Opp to pursue ‘excellence’

Published 2:04 am Friday, January 25, 2019

Chamber hopes designation provides competitive edge

Currently there are 36 Alabama cities that are considered Alabama Communities of Excellence and the Opp City Council is interested in having Opp join their ranks.

Opp Chamber of Commerce Director Kelly Brandin introduced the idea to the council Tuesday.

“I received an email with the information about the Communities of Excellence,” Brandin said. “The more I dug into it, the more intrigued I became. I thought to myself, ‘You know we are trying to move the City of Opp in a new direction and we are trying to better our city.’ So Charlotte Hunt was gracious enough to attend the seminar with me and we had a headache by the end because we retained so much information.”

Brandin pointed out that several cities in North Alabama already have received the status of Communities of Excellence.

“If you look at some of our neighbors you can see that they are doing this,” Brandin said. “Elba, Geneva, Headland, Eufaula, they have all already accomplished this. Notice that Andalusia is not on this list and I would love for us to do this and get a jump start.”

Currently there are eight cities working towards being an Alabama Community of Excellence. Brandin said that there is an application process.

“As you can see, this is an esteemed group,” Brandin said. “They won’t just let anybody do this, there is an application process and only four to six cities will be selected this year, so the competition is tough.”

Brandin said that there are three phases to the program, assessment, leadership development and strategic planning and implementation and comprehensive planning.

“This program addresses a multitude of considerations,” Brandin said. “Such as healthcare, workforce, economic development, overall design, quality of life, historical perspective, etc.”

Some of the key elements of becoming an Alabama Community of Excellence are having a resolution of support by the city council and letters of support from community clubs. 

“These would be clubs such as the Kelpanan Society or the Rotary Club,” Brandin said. “One city sent in a bunch of support letters, but it was just a template, they just ran it off and sent it in. That doesn’t fly. The Kelpanan Society would have to send in how they would support, the Rotary club would have to send in how they would support and so on. The churches would have to do the same thing.”

Other key elements of becoming an Alabama Community of Excellence are selecting a key coordinator and having a self assessment of the entire city done.

“They don’t just look at downtown,” Brandin said. “They look at housing, sidewalks, parks and the industrial part of the town. They come in, and there is no charge to this, and we have to have a map for them and they go around the entire city.”

Opp would also have to have a strategic plan with a vision, a mission statement and goals to improve the city.

“This is usually a three- to five-year plan,” Brandin said. “If you already have it then they review it and make suggestions on how to change it.”

The city has to have a steering committee, she said.

“The city has to buy into the shoe principle with this committee,” Brandin said. “The shoe principle is you don’t want anybody on the committee to have shoes like me. You want somebody to be in flip flops, somebody in Birkenstocks and somebody that wears tennis shoes, because if you don’t have a cross section of the community then this is never going to work. If everyone has on heels and a suit, you’ve done something wrong.”

The next thing that Opp would have to have is a leadership project.

“They are very big on leadership,” Brandin said. “That will also be at the high school level. We would have junior leadership as well. That is a program that they will work us through. If we do not do the leadership program then we will fail.”

The next thing that Brandin said Opp would need to have is a local non-profit organization that is able to pursue grants. The city also has to have comprehensive planning, which has to be done with the guidance of a consulting firm, Brandin said.

Some things that the city has to do after they graduate from the program are having approval by the city council and county commission, preserve the community’s character, be distinctive and attractive, ensure there is community collaboration, ensure the city is offering a range of housing options and the city has to have complete streets and walkable neighborhoods.

Brandin said that the deadline to complete the application is Mon., March 11, and earning the designation would be a citywide project.

“It can’t only be the chamber and city council,” Brandin said. “It can’t just be us and organizations. It is going to take all of us, so this is something we need to seriously consider, but if we are going to do this, then we need to move quickly.” 

Aditional information is available at www.alabamacommunitiesofexcellence.org.