The Committee for a Greater Shoals made a nice presentation to a room full of area business leaders and other interested community members last week. Several volunteers took us through a Powerpoint presentation that tied in over six months of work that began with a Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) report and continued with a series of meetings on the local level. However, the presentation represents the beginning of the real work, implementing a plan for the area’s growth. Topics included Digital Infrastructure, Tourism, Workforce Development, Economic Development, Quality of Life, and Governmental Collaboration.
We already know about the low cost of living, good educational and recreational opportunities, courteous neighbors, extensive cultural listings, beautiful surroundings, southern charm, respect for hard work, and so on.
One highlight to brag about is that 83% of high school seniors in the Shoals are college and career ready. That is the highest percentage of any Metropolitan Statistical Area in the state. Efforts to increase the quality and readiness of the local workforce have been nothing short of sensational. The credit can be spread far and wide from basic reading skills early, to innovative programs late, teacher efforts throughout, and so many other factors and directives within those 13 years.
That doesn’t leave much room to improve. Between those who really aren’t interested in working or continuing their education and those who can’t pass a pre-employment drug screen, 85% may be a best case. Apathy and excessive drug use are already crippling local employers looking to increase their work roles.
Another valid consideration was brought up by the working group that was looking at quality of life, albeit maybe not for the reasons mentioned here. They recognized that accelerated growth may create some unintended consequences for our community that may impact our quality of life.
Many of us would say that we like living here because it’s relaxed with comparatively little traffic and road congestion, rural areas are literally 10 minutes away from anywhere, courtesy seems to reign on the roadways, long-held Southern values, little added stress, and so on. Accelerated growth could change all that quickly.
If we wanted more hecticness and headaches, we could move to suburbs of Huntsville, Nashville, San Antonio, or Greenville, SC.
Another thing that happens when growth comes in from the outside is that communities become more liberal. That trend toward liberalism occurs naturally enough in young people anyway. Their gleeful ignorance is often pro-government, pro-social equality, and pro sex of any kind. When a community grows quickly and people come in to accommodate that growth and fill newly-created positions, they often bring a more progressive, urban, fast-paced mindset, that is not conducive to a small-town, individual-driven America.
Therefore, if more progressivism is a mandated part of accelerated progress, we need to decelerate a little.