Spotlight on Houston & Henry Counties: Community Development

SmartLam North America, in Dothan, makes cross laminated timber.

Houston County works with the city of Dothan and other entities on all types of quality of life and community development projects. For example, in January 2020, the Wiregrass Public Safety Center held its grand opening, funded with a $23 million grant from the Wiregrass Foundation and a partnership between the city of Dothan and Houston County, along with private businesses. It provides training for first responders from across the region. 

The Wiregrass Foundation invests in area nonprofits through funding and organizational development and also invests in long-term community projects to enhance quality of life. 

In February, the Houston County Commission purchased the Five Star Credit Union building next to the county administrative building. Plans are to move the sheriff’s office there, after renovations. The current sheriff’s office was built in
the late 1930s. The credit union plans to relocate its main office to the former
Gander Mountain location, but the county will partially transfer some property to the credit union for a downtown branch. 

The city of Dothan, which is the county seat and a Main Street Alabama
community, has ongoing projects designed to improve quality of life for residents and attract tourists. “Dream Downtown,” a public initiative to spur growth and economic development via the arts, also is being supported by the Wiregrass Foundation. 

Residents have the opportunity to share their ideas with fun events, planning charrettes and more. “There are so many entities here and we want to enhance what we have here and bring even more,” says Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba. 

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Those include: 

• Dothan’s network of parks, trails and sports fields is the backdrop for Visit Dothan’s campaign focusing on sports tourism that has already resulted in more than 65 sports tournament bookings in 2021. 

• The city is renovating the Doug Tew Recreation Center to house all of the therapeutic programs for individuals with physical/mental disabilities. It should open this summer. 

• The city has renovated its popular Water World, including new slides, kiddie pool updates, a large water bucket feature and more, a $1 million investment.

• Private investors have opened Hangar 38, a family entertainment center with an eight-lane bowling alley, 80 arcade games, restaurants, bars and more.

• The city is looking into renovating its football stadium, a $7 million project, Saliba says. It is a part of the city’s capital improvements plans and will benefit the school systems as well. 

• Road work is under way on Ross Clark Circle, Honeysuckle Road and U.S. 84W toward Flowers Hospital. 

• The city has moved its farmers market and is working toward a permanent structure for it. 

• Dothan Regional Airport recently received a $919,170 grant to rehabilitate a taxiway. A recent study by the Aviation Council of Alabama lists the airport’s
annual economic impact as more than $93 million. 


Houston County schools and Dothan City Schools have career technical facilities for their students, with several programs to choose from. The most popular programs are in health sciences, says county schools career coach Tonya Holland, but the county school system also offers aviation, welding, EMS, medical assisting, a firefighting program with Alabama Fire College, education/training, engineering and is looking to add ROTC. 

Dothan City Schools will open a virtual school for those students in grades 7-12 who have a need to school at home, officials say. The concept will allow those students who were home educating during COVID-19 to continue. In March of this year, the system appointed Dr. Dennis Coe as superintendent.

Amanda Hardy, a career coach for Dothan City Schools and Henry County Schools, says many students are interested in health sciences and agriscience. The Dothan Technology Center also offers many other programs, from automotive to construction. Coaches also encourage students to consider aviation careers. “We are in Region 6 for workforce development, and there are several aviation industries with a lot of demand,” she says. 

Students beginning in 8th grade also participate in World of Work, where they can see high-demand jobs and high-wage sectors in the area, she says. There are several programs that both systems participate in. 


Henry County was one of the few counties to receive reimbursement of every eligible dollar of allocated funds under the CARES program, says Probate Judge David Money, who also is Henry County Commission chairman. The funds are in a one-year CD until the window of possible chargeback has passed. The county also is eligible for $3.34 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, and funds also will be put into CDs until the parameters of the program are complete. The county also has contracted with the Association of County Commissions of Alabama to advise and administer its new “Investing in Alabama Counties” program. 

The county’s most critical needs include the construction of a new jail, Money says. The 70-year-old jail is too small and does not meet current needs. Also, the county is looking at the purchase of a building near the courthouse to add a courtroom and other space.

“We have outgrown the current courthouse built in 1967, and the adjacent building would allow all administrative offices in one building, the courthouse would contain the entire court system,” he says.

The county plans to use Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs grant funds for a Childhood Development Program at Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Headland, along with first responder equipment purchases. Abbeville, the county seat, plans to purchase first responder equipment and renovate the gym floor at Abbeville Boys and Girls Club. 

Then, officials hope to renovate the Henry County Annex building. 

Henry County is considering using its Rebuild Alabama money for road improvements.

The county also is considering a partnership with citizens and groups to help prevent and clean up litter, he says. 

Abbeville is anticipating the fall 2021 opening of the ATTA – Library of STEM and History. Under construction now, it will offer STEM information and exhibits for all ages.

Abbeville’s airport recently received a$150,000 FAA grant to extend its runway and update its master plan. 

Headland is a Main Street Alabama community and is celebrating its 150th anniversary with special events July 4 and during Harvest Festival and more, all designed to promote historic awareness and community pride. 

Henry County schools, headed by Superintendent Lori Beasley, have a robust career technical program and a virtual school program.

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