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We believe that one of the most important roles the Chamber of Commerce plays is to convene people who are interested in a more economically successful Athens. Many Chambers have found success in this area through InterCity visits. In 2019, 30 Athenians took our inaugural trip to Columbia, Missouri.

On August 31-September 2, we took another InterCity Leadership Visit. This time we visited Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The West Alabama Chamber was recently recognized by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives as being the #1 Chamber in the country. Their West Alabama Works workforce development initiative is being replicated in every state. The goal of the trip was to find new ways to continue to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality of Athens-Clarke County.

Participation in the InterCity Leadership Visit allows attendees to develop and grow relationships with business and civic leadership, not only with peers in the Athens business community but also with the elected and appointed leadership of Athens-Clarke County. Those strategic connections will have long term value as we continue to implement lessons leaned and work together to create a shared vision for the future of our county as articulated in our program of work.

Why Tuscaloosa?

Thanks to our friends at Georgia Power, we were able to compare many communities that met our demographic profile. After narrowing those communities down, we looked at four primary areas of focus: Workforce Development, Innovation/Technology, Town and Gown Relationships and Homelessness Initiatives. Tuscaloosa, home of the West Alabama Chamber, is recognized as having one of the most robust workforce development programs in the nation: West Alabama Works. There are some similarities and pre-existing relationships that made the university-driven initiatives easy. A fifth area of focus on this trip was Riverfront Development. In the last decade, Tuscaloosa has begun to utilize the North River that runs very close to the center of town. On our return trip, we stopped in Birmingham at One Roof for a focus session dealing with their unique efforts to provide support for, and reduce, the homeless population.

"My work as a local policymaker has long benefited from visits to peer communities to see where they excel, and I could not be more excited for our visit to Tuscaloosa with community partners to take an intentional look at how we can expand opportunities for all here in Athens.” -Kelly Girtz

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