Black Belt Mayor’s seeking partnerships

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 25, 2005

BUTLER-Improvements to the Black Belt’s standard of living come with partnerships. Each of the mayor present at Friday’s gathering of Black Belt mayors understood this and for that reason had some key players on hand to address how they could work with the Black Belt and how the partners themselves could work together.

Bob Howard, Community Development Manager for Alabama Power, said step one was forming the partnerships. Howard said leadership and partners were the catalyst for accomplishing any goal.

“Partnership is critical to accomplishing anything,” Howard said. “It starts with leadership and by being here today you have already shown that.”

They key to forming any partnership was involvement by the desired parties. Howard said if you could get people together with a common idea and a plan a lot could be accomplished. He said the biggest barrier was putting aside competition and petty differences.

“It starts with getting the leaders together with a common goal and interest and putting your differences behind,” Howard said. “A lot of times leaders will come together and differences will set them apart and they end up doing nothing. Working together is critical and I think that what you are doing here today is a sign that you are ready to work together.”

Howard said the next step was putting together a comprehensive plan that would get people excited about coming on board.

“The next step is looking at what you want your part of the state to be,” Howard said. “The strategy in doing this is critical.

Developing a strategy for where this part of the state needs to go, not just for the next month, but for the next few years, sticking together and developing that strategy is critical. That is the hardest part. Developing a strategy and sticking to it.”

One of the goals in forming partnerships was to keep the partners themselves on the same page. Howard said the mayors knew how important it was to work together and the partners they gather should too.

“What is good for one community is good for all of you,” Howard said. “The unselfish approach is critical. Demopolis may be working a project and they will need the other communities to get behind them. You just don’t see enough of that.”

Howard said there were five steps to getting people involved. He said often times people only use two of the five crucial steps, which hurts them in the long run.

“Leaderships, strategies and services are the first three steps in development,” Howard said. “That is where we usually get involved in the development step. The fourth step is economic development and the fifth is marketing. Too many times the first three steps are ignored.”

Howard said Alabama Power was on hand to help in any way they could.

“Our job is to help you,” Howard said. “We are sincere about that. It is hard to do sometimes, but coming together to form partnerships is how things get done.”

Lukata Mjumbe, a representative of Congressman Artur Davis and Whatley Health Services, said they also would like to help the Black Belt grow.

“There are so many unexplored possibilities,” Mjumbe said. “There are so many unexplored possibilities and untapped resources and in many instances I think it is because we have not come up with an effective way of sharing community information.”

Mjumbe said more partnerships could be built through sharing information. He said they could cover a wide variety of resources by staying on the same page.

“I think that one of the possible resources of this organization could be to provide information to some of the other towns in some of the other cities,” Mjumbe said. “One of the things that I do a lot is check with organizations and other groups and see what’s available as far as materials.”

Mjumbe added it could be very helpful to look into resources that may not stand out as a way of improving industry. He said healthcare was a solid foundation for forming a strong economy.

“Healthcare does and can serve as an engine for economic development in our communities,” Mjumbe said. “It is something that we don’t tend to think about all the time when we think about economic development, but when you look at healthcare it is very clear that it is one of the leading institutes for jobs.”

Naturally, a healthy workforce will be more productive. Mjumbe said quality healthcare could create a domino effect by keeping workers n the job.

“When you have quality healthcare services you have the ability to have a healthy workforce,” Mjumbe said. “Especially in terms of people coming to work.”

Mjumbe said competition could exist among partners just as it does for municipalities. For that reason, he said it was important to put aside differences and see the big picture. He said when partnering businesses and organizations argue the people suffer.

“One of the things I have looked at is I am trying to bring about a situation where we can reduce and diminish some of the things we see as competition that exists between our different organizations and different communities,” Mjumbe said. “As you all know in many of our families we do have a rural hospital. We do have medical organizations that are seeking to provide services in your coverage area. Because there is such a shortage of resources a lot of times you fight and by fighting with one another we really prevent the people who need these resources from receiving them.”