Census: Troy keeps growingPublished 11:19pm Friday, May 23, 2014
U.S. Census figures released this week show Troy ranks among the state’s fastest growing municipalities, and those numbers serve as both affirmation and a challenge to Mayor Jason Reeves.
“Someone once told me ‘if you’re not growing, you’re dying’ and I believe that,” Reeves said Friday. “The Census growth, coupled with the news that came out a few weeks ago from the Alabama Policy Institute that ranks Troy as the seventh most business friendly city, shows we’re definitely moving the right direction.
“We have challenges just like every community has, but we have the human resources and the other resources to continue to improve and grow.”
The U.S. Census figures show that Troy experienced a 2.9 percent growth in population between 2012 and 2013, making it the state’s 14th fastest growing municipality in that timeframe. The city also saw 4.9 percent growth from 2010 to 2013.
“We’ve got some momentum,” Reeve said. “We need to help our existing industries continue to expand and to develop our retail and existing businesses.
“The citizens, city council, university and its leadership all have a lot to do with that.”
The city’s cooperative spirit is oft-cited by Reeves and other leaders as a key to driving momentum, whether in business growth or quality of life.
“It takes a solid and engaged community to move a city forward,” said Kathy Sauer, president of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce. “From our leadership to our government to our chamber and economic development members to our citizenry itself, we have that. … Each sector is engaged and working to do their part, and we’re making progress in all areas of our community.”
Earlier this spring, the Alabama Policy Institute released its ranking of the most business-friendly cities in the state. Troy ranked seventh – a significant increase from a prior ranking of 35th. Reeves said that recognition hints to the business friendly climate carefully cultivated in Troy and Pike County.
“I think certainly CGI getting fully up to speed (with more than 325 employees) probably had an impact on our growth,” Reeves said. “And we’ve seen steady growth in our businesses and industries.”
Reeves said a diverse economic base that includes transportation, defense industries, higher education and technology sectors as well as retail businesses. Focused efforts to grow existing industries and recruit new ones come from partnerships with the Pike County Economic Development Corp. and Troy University, a low tax-structure, a sound infrastructure and low utility costs, thanks to the city’s ownership of its own utilities.
“I just found out last week that we have the lowest garbage rates in the state,” Reeves said. “I knew we were low at $10, but I didn’t know we were the lowest … things like that mean we’ve been able to be competitive in what we charges for services and in recruiting businesses and industries.”
Efforts to improve infrastructure with sidewalks in and around downtown and the addition of planned bike paths in the city are visible efforts of the city government. “We want long, sustainable growth,” Reeves said. “We want it to be good, healthy and something we can sustain.”
Marsha Gaylard, president of the Pike County Economic Development Corp., said her agency has made a dedicated effort for a number of years to recruit companies that would not only hire local citizens but also bring employees into the county to live. That effort in turn helps grow the retail base of the community.
“Our retail recruitment effort depends on us increasing our population base and also on the income level of the population,” she said. “The PCEDC has been working on developing a ‘Live Where You Work’ campaign which would offer incentives for new employees of companies if they move to Pike County.”
In addition to focused economic growth, Reeves and Sauer both said quality of life is one of the key factors in driving the community growth.
“I guess you would call it a community spirit,” Sauer said. Behind everything that happens, from downtown development to the addition of a Miracle Field program to a state championship title in baseball, there’s a cheerleading component in this community, she said. “We have people who rally behind and support what we’re doing.”
That community spirit helps drive the diverse quality of life activities that range from education to recreation to the arts.
“Last Friday my day started at the rec center, where several hundred senior citizens from around the region gathered for an area council on aging meeting,” Reeves said. “Around 2 p.m., I was the schools, where the state held its summer feeding program kickoff with representatives of the state board of education and the USDA.
“It was really neat later in the day to have the opportunity to go to the opening ceremonies for Special Olympics at Troy University and see the schools, city, university and community working together to pull that together … and my day ended that night with those kids from Charles Henderson High School, on the baseball field when they got home from winning the state championship.
“When you have a day like that as mayor it’s pretty special, and to have all that happen in Troy? Well, that’s pretty special, too.”