Spotlight on Coffee, Dale & Geneva Counties: Community Development

Coffee County 

The county seat is in Elba, with an annex in Enterprise. Coffee County recently received Rebuild Alabama funds to do intersection improvements that include realigning County Road 239 and County Road 114. And county leaders approved the purchase of 260 acres on Highway 84 in New Brockton for an industrial park. 

Coffee County schools offer career technical education programs in several areas at its three high schools. Those include agriscience, commerce and IT, finance and family/consumer science. 

Elba elected a new mayor, Tom Maddox. It is a Main Street Alabama city and recently received a $450,000 grant that will help revitalize downtown and spur new business, says Sandy Bynum, executive director of the Elba Chamber of Commerce. “We are so excited about this and know it will be great for development,” she says. The Restoration 154 organization is working to redevelop the Elba Theatre. 

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The chamber also commissioned a retail study on areas that need more retail and the types needed, Bynum says. Southern Tractor Co. plans to locate a 10,000-square-foot retail store, a 30,000-square-foot tractor dealership and more that should also spur more development in the Highway 84 area. 

Elba City Schools has an entire section of its high school dedicated to career technical education. All students in Coffee and Geneva counties also benefit from the Wiregrass Information Technology Center of Excellence on the Enterprise Community College campus. 

On Dec. 11, 2019, the city of Enterprise celebrated the 100th birthday of the Boll Weevil Monument downtown, a symbol of hope over despair and triumph over adversity. A boll weevil infestation overtook cotton crops in 1915, and crop diversification overcame that devastation. 

Shops and dining options make the Enterprise downtown a popular destination for residents and visitors. The city’s Main Street program, which kicked off in April 2020, and its director, Cassidi Kendrick, are working with the city and business leaders on a variety of projects. In its first year, Main Street Enterprise has recruited 73 member businesses, six new businesses, logged 510 volunteer hours, hosted 23 promotional events and earned three major Main Street Alabama Awards of Excellence.

Despite COVID-19, Enterprise experienced an increase in sales tax, says Mayor William Cooper. For fiscal year 2019-2020, overall sales taxes were up 6% over the previous year’s total, and in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020-2021, sales taxes were up by 13% over the same time last year. “We believe the increase can be attributed to the fact that more people stayed home during the summer rather than traveling and were buying more items locally. Another factor was that residents in smaller cities and communities in our area limited their travel so many shopped in Enterprise. We are very fortunate in that respect.” 

The dedication of the Salute to Rucker mural in Enterprise.

Enterprise has been chosen for the next long-term care facility by the Alabama Board of Veterans Affairs. The $65 million facility will house up to 175 residents and employ about 250 people. Preparations are already in progress, including ALDOT-funded improvements to highway access.

A new terminal will be opening soon at Enterprise Municipal Airport. The $1 million, 3,065-square-foot building was partially funded by a $250,000 Federal Aviation Administration grant.

The city has completed a $4 million water main replacement project and a 6.8-mile street resurfacing project and has plans for an aquatic center and soccer complex.

Enterprise City Schools opened the Enterprise Career Technical Center at a former elementary school site. 

Dale County
Dale County is home to Fort Rucker and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence. One of the largest military installations in the state, Fort Rucker is a primary helicopter training facility. 

Dale County schools were recognized as the top performing county school system in the state for 2019, with championship-level athletics and career tech programs for middle and high school students. The county also has city school systems in Ozark and Daleville.

Ozark, the county seat, has two unusual attributes — it is home to the nation’s largest poultry feed mill, and it has the world’s highest concentration of aviation simulators. 

The city is also working to renew downtown with an amphitheater, a pavilion and more, says new Mayor Mark Blankenship. A former city councilman and county commissioner, Blankenship has also worked as a contractor revitalizing historic homes and building subdivisions and tiny houses. 

Ozark is working toward a downtown entertainment district and plans to demolish several abandoned buildings to create additional parking. The city also donated a building to the library, which will be renovated. Also in the works are plans to develop a stretch of U.S. 231. 

In Daleville, a StatMed clinic, affiliated with Dale Medical Center, opened in 2020. 

Geneva County
A new county jail opened in September 2020, with space for 158 inmates — double the capacity of the previous jail.

The city of Geneva, the county seat, recently elected a new mayor, David Hayes. Geneva is an Alabama Community of Excellence and has worked on a multi-phase sidewalk improvement project in recent years, officials say. It also recently received a grant to build a soccer complex at C.D. Chapman Memorial Park.

Geneva County schools, Geneva city schools, industry partners, the Alabama Community College System and the Alabama National Guard teamed to create the Geneva Regional Technology Center in a former armory. The facility offerings include automotive, aviation, health science, IT and welding, many leading to various certifications.

Some programs have grown so much that G-Tech has added workplace simulation shifts in health science and aviation, says Nikki Dyess, career coach. “We are approaching capacity in some of our programs, and we have had an increase in applications each year.” Slocomb High School, in the Geneva County school system, also has added agricultural engineering on its campus.  

The city of Hartford elected a new mayor, Neil Strickland, who is working to improve infrastructure. Recently, the city approved $1.2 million for sewer line replacement. A portion of the project will be covered by a Community Development Block Grant. 

Hartford also is looking to upgrade parks and recreation equipment and procure a former armory building to house city hall, police and more, Strickland says.

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