Atmore, Poarch Creek Indians receive grant to improve economic development

    (IMG: WPMI)

    The city of Atmore and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are getting help from economic experts thanks to a federal grant.

    Atmore is one of just six cities nationwide to receive the Smart Growth America grant which will generate a plan for economic and fiscally sustainable growth.

    Atmore officials and business leaders have high hopes for the future of the city.

    Representatives with Smart Growth America, a non-profit advisory group, unveiled their plan at Escambia High School Tuesday night.

    The group’s study aims to increase economic development, walkability and educational opportunities for the area.

    Emily Wilson, Executive Director for the Atmore Chamber of Commerce, said after years of a down economy, store fronts are being filled again and the community is growing.

    "You can just walk the streets of Atmore and feel the energy. If that wasn't enough, these people are here because we're on the cusp of something exciting," said Wilson.

    Wilson said the new plan, and their continued partnership with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians as well as the Wind Creek casino, could be the boost they need to take the next step.

    "We can have an impact throughout the state. We are so close to the interstate, and waterways, and we're a player. We're at the table and we're ready to take our seat," Wilson said.

    Smart Growth America's research was paid for by a USDA grant worth around $35,000.

    Jerry Gehman, Atmore business owner, said the work they do is invaluable and something normally paid for through taxpayer dollars.

    "We can find out what does it do to the environment? What does it do to the traffic flow? What does it do to the businesses and new businesses coming? How do we keep this a vibrant community?” said Gehman.

    Smart Growth America consists of dozens of experts from across the country, including John Robert Smith, former Mayor in Meridian, Mississippi, and past Amtrak Board Chairman.

    Smith chose Atmore because of its favorable location and opportunities.

    "Economic development is all about the creation of a sense of place that young workforce wants to be, job creators that follow them want to be. This will carry over for the next 30 to 40 years," Smith said.

    Atmore city officials will begin looking at Smart Growth America's plan and adjust their growth strategy based on its recommendations.

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