The benefits of regionalism
By By Sen. Arthur Orr, Guest Columnist
The past week was indeed an historic one for our area. The announcement by Governor Bob Riley of the Advanced Technology Robotics Research and Development Complex at Calhoun Community College not only signals significant financial investment for our area ($71 million) but also will become a magnet for jobs in high-tech manufacturing.
The Complex should bode well for this area for years to come as local economic development officials continue to navigate our economy’s migration from the basic manufacturing jobs of the past to the high-tech, knowledge-based jobs of the future. Due to the type work and worker that will be based at the center, one can also envision future spinoff opportunities as budding entrepreneurs at the center pursue new technologies by starting small businesses. Major high-tech manufacturers should also find our area an even more compelling candidate for relocation with the training opportunities available to their employees at the Center.
Perhaps most importantly for this area’s future, the birth of the Robotics Complex has created a renewed spirit of cooperation among our local leadership. The Mayors and Councils of Decatur and Athens along with the Chairmen and Commissioners of Morgan and Limestone Counties all stepped up to make this project a reality. Along with Calhoun, each of the four governments pledged to make significant financial investments in the facility. These local matches enabled the Calhoun site to win out over competing sites-sites that did not have such regional collaboration.
The reception by Mayors Kyle and Williams and Chairmen Glasscock and Seibert when approached about the need for local funds was extremely encouraging. Each of these gentlemen enthusiastically backed the project from its embryonic stage and worked to secure commitments of support. Unlike Montgomery or Washington, there was no difference between the reception by Democrats (Limestone County Commission) or Republicans (Morgan County Commission). Such “can do” spirit and attitude will serve this area well in the days ahead. Working together across county and city lines, we reached our objective that will pay dividends to residents across North Alabama for years to come.
We talk a lot about regionalism in the Tennessee Valley. Though there will always be competing interests among counties and cities, it is indeed inspiring and encouraging to see our local leaders be just that-leaders who can recognize the fruit produced when we cooperate and work together for the greater good in order to benefit all residents of our area. Under such a scenario, the potential for the continued growth and development of our area is truly limited only by our collective imagination and will.