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By Staff
Community development workshops set for small towns
Hundreds of Alabama communities will never land a Fortune 500 plant in their industrial park. Many, for that matter, don't even have an industrial park.
That's the bad news. The good news is that there is more to community development than meets the eye.
It is an important but often overlooked point comprising the central theme of a workshop developed to help small-town leaders think out of the box about community development. The two-hour workshop, actually a working lunch, is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., March 3, at Pioneer Museum of Alabama, 248 U.S. Highway 231 North, in Troy.
The two-hour workshop will focus on how small communities can use the historic preservation tax credit to renovate older town buildings.
Participants will be guided through the steps required to place historical buildings, 50 years and older, on the National Register.
Speakers will include Chloe Mercer, tax credit coordinator for the Alabama Historic Commission, and Gene and Linda Ford of Tuscaloosa-based Ford Consulting, a firm that assists local communities and business with the documentation, cataloguing and research required for placement on the National Historic Register.
Helping towns capitalize on less tangible, often entirely overlooked, attributes such as their historical uniqueness, has been a passion of Charles Simon, Covington County Extension Office coordinator, who co-chairs Southeast Alabama Trails, a regional multi-county coalition aimed at helping towns throughout the region capitalize on their tourism potential.
Both Simon and his co-chairperson, Marrianne DuBose, believe a town's understanding of its historical uniqueness and how it can capitalize on this uniqueness comprises an economic resource just as important as other attributes, such as the size of the local industrial park.
For the past several years, in fact, Simon has worked with the tiny south central Alabama community of Lockhart to unlock its own historical treasure trove.
One of the only towns of its kind in the Deep South, Lockhart was developed more than a century ago by Jackson Lumber, a northern-based lumber operation. It was built entirely from scratch to serve as a base of operations while the company harvested trees in the surrounding dense pine forest.
Though the company vacated the community decades ago, the town survives. Indeed, many of the company-built cottages are still occupied by descendants of workers who harvested the trees.
Lockhart, Simon believes, is one of countless communities throughout the state that comprise "hidden treasure troves of historic homes and places waiting for young generations to come and fix them up."
The first step involves taking an inventory of these historic places and identifying those that can be restored and placed on the federal register.
Anyone interested in historical preservation and community development is welcome to attend the March 3 workshop. However, since space is limited to 50 people, Simon says people should submit their registration forms as early as possible.
For more information, contact the Covington County Extension Office at (334) 222-1125.