Spotlight on Jackson, Marshall, DeKalb & Cherokee: Community Development

These counties, cities and towns work to improve the area's amenities for residents and visitors.

The Jackson County courthouse in Scottsboro is part of the courthouse square, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jackson County

Jackson County was selected to participate in the Rural Recovery Accelerator, a new community-oriented technical assistance program to help rural communities build economic resiliency strategies. It is an Opportunity Alabama program.

Jackson County schools offer career programs from ag science to welding to diesel technology.

Goose Pond Colony Resort in Scottsboro offers a stunning view of Lake Guntersville.

The county and the city of Scottsboro, the county seat, are partnering with the Singing River Trail of North Alabama to develop the trail.

Downtown Scottsboro has undergone a lot of development over the past year. Many new businesses have opened on the square, and construction on many of the buildings is underway, says Mayor Jim McCamy. Since Scottsboro became a Main Street community in July 2018, the downtown has flourished, with beautification improvements and work on the 120-year-old tradition of Trade Day.

Scottsboro has a number of events that attract visitors, from parades to fishing tournaments to trade days and festivals.

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Murals have been another focus for Main Street Scottsboro. One is a tribute to the Scottsboro Boys, another recreates an 1800s photo of a man riding a bike around the town square while another depicts mountains, lakes, dogwoods and other area attractions.

Recent improvements include:

  • City officials dedicated the Veterans Memorial Park of Jackson County in October 2020.
  • Scottsboro Electric Power Board is developing fiber optic broadband in the downtown Scottsboro area, as well as in the home, officials say. They expect 75% will be complete by the end of this year.
  • The city is expanding its Scottsboro-Jackson Heritage Center to provide more event and exhibit space.
  • The city is in the midst of a $1 million renovation of its Goose Pond Colony Resort, improving boating and fishing facilities and trails.
  • The Scottsboro Fire Department has its first fire boat.
  • The Shops of Scottsboro is underway, with a Publix and 30,000 square feet of additional retail space. White Development Co. is developing the land with support from the city.
  • The city’s airport continues to acquire surrounding property for future economic development opportunities.

The city of Bridgeport recently purchased 60 acres next to its riverfront boat dock and plans to put in RV spaces, cabins and more, says Mayor David Hughes. The city also just received the engineer’s drawings for a new recreational park that will include splash pads and walking trails, he says. New apartments also are planned for the city, he says.

The Tennessee RiverLine program has provided kayaks for the Bridgeport community to use during events, Hughes says. New retail is coming downtown, and the city is completing a streetscape project.

Downtown Guntersville offers quaint shopping for that unique item.

Marshall County

Marshall County, with Lake Guntersville, was recently named as a top vacation homes destination by Redfin. It’s part of a nationwide shift of people who work remotely.

Marshall County schools have a technical school with options that include auto service, medical prep, mechatronics and more, plus dual enrollment options.

Despite the pandemic, the city has seen record revenue growth, allowing it to budget projects to boost the quality of life. Residential and commercial building permits are also up, with $52 million in the past year, according to Mayor Leigh Dollar.

Tourism is a huge draw. One of the most high-profile success stories for Guntersville is the HydroFest boat race event. Completing its third year on the national boat racing circuit in 2021, the event is sponsored by Marshall County Tourism and Sports with the city of Guntersville as host city. It brings thousands of visitors to Lake Guntersville and a $4 million economic impact for the county.

Guntersville’s tourism draw also includes the 68,000-acre lake’s long-standing position as one of the most sought-after fishing destinations in the world. From Bassmaster, Major League Fishing and other pro tournaments to everyday enthusiasts, fishing is a powerful economic driver for north Alabama.

The city also plans $1 million in paving projects, plus upgrades to electric and water utilities and to Guntersville Municipal Airport, Dollar says. The jet-capable airport also offers a seaplane runway.

Guntersville is also expanding recreation resources. The city is in the middle of a $10 million upgrade of its lakeside parks and recreation facilities including baseball fields and an expanded swimming pool complex. Other recreation expansions include a lighted soccer facility and extension of the city trail system.

