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Leaders work to plan for future

Staff Writer

Aug. 19, 2000 10 PM

Leaders in Pike County have taken another step towards planning for the future.

On Thursday, officials from all over the county gathered to discuss issues they think should be incorporated into a mission statement for the county’s strategic plan.

About 75 people from a "great cross section of the community" attended the meeting, said John Schmidt, chairman of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

It is the Chamber that has spear headed the project by contracting with Pike County residents Don and Candace Hines of Horseshoe H Consulting to create a strategic plan for the county.

Schmidt said the individuals present at the meeting split up into four discussion groups.

He said some of the things discussed included: environmental responsibility, safety, keeping the rural/small-town feel, economic diversity (agriculture, business and industry), technological access, cultural and historical preservation and education.

"I was extremely pleased with the energy, excitement and enthusiasm (of those who were there)," Schmidt said.

Now, 16 focus groups will take the information discussed and look at specific issues, such as public utilities, technological access, law enforcement, recreation, culture, medical care, emergency systems and education.

The focus groups come under 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.

Officials will be ready to put a plan into action by the end of February 2001.

"I’m excited as I can be," Schmidt said of the "great ideas" that were discussed on Thursday.

One of the questions asked was how these ideas will be put into action.

Schmidt said turning the plan into more than just ideas will take cooperation between leaders throughout Pike County.

After the mission statement is devised, Schmidt said he will return to the municipal and county office holders with the "game plan" and ask for their support.

Through this process, 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 has most recently been working on for the North Alabama city of Arab.

Schmidt said Hines commented the people of Pike County have already shown more of an interest in a strategic plan than those in Arab.

All the ideas discussed will be incorporated into a vision statement Hines will put together.

"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 short- and long-term.