Florala works to make city vibrant

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Designers of Florala’s new strategic plan hope to make the city more “vibrant,” and in turn, bring more industry and infrastructure over the next 10 years.

Members of the city’s strategic planning committee have worked for the last six months to develop the new plan, which was presented at the last council meeting.

By accomplishing the points in the plan, committee members hope to increase business revenue by 30 percent over the next three years and to continue the growth in the future.

Headed by Linda Russell, local business owner and president of the city’s historical society, the group was overseen by Councilwoman Hazel Lee.

“This is a working document, not something to pull out and show when we have company,” Lee said.

Plan facilitator Chris Buckler said the group began developing the plan by defining an overall goal for the city.

“It’s easier to start at the end, where we want to be in 10 years and ask ourselves how do we get there from here,” Buckler said.

He said the group focused on goals that would make the city “vibrant.”

Under the plan, city officials are working to improve the city’s economy by attracting new businesses and industries.

“That’s easy to say,” Buckler said. “What we need to do is divide that into accomplishable goals. Our strategy is that over the next 10 years, attract three new tourist-oriented retail companies per year that employ five to 15.

“What that means is that instead of going after say Olive Garden, which we really wouldn’t be a good fit for, let’s look at ways to get say, a McDonald’s, and go after them,” he said.

Buckler said other points include developing a marketing plan for the city and convincing at least 50 percent of downtown property owners of vacant buildings to offer buildings for rental price equal to taxes and insurance by the end of 2011.

“We want to see vendors in those buildings,” he said. “We want people to think it’s vibrant here. We need to utilize more events that will draw people to Florala.

“The June 24th celebration is great, but it’s only one time a year,” he said. “We need to come up with fresh ideas to bring people here.”

Within the next five years, the plan calls for attracting an investor to build a hotel in Florala, to manage the industrial park to attract more businesses and to utilize the airport so that it’s a utility to businesses.

Another large point in the plan is to determine what can be done legally to ensure the utility board can share in its gross revenue. Officials hope to accomplish this task by the end of 2012.

As for infrastructure, the committee recommended expanding utilities to all city limits and to the airport located on U.S. Hwy. 331 and to install and repair city roads as needed.

Committee members also want to see improvement in the visual presentation of the city.

The group recommended establishing procedures to keep the city clean and maintained, promote local participation by providing civic pride education in the schools and to beautify the downtown area.

“This area is on the historic register,” Buckler said. “We need to play on that and use that area to start as the head of our city.”