus right now should remain on residential growth. Residential growth brings us the other types of development we all want to see. As history has shown in our region, sewer expansion is the best option to incentivize residential development. Our region is growing exponentially, and we must capture our share of that growth. While we must continue to maintain and improve what we have, we also have to invest in the future or we will miss the opportunity… And we will not miss this opportunity!

Jacob Ladner represents District 5 on the  Decatur City Council and serves as Council President.