2018 South Baldwin Year in Review

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 1/1/19

Foley gains Main Street Alabama designationThe City of Foley announced at the beginning of 2018 its plans to apply to become a Main Street Alabama designee, which meant filling out large amounts of …

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2018 South Baldwin Year in Review

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Foley gains Main Street Alabama designation

The City of Foley announced at the beginning of 2018 its plans to apply to become a Main Street Alabama designee, which meant filling out large amounts of paperwork during an intense application process, followed by obtaining testimony from locals on why Foley qualified to become a member of Main Street. The next step was for the city to send representatives to Main Street’s headquarters in Birmingham and perform a live skit detailing what makes Foley special, and why the Main Street program would benefit the area.

All the efforts paid off when Foley was officially announced as one of the three new members of Main Street Alabama.

But what is Main Street? The program focuses on downtown areas, from filling vacant buildings, showing off existing businesses, and decorating the streets, walls, and sidewalks to become eye-catching works of art to entice passersby to stop and check out what the area is all about.

Foley officials have been working on downtown for years, doing what they could to bring in visitors and bring to life their vision for the area. Main Street is designed to help, as the program is not about what Main Street officials want in an area, but what the citizens want. Since the designation, a committee has been formed to communicate directly with the Main Street board to relate Foley’s vision. Foley has worked closely with downtown businesses to gather their input on what they would like to happen with the area.

Main Street officials have already made multiple visits to Foley to explore downtown, gather input and feedback from citizens, and begin determining a plan for the next steps during what is called the visioning process. The process takes place throughout the first year of being a Main Street designee, while the second year will be the market analysis, during which Main Street will discover who Foley is economically. From there, they will determine the city’s market, and what sort of businesses and events would be best seen coming to town. For the third year, the teams will come in to do a branding.

Over time, Main Street could potentially bring many new businesses, festivals, and ideas to the area. Part of the program focuses on brainstorming unique events and artwork for downtown areas. The program “is focused on bringing jobs, dollars, and people back to Alabama’s historic communities,” states the program’s website.

Main Street doesn’t end after that. Once a city is designated they remain designated, so Main Street will be helping to shape the Foley downtown area for years to come.

South Baldwin Chamber kicks off Gateway Initiative, brings Apprenticeships

The South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce kicked off its new Gateway Initiative at the start of the year, and has been hard at work since to share the already incoming results with the community.

The Gateway Initiative is a five-year plan created by President/CEO of the South Baldwin Chamber Donna Watts and her team to help the community’s workforce, education, and local businesses, and to forge strong bonds and partnerships between other chambers and municipalities. The reason behind the program is the recent growth witnessed by the South Baldwin area over the last five or six years, and will help create both local and regional partnerships with chambers, municipalities, and regional community and economic development organizations.

The Gateway Initiative was created only after six-months of data gathering, planning, and strategic development, so that the Chamber was able to devise a campaign that would focus on some of the major areas in the community that have been affected by the recent growth. In the end, the Gateway Initiative will focus on three specific initiatives based on input received from local business leaders: Business Driven Talent Development and Recruitment; Community Betterment and Pro-Business Advocacy; and Existing Business Growth and Retention.

The Business-Driven Talent Development and Recruitment Initiative seeks to provide an educated and trained workforce that will be fully prepared to enter the local workforce of our local business and industry, and to bring qualified and willing employees to our area from across the country. This is the initiative that has moved along the furthest during the first year, and it won’t be stopping. Ed Bushaw was hired as the director of the initiative, and has worked hard on securing new apprenticeships in the state for areas previously lacking, specifically the hospitality industry. The Chamber is working as a conduit between the educational offerings and the employers, bringing them together to prepare kids at high school and college levels to enter into the workforce. Apprenticeships offer an excellent opportunity for them to learn valuable skills before entering into a career.

The Community Betterment and Pro-Business Advocacy Initiative will be communicating with local businesses on matters that need to be addressed by the city, and they will be the ones to bring these improvement matters to the city for consideration. It will be their task to make sure that the message of the business community is clearly delivered to city officials.

