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Leaders ‘strategically

plan’ for county’s future

By BETH LAKEY

Staff Writer

July 29, 2000 10 PM

Leaders in Pike County are planning for the future.

On Friday, officials from all over the county gathered at Holiday Inn in Troy to hear what they need to do.

Officials have contracted with Pike County residents Don and Candace Hines of Horseshoe H Consulting to create a strategic plan for the county.

Actually, this project is a rare one. In doing this, Pike County will be setting the standard by becoming the first in Alabama to devise a county-wide strategic plan.

Strategic plans are usually devised on a smaller scale, such as the one Hines did in the early 1990s for Gulf Shores and the one he recently completed for the North Alabama city of Arab.

During a meeting this past Friday, almost 40 community leaders gathered to hear what the Hines have planned.

The first thing to do, Hines said, is find out "where we want to go and how to get there."

He asked those in attendance a couple of questions he expects them to ponder: "What is your vision for this county? If we want this to be the best place to live, work and play, what do we do to get there?"

Using the axiom "where there’s no vision, the people perish," Hines illustrated the importance of planning ahead.

For example, "water is an issue everywhere" and Pike County is not immune to the realization there will be a need for more water in the future as the population of the county continues to increase.

"Strategic planning is a concept that’s been around in the business community for a long time," Hines said, adding it’s made its way into government in recent years.

"This process is about managing change," he said of planning for Pike County’s future ­

both near and long-term.

By forming 16 focus groups to look at specific issues, such as public utilities, technological access, law enforcement, recreation, culture, medical care, emergency systems and education, along with others, officials will be ready to put a plan into action by the end of February 2001.

The focus groups will come uder the broader categories of infrastructure, economic development and quality of life. The Community-wide Steering Committee will review the goals and objections established by the focus groups and draft a strategic plan, which will address issues the county will be facing in 2010 as well as beyond.

"The first step in solving a problem is recognizing you’ve got one," Hines said of what the focus groups will be doing.

One of the issues likely to be discussed is litter, Hines said, adding there are established statewide programs that deal with that particular issue. He said Pike County is one of 18 counties in Alabama that does not have a People Against Littering the State (PALS) chapter.

"If we take this seriously, we can truly change the future of Pike County," Hines said. "We have got to focus on what we truly need to do."

Some of the significant trends that must be addressed include: decreasing employment in non-durable manufacturing, increasing employment in service and retail, increasing population of those 65 and older and those 5-17 years old, plus an increasing Hispanic population.

Implications of these trends are: raising education and training levels, multicultural interaction, medical care and support systems for the elderly, infrastructure needs, facilities for those 5-17 years of age, crime and development conflicts.

"We can use this process and change what this county’s about," Hines said of strategic planning.

John Schmidt, chairman of the Chamber’s board, has spearheaded the creation of a strategic plan for Pike County.

"I’m very excited about the entire process," Schmidt said. "The only thing constant is change," Schmidt said. "If we don’t take charge of that change, it will take charge of us."

The Community-wide Steering Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Aug. 17.