Spotlight on Greene, Hale, Marengo & Sumter: Community Development

Expanding broadband access and workforce training opportunities, improvements to airports and more abound in these four counties

Greene County Courthouse Square in Eutaw.

Greene County

The city of Eutaw, the county seat, is working with its streetscape grant, a reimbursable grant of the Alabama Department of Transportation to rehabilitate, repair and renovate sidewalks and lighting around the county courthouse square, says Phillis Belcher, executive director of the Greene County Industrial Development Authority.

The Eutaw Area Chamber of Commerce received an Alabama Power grant to install new signs in the city, and Greene County schools received $1.3 million in grants for a parent resource center. Also, the Eutaw Municipal Airport received a federal grant to update and repair the airport, including paving, painting and restoring runways to allow the airport to be operational again, Belcher says.

Greene County has a new Love’s Travel Stop on Interstate 59/20, and officials are working to get improved broadband services.


Marengo County

In June 2021, Marengo County commissioners voted 4-1 to raise the sales tax by 1 cent to benefit the three school systems in the county — Marengo County schools, Linden city schools and Demopolis city schools.

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In downtown Linden, a new mural welcomes visitors on East Coats Avenue, created by Demopolis High School graduate Banks Compton.

In the city of Demopolis, new mayor Woody Collins is excited about the City Landing development, which will include a floating dock, more parking and amenities available for residents and, possibly, major bass fishing events. It is a project that involves the Corps of Engineers, the Alabama Department of Natural Resources, the city of Demopolis, Demopolis Park and Recreation Board, the Marengo County Commission, the Marengo County Parks and Recreation Board and the Marengo County Economic Development Authority, Collins says.

“This area is noted for the outdoors,” Collins says. “We are very excited about finishing this project. It’s so amazing how we were all able to come together for this.”

Demopolis is home to a campus of Wallace Community College Selma, and renovations have begun on a former armory that will become the West Alabama Regional Training Center, housing technical programs for the college. It is slated to open in 2023.

In addition, the Rural Business & Training Center Inc. Innovation Center, a nonprofit incorporated in 2020 in Demopolis, is an incubator that helps entrepreneurs to start businesses and create jobs in Marengo, Greene, Perry, Hale and surrounding Black Belt counties.

The city also is working toward a new terminal building for the Demopolis Municipal Airport, Collins says.

Demopolis City Schools appointed a new superintendent in 2021, Tony Willis. He came to the Demopolis post after serving as supervisor of accountability and special programs for Decatur City Schools. He is a lifetime educator, serving as a coach, athletic director, principal and other supervisory roles. The school system is working on a multipurpose building at Westside Elementary and will install air purifiers.

Marengo County schools have three K-12 schools, with career technical education clusters offered in business, management and administration, health science, agriculture and natural resources and STEM.

In Linden, the county seat, the city school system is planning to turn the old Fun Factory facility into a new high school. It also is renovating G.P. Austin Middle School and adding a multipurpose room at Linden Elementary. The entire system is getting new HVAC systems and 80 air purifiers will be installed using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, school officials say.


Hale County

The city of Greensboro, the county seat, is renovating its city hall entrance to include two walk-up windows for the public to use to pay bills and conduct other city business without having to come inside, officials say.

The city also has acquired the remainder of the Lions Club property that had previously been supervised by the local Lions Club and Hale County. The property is now under the city’s parks and recreation department. The city also is getting a new youth baseball league.

The city of Greensboro has received several grants to help the city hire five new police officers and purchase safety equipment, sewer line rehabilitation and improvements for the Greensboro Municipal Airport.

Hale County Schools’ College and Career Academy is strengthening the workforce by offering training in several areas, from STEM to industrial maintenance.

Dog Street Cafe in Livingston. Photo by Cheree Kaylene Photography.

Sumter County

Sumter County is focused on growing broadband access in the area, officials say. To that end, government and business leaders are working on this issue to secure more jobs and opportunities for learners of all ages.

The city of Livingston, the county seat, is home to the University of West Alabama, and the city and college work together on workforce and economic development, says James “Bird” Dial, city administrator.

The University of Alabama purchased the former Anderson Medical Clinic in downtown Livingston and partnered with UWA and the city of Livingston to provide healthcare to UWA students and Sumter County citizens. A privately developed new RV park, called The Retreat, is under construction and geared toward luxury RVs, and a Dollar Tree located in the former Fred’s building, he says. Also, Dog Street Café, Boone’s Pharmacy and Jack’s Family Restaurant opened in 2020.

A huge success in the area is the University Charter School, proposed and developed by the University of West Alabama and other entities. It opened in 2018 and has grown quickly, with 576 students in grades pre-K through 11th grade. The first class of 12th graders will be added in 2022 and will graduate in 2023. Total enrollment should be 660 for the 2022-23 school year.  There is a waiting list.

Having outgrown its current space on the UWA campus, the charter school is building a new facility, also on UWA’s campus, that will include 70,000 square feet of administrative and classroom space, a 475-seat competition-size gym and full-size cafeteria space, officials say.

The school recently received a $200,000 Middle School Innovations Grant from the state to expand career technical education and STEM learning, and another grant to add special classrooms for pre-K through third grade programs.

Sumter County Schools has the Bell-Brown Career Technical Center, which offers programs in science, metal fabrication, auto technology, cosmetology, electrical and agriscience.

This article appeared in the June 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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