Throughout this past week, visitors to The Blount Countian Facebook page have been voicing their opinions on what they believe Blount County needs the most.
On Wednesday, we posted the poll, “What does Blount County need?” and participants were given options – entertainment, restaurants/coffee shops, industry, recreation, or other. Overwhelmingly, most answered with their own option – “all of the above” or a combination of one or two of the choices given.
• All of the above – 67
• Industry – 51
• Restaurants/coffee shops – 40
• Entertainment – 24
• Recreation – 18
“We need more industry in Blount County to create jobs, and the rest would probably follow,” said one commenter.
Community leaders were informed of the results, and all who replied agreed with that statement.
“Industry drives the whole economic engine,” said Locust Fork Mayor Joe Hughes.“It’ll spur the restaurants, entertainment, and recreational activities. It should be our first order of business.”
Snead Mayor Curtis Painter agreed,“A lot of people have to go outside of our county for work, we need to find a way to keep them working here.”
Recently, the town of Snead has announced two new restaurants coming to that area as well as a new Dollar General location and the possibility of a Walmart Express.
Hughes said the Locust Fork Town Hall has been contacted by a developer but the person would not say who their client was.
Overall, Oneonta city manager Ed Lowe said the poll results did not surprise him.
“Some of those suggestions are not obtainable at this point and time, but we are very cognizant of what we need to do and how we need to market our community,” he said.“We think about it every single day.”
Lowe said at one point it was tough to attract developers’ attention to the Oneonta area, but that is improving since the alcohol vote.
“Being dry was a negative for industry,” he said.“Going wet is a precursor to be able to obtain some of the things the commenters are hoping to see. Now, those industry developers who were hesitant to come to our city are revisiting, and we are becoming more aggressive in recruitment. Within the last 45 days, three different industries have been in contact with us and have expressed interest in our city.”
Lowe said he was not ready to announce the names of those businesses, but stated if one of those chose to locate here they could eventually employee up to 100 people.
“Oneonta is better suited for small to medium industries,” he said.“None of those who have contacted us would be hiring more than 100, but we are still looking for those mid-size companies.”
Many commenters who wanted restaurants/ coffee shops were interested in specific companies ranging from Cracker Barrel to Starbucks.
“Personally, I would like a larger variety of restaurants, not just the fast-food variety,” said one commenter. “We tend to travel to Trussