There is one theme that runs true in every conversation I have with our community’s leaders, and that is how fortunate we all are to work in an area where “collaboration” is the norm, not the exception.
I have been fortunate to be at the table when our community came together during the oil spill to form the Coastal Resiliency Coalition. The coalition was made up of selfless leaders who set territory and competition aside to effectively help businesses navigate an unprecedented event. Names you will all recognize like Malone, Ellis, Craft, Higgins, Koniar, Hodges, Watts, Kennon, Powers, Massey and Dyken to name a few. This group continues to meet today to work on issues facing our businesses and our community.
Last summer, when our unemployment rate dipped below 3%, the South Baldwin and Coastal Alabama Business Chamber came together to realign capital campaigns and redirect staff to strengthen the Gateway Initiative to focus on workforce development. To no one’s surprise, many of these same leaders came together to shepherd this collaboration with the addition of other folks you’ll recognize like Lee, Groux, Haber, Bibby, Grant, McClelland, Leonard, and Alexander.
COVID-19 has forced this group of leaders to pivot and develop a strategy to deal with our newest challenge. Gateway’s focus today is bringing information and programming to our businesses to help them maintain their employees, secure loans and grants, provide forums to hear from political leaders and develop strategies to bring their operations back to life in a tumultuous time. To enhance communication Gateway now has a website dedicated to keeping the local community and businesses updated with the most recent information related to COVID-19, business re-opening plans, and business development services. The site will also host a video series highlighting the work and vision of our community and business leaders.
As we move back to business Gateway will be there to provide business development services for our South Baldwin industries. Through leadership and collaboration Gateway has flourished with a strong staff and is on the precipice of occupying a new facility that will house business incubation services, business consulting, shared workspace, new technical programs offered by Coastal Alabama Community College, Chamber and Gateway offices, and training facilities.
Having lived here since 1994, and still proud to hold the title of “Dam Yankee” (thank you Herb), two things are clear to me: one, there is no area in the country that has more talented and active leadership, nor the collaborative spirit as is held in South Baldwin, and two, we can always count on a challenge lying ahead, but trust me we’ll be ready for it.