The Existing Business Growth and Retention Initiative will work to communicate the needs of existing businesses and employees in the area. With the understanding of the local business and industry, the Chamber will help to build programs to encourage growth in existing businesses.

To learn all that the Gateway Initiative has already accomplished and what they’re looking to do in the future, check the chamber’s website at www.southbaldwinchamber.com.

Magnolia Springs acquires old schoolyard property

Across the road from Magnolia Springs Town Hall is a vacant piece of property, approximately 3.7 acres. The land is actually a total of 4.7 acres, and the town’s Volunteer Fire Department occupies the east one acre. Together, the property makes up what is known as the old schoolyard, where the town’s first Magnolia Springs School (originally Richard Kelly Frank School) was located, before it burned down in 1985.

Since becoming incorporated, town officials have been working on acquiring the property, which is an important part of the town’s history. Without ownership, the town does not have the opportunities to build on the property, hold major events, or seek grants to improve the land.

After years of discussion, Mayor Bob Holk and the council have accomplished the town’s goal. During November, a purchase agreement was struck between Magnolia Springs and the school board, and the process began to get the property titled to the town.

While nothing is set in stone and there are no definite plans for the location, one of the stipulations in the purchase agreement is that it will be kept for public use, which is what the town is looking to do. Holk said when the town first incorporated a comprehensive planning session was held, and during that meeting many discussed the schoolyard property being the recreational center of town. A few of the current thoughts for the property include a new Town Hall and Public Library, with a larger space within the town hall, holding up to 50 people, as well as a more open location for the library. A kids park has been discussed, along with a recreational field, a center gazebo with a bandstand where performances can be held, a walking path around the perimeter, an exercise station, and additional parking.

Foley hosts score of new/upcoming businesses

Many new businesses opened, began construction, or were announced during 2018 within Foley, from Yabba’s Snack Shack and Culver’s Restaurant, both now opened, to new OWA restaurants Trattoria and the upcoming Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen which will open in 2019.

One of the largest projects that went underway mid-2018 is the new Foley/Riviera Square shopping center additions, which will expand the shopping center that currently includes retailers such as PetSmart, Ross, and Academy. The expansion will be located on 22-acres of property, and once completed, the new phases will bring 122,000 additional square feet to the center. An estimated 250 plus jobs will be coming to Foley with the opening of the new retailers.

Among the new growth, Foley will be getting a Marshalls, Homegoods, Ulta, Five Below, Tuesday Morning, and for many, a long-awaited Publix. Along with the retailers, also included in the overall site development will be enhancements of surrounding roads, entrances and exits.

Foley works on both historic and educational projects

Along with the new businesses, the city has also worked during 2018 to bring back to life historic buildings in town, most notably the Hamburg Building located on Rose Avenue. The building was donated to the city in 2017, and since the city has gotten the building onto the Places in Peril list as well as sought grants to help restore the location. The Foley High School’s Agriculture Department has been involved with the old store and potato shed to help with renovation. While no official plans have been made for the Hamburg Building, an Agriculture Museum has been heavily discussed, which would help designate Foley’s museum district.

Towards education, Riviera Utilities teamed with AMEA to place a new solar panel display along Highway 59. The display is to be used as an educational tool to show citizens how solar arrays work in this area. The city and Riviera Utilities hope to make the display a great place for families and students to come to learn about the benefits of solar power and to better understand how it works.

South Baldwin Regional Medical Center opens Residency Practice

South Baldwin regional Medical Center has been working on a Residency Practice, located at 1851 North McKenzie Street, for approximately ten years, and opened in 2018 with eight residents. Next year will see 16 residents finishing training, while the following year will see 24. The facility is made up of five doctors: Program Director Doctor Timothy Mott, Doctor Michael Linder, Doctor Cary A. Ostergaard, Doctor Christine Bogar, and Doctor Carol P. Motley.

The process to choose the residents began with interviewing 58 applications for the eight inaugural positions, taking place over the course of a few months. The interviews took place round robin style with at least four faculty staff members present.

For more information on South Baldwin Regional Medical Center and their Residency Program, visit their website at www.southbaldwinrmc.com.