Imagine a Greater Montgomery II
Strategic Economic Development Plan
In 2007, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce worked with Market Street Services to launch the original Imagine a Greater Montgomery strategic economic development plan. It built upon the community’s strengths and addressed the challenges while maximizing real opportunities. In the second 5-year cycle, the Imagine a Greater Montgomery II strategy assessed the progress made with the first Imagine plan (2007-2011) to build on the successes and reassess the goals. Imagine a Greater Montgomery II continues the momentum from the first strategy and adds focus to ongoing and future efforts.
Below are the Goals of the Imagine a Greater Montgomery II strategy:
Goal I: Champion Education and Develop Competitive Regional Talent
The Montgomery region has made great strides in improving the quality of public pre-K–12 system. New magnet schools and career academies in Montgomery Public Schools have increased enthusiasm for and trust in public education. However, students “in the middle” – those whose school performance falls in between their high-achieving and lower-performing classmates – continue to be overlooked, and the community as a whole has not supported public education through funding or a positive narrative. To become more competitive, Montgomery’s students must be served by a top-quality continuum of programs reaching all ages – from pre-K through college. Demonstrating a strong public school system will not only improve the quality of the regional labor force, but will also make Montgomery a more attractive place for businesses and families to choose to locate. In order to have a healthy, growing community and tax base, it is critical that the community further develops and maintains the quality of its public school systems.
Additionally, the region’s postsecondary institutions can play a more important role in developing the competitive talent Montgomery needs to attract and retain firms. The flexible degree options, research and development potential, and diverse and expanding academic program offerings can be further leveraged and strengthened in the region’s efforts to build a more competitive workforce. The region must work to develop a talent pipeline viewed as a seamless pre-K–20 system, inclusive of early childhood, primary through high school, postsecondary education and training, and graduate and professional education programs.
Goal II: Strengthen and Diversify the Regional Economy
Greater Montgomery’s relative resiliency during the great recession was not by accident. Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) has been a tremendous asset to the region and sustained jobs in the Montgomery area as manufacturing endured significant drops elsewhere in the country. However, the rise of HMMA has not offset the risk of cuts in state and local government employment and the dramatic decline in the local finance and insurance sector. These highs and lows demonstrate the need for Greater Montgomery to further diversify its local economy, both in terms of business sectors and types of firms – from small startups to large headquarters.
The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce has made significant programmatic strides since the adoption of the Imagine a Greater Montgomery strategy. These efforts and programs implemented and led by the Chamber have resulted in the need for more capacity within the organization to support key leadership and other organizations, as well as the need for more strategic staff positions.
This goal focuses on efforts in the development of target sectors identified in the Target Cluster Review and on activities related to the “three legs of the stool” of economic development – business attraction and relocation, existing business retention and expansion, and small business and entrepreneurial development.
Goal III: Transform Montgomery's Image and Quality of Place
Greater Montgomery’s commitment to restoring vitality to its community is profound. Even through the worst economic period since the Great Depression, new developments sprouted and plans were advanced downtown and throughout the community. The region’s residents wear their pride on their sleeves – this process’s input participants universally praised efforts made to improve the Montgomery area.
Yet, there is still much to be done. The work of building a place is never finished, and Greater Montgomery still faces substantial challenges, from under utilized parcels to struggling retailers. The Montgomery area must build on past successes, garnering even greater momentum. The importance of “place” can scarcely be overstated, and an increasing body of evidence suggests that it is a top priority in today’s economic development environment. Effectively improving the somewhat nebulous “quality of place” requires collaboration among a broad network of partners – no party is irrelevant. Initiatives must be varied and inclusive. The objectives and action steps that follow reflect the desires, capabilities, and opportunities related to Greater Montgomery’s place-based characteristics revealed during the research phases of this process.
This quality of place identity begins in the core of the region, downtown Montgomery. Throughout the inter-city leadership visit and stakeholder input process, community leaders and young professionals expressed a strong desire to see downtown Montgomery’s continued revitalization serve as a catalyst for overall improvements in the region. A vibrant center city represents growth and progress throughout the Montgomery area and serves as a business and activity center and destination for regional residents as well as visitors – Greater Montgomery’s “living room.”
This goal area does not imply that other parts of the region should be overlooked for development and redevelopment; rather, that the momentum of downtown Montgomery should be capitalized on and leveraged for improving the region’s quality of place.
Goal IV: Embrace Diversity and Build Leadership Capacity
The Montgomery region must sustain the momentum begun in 2006 by fostering the positive community efforts that have unified the region, building new bridges of inclusiveness, communication, and trust between historically divided groups. New leaders have been developed, nurtured, and actively engaged in initiatives focused on building Greater Montgomery’s social and human capital. The effectiveness of these programs should be constantly evaluated and efforts pursued to expand their outreach to build an increasingly positive identity for the region that will forge new partnerships and enable the community to innovatively embrace the complex and diverse history of Montgomery.