Opelika communities may benefit from County Government Institute at AU

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by Greg Markley

Political Writer

 

Dorothy in the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz was apparently not alone when she said, “There’s no place like home.”

Likewise, the 42nd Annual Alabama County Government Institute at Auburn University had attendees from all over the United States, but the practical advice given may soon take root right here in Opelika.

“The theme ‘Racing for Revenues’ is relevant to Greater Peace Community Development Corporation as it strives to serve the local community and offer services like youth leadership, affordable childcare, affordable housing, and business awareness,” explained Jackie DiPofi, director, Small Business Development Center, Lowder College of Business.

The June 14-15 conference, DiPofi said, highlighted the strength in numbers of small businesses.

“Our county governments are faced with the same difficulties as small business people who are trying to do more with less in a time when sales are down, investment values are down, and borrowing is near impossible,” the AU professor said. “Strategies involve survival at this point as the turnaround is not significant enough to alleviate increasing demands on cash flow.”

Arturo Menefee, who has served as president of Greater Peace Community Development Corporation, attended the Institute because it related to his job with the university’s Economic and Community Development Institute.

He is also a member of the Opelika Planning Commission.

Menefee attended the talk on ‘State to State Partnerships and their Implications for Counties’ by Dr. Keenan Grenell. “At ECDI, we are always looking to help local governments and organizations to create effective partnerships to help communities develop/grow and provide opportunities for their citizens,” Menefee said. “Dr. Grenell’s presentation provided some good examples.”

Menefee noted that his organization (ECDI) helped plan and facilitate a two-day session in April of the Alabama County Government’s Institute in Prattville.

It focused on leadership and community development (alliance building, grant writing, tourism, and strategic planning).

Greater Peace Community Development Corporation was started by Rev. Dr. Clifford E. Jones in October 2000 to promote the development of the Jeter Avenue area and its people.

One of its many programs is entrepreneurship training to boost awareness of key issues residents face in growing their businesses in the Jeter community.

“Governor (Robert) Bentley has always had a strong appreciation for the roles of county officials,” explained spokesman Jeremy King after the governor gave a featured talk at the Institute. “He believes local leaders are often the most in-tune to the needs of the citizens they serve. He values their input as he makes decisions on the state level.”

Bentley’s June 15 visit to AU was the ninth time since he took office that he has come to Lee County on official business.

The governor attended the Pharmavite ground breaking in Opelika last October as well as the GE Aviation ground breaking in Auburn.

DiPofi, the Small Business Development Center director at AU, offers that “Even Mercedes Benz and Walmart started as small businesses: Innovation is developed at individual’s dining room tables, in basement, garage, attic, or workshops, and distributed from trunks of cars and pickup trucks. Innovation is not usually a product of big business bureaucracies.”

Just as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it’s not hard for anyone to figure out that success doesn’t always beckon from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” There are opportunities right in one’s own backyard and local communities.

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