ACE Summer 2021 Newsletter
Executive Director's Report
An Update from Mary Shell
ACE is back to work recruiting a class for 2021! The application is available on our website, along with a video of our recent workshop with tips for successfully applying. Selected communities will need to be prepared to host a visit by the ACE assessment team in October and November 2021. Please share with any community contacts and encourage them to consider applying to the program. We also have a PDF info sheet about the application process that is easily accessible and shareable at this link.

ACE is continuing to work with Joe Sumners of Wicked Solutions, LLC on the USDA-RD grant project to update strategic plans in 10 existing ACE Towns. In late 2020 and early 2021, each community provided a list of stakeholders who would offer broad-based input for their strategic plan. Those stakeholder groups were surveyed to identify priority issues and opportunities in their towns. Since pandemic meeting protocols have relaxed, we are holding in-person meetings to review the survey results and draft strategic plans.

We had great participation with local stakeholder groups in Arab and Fayette in May. Priority issues for the cities include recruiting new businesses and supporting existing businesses; workforce support and development; downtown and retail development; community appearance; and building community leadership. Meetings are scheduled in July for Guin, Headland, Eufaula, and Monroeville. After the stakeholder meetings, the groups will fine-tune the plans to include timelines and responsible parties for implementation. We are working to finalize draft plans and meet with groups in Evergreen, Childersburg, Alexander City, and Demopolis in July and August.

We will contact our other designated communities to identify five additional towns that would like to participate in the project to update their strategic plan. ACE will provide a facilitator to guide the process and work with the local stakeholder group to develop a plan. If your community is interested, please contact Mary Shell for information.

ACE has partnered with the David Mathews Center for Civic Life on a project supported by the Kettering Foundation to improve community engagement. ACE Towns Fayette, Headland, and Jackson are discussing elements of community engagement and using deliberative discussions to explore issues from a broad perspective. The group meets virtually and will wrap up the project in July by developing a program to engage each community on a specific topic to build support and understanding.

“Greening Your Community,” the initial Community Seeds workshop hosted by ACE, DesignAlabama, Main Street Alabama, and Your Town Alabama, was very successful with 70 participants and informative speakers. It was great to see everyone in person and welcome Ed McMahon to speak about the importance of place and the economic advantage provided by parks and community assets. Panelists from across the state presented excellent information about how natural assets promote community, tourism, and sustainability. We look forward to collaborating with our Community Seeds partners again to provide an annual workshop that brings these organizations together.

The ACE Board and Associates Council plan to meet in person on August 27. Stay tuned for more details, including information about the program for the Associates Council.
On Saturday, May 15, ACE designated Gardendale as an “Alabama Community of Excellence” at the Alabama League of Municipalities (ALM) Convention and Expo held in Huntsville. ACE also recertified Fairhope as an “Alabama Community of Excellence." Congratulations, Gardendale and Fairhope!

ACE President and Board of Directors Chair Carrie Banks recognized Gardendale Mayor Stanley Hogeland and city representatives as well as Fairhope Mayor Sherry Sullivan during ALM’s convention for their communities’ successful completion and recertification of the ACE program. Gardendale joined ACE’s 2019 class, completing the program in two years. Fairhope was a member of the 2013 class and graduated in 2015.

She also announced that the application process for the 2021 class had opened for qualifying communities. Applications are due by July 31 and can be submitted online or mailed. ACE also held an application training workshop on June 2, which is now available to view online.

Visit our online application page to learn more about the process and watch the workshop. A one-sheet is also available online as a PDF as an easy way to share the information with officials in cities who may be interested in becoming an ACE Town.
Alabama Communities of Excellence participated in the first Community Seeds workshop on June 17 in ACE Town Montevallo. Community Seeds is a collaboration between ACE, DesignAlabama, Main Street Alabama, and Your Town Alabama to provide enriching opportunities that foster rural community development.

The “Greening Your Community” workshop offered 70 attendees from across Alabama the chance to learn about the benefits of cultivating green spaces and the creative ways they can enhance a community.

The workshop began with a morning walking tour of Montevallo's Shoal Creek Park, a 167-acre public historic and recreation site. After the tour, participants convened in the heart of downtown Montevallo for a full day of educational sessions focused on helping them "green" their communities.
Panel sessions included:

  • Big Plans: The importance of planning in big projects and big ideas
  • Community Conversation: Discussion of Homewood's focus on connectivity, preservation, and low-impact development
  • Greening Projects: Examples of green projects in cities across the state
  • Partnerships and Project Funding: Assistance, collaboration, and cooperation

Ed McMahon, a senior fellow with the Urban Land Institute, wrapped up the workshop with his presentation “The Dollars and Sense of Parks and Green Spaces.”
ACE would like to thank its partners and the workshop's moderators and panelists for presenting such a successful event. A special thank you goes to Alabama State Council on the Arts for awarding the grant that made the workshop possible, as well as sponsors Copperwing, Montevallo Main StreetNational Endowment for the ArtsSiteLines, and the Support the Arts License Tag Fund.
Resource Roundup

USDA Resource Guide for Rural Workforce Development

Congresswoman Terri Sewell's Guide to Grants

Alabama League of Municipalities' 2021 CMO Regional Training Summer Schedule

Alabama Community Leadership Network's resources

Business Council of Alabama's free webinars