The City Harbor development, now in progress, expects Southern Brewers Co-op to open this fall, with another five restaurants and a cigar shop following next year. An event venue overlooking the lake is also in the works. “We have so much going on, and I know this will be a huge economic engine for us,” Dollar says.

The city also is working with Guntersville city schools to issue bonds for a new high school, and a new superintendent, Dr. Jason Barnett, took the helm in May.

In the city of Albertville, the Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater has opened, says Mayor Tracy Honea. “It’s been amazing what it is already bringing here and what’s to come,” he says. “It’s a real game changer for this area.” The 130-acre park includes baseball and softball fields, walking trails, an aquatic center, an outdoor waterpark, a fitness center, tennis center, an RV park, amphitheater, dog parks and event spaces. Future plans include a Miracle Field, Honea says.

There are a couple of new hotels under construction, and downtown is seeing a lot of redevelopment, he says. The city also has its own school system.

In the city of Arab, which has its own highly-ranked school system, there are several career tech offerings, with dual enrollment in cybersecurity being offered through Snead State, says Dr. Johnny Berry, superintendent. Plans are in the works to move the central office and convert that space into a center for special needs students. The school system also has made improvements to athletic facilities.

Earlier this year, the residents of the golf course community of Cherokee Ridge voted to incorporate into a town. The town has new houses under construction, and it is close to Arab schools.

In July, the city of Boaz opened a $12 million Recreation Center with indoor and outdoor pools, volleyball and pickleball courts and conference space

Boaz City Schools students have access to Marshall County schools’ career tech programs.

A project of Fort Payne Main Street, Pete’s Alley is named for Pete the Cat, a character developed by Fort Payne author James Dean.

DeKalb County

DeKalb students have career tech options at the Technology Center and at their high schools, with programs ranging from auto body to criminal justice to pre-engineering at the center, and agriscience, business and family consumer science at the high schools, says Jonathan Phillips, career technical supervisor. The tech center has twice been honored as among the best in the Southeast.

In the city of Fort Payne, the county seat, a sports complex is underway on 300 acres purchased by the city, says Mayor Brian Baine. Soccer fields are first; then baseball and softball. Basketball courts are underway at the recreation center.

The city is also making plans for the site of a former hospital, plus other updates to city property.

Also in progress is a streamlined process for businesses that want to locate there, and a Fort Payne-DeKalb County Entrepreneurial Center, being developed by the Rotary Club and other partners, is slated in the former “Old Sock Mill” building downtown. It will include retail space, conference rooms, a restaurant training area and other programs to help new businesses. The center also will encourage K-12 students, college students and individuals to start their own business, and have re-entry programs to help those re-entering the workforce.

Fort Payne Main Street recently launched “Our Common Thread,” an awareness campaign that weaves the history of Fort Payne sock-making with people of all walks of life who helped establish downtown as the heart of the community. The first honoree is the late hosiery entrepreneur and community advocate Ida Goza, with a black and white wrap displayed on storefront windows.

“We are working to keep the character of downtown and create jobs as well,” says Connie Fuller, director of Fort Payne Main Street. “We’ve been able to fill most of the empty buildings.” Features of downtown also include Pete’s Alley, an artistic alley tucked between buildings, and new retail and restaurant options.

Fort Payne city schools plan to build a new vocational center, broadening options for students. Fort Payne city schools also opened the new Little Ridge Intermediate School and the old building will be repurposed.

DeKalb County also offers the picturesque town of Mentone on Lookout Mountain, popular with tourists and retirees.


Cherokee County

Cherokee County schools opened a $13 million elementary school, funded by the county’s 1-cent sales tax. The schools also offer a robust array of career-tech options.

The county has concentrated on economic development that focuses on community development. There is a new water park at Chestnut Bay Resort on Weiss Lake. The Centre-Piedmont-Cherokee County Regional Airport is getting a new taxiway, new hangars and other improvements.

The city of Centre, the county seat, has renovated a former National Guard Armory into a community center, says Centre Mayor Mark Mansfield. City Hall offices will move into the new building as well.

The city is taking bids for a new aquatic center with tennis and other sports, Mansfield says.

The area also has seen a resurgence in residential growth as remote workers opt for homes in lake and mountain regions. “We are trying to capture a new audience,” he says.

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