Albert von Pelser (center), Cullman Chamber Talent Recruitment Taskforce member and plant manager at REHAU, speaks to community members during the Cullman Area Community Needs Forum Thursday at Cullman City Hall. (Hayden Hyatt for The Tribune)
CULLMAN – Members of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed a large turnout Thursday evening to the first of a three-part Cullman Area Community Needs Forum series it is calling "Your Community, Your Future,” spearheaded by the Chamber's Talent Recruitment and Housing Taskforces.
Thursday’s session focused on the “work” portion of the Chamber’s “live, work, play” approach. Among the input asked for from the community members attending were three questions: Why do citizens commute to jobs outside the county? Why do people work in the Cullman area but live elsewhere? What could be added to make Cullman County a more desirable place to live?
Leah Bolin, president of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, led the question portion of the event.
Some community members indicated they work in Jefferson County or Huntsville, while others live in places like Tuscaloosa, Hoover or Scottsboro but work in Cullman.
Asked about what they thought Cullman County is missing and what would make it more appealing to potential residents, attendees had varying answers, ranging from things like better paying jobs, more well-maintained roads and additional housing, to even broadening the city limits or upgrading Cullman Regional Airport.
After the question session, attendees participated in three smaller focus groups to discuss the suggestions in greater detail.
Bolin said the details gathered from the focus groups will help decide the best course of action to improve the county.
“Basically, what we’re doing now is we’re asking more definitive questions,” she said. “Then we'll collect the data from all the answers from our interviewees tonight, put it together, and then that will help us with our overarching plan to determine what we need to do to be able to bring people here for work.”
After all was said and done, the event had a strong turnout and the attendees were very interactive, according to Bolin.
“I was really excited about the amount of people who came out, because it really shows that they care about their community and they want to have a voice in what’s done,” Bolin said. “I was very pleased with it. I felt like people were very honest and sincere with their answers, really wanting to make a difference.”
Bolin expects continued participation from the community for parts two and three of the Cullman Area Community Needs Forum.
“We don't have a date yet, but we will be doing the ‘live’ portion of the forum and then the ‘play’ portion,” explained Bolin. “I think with each forum, we're going to have more and more people that come to be able to share their opinions and their thoughts about it.”
She continued, “So just look for those dates coming soon. We might be in a different location next time, but it doesn't matter where we meet, we just want to hear your voice so that we can take your opinions and formulate them into a plan.”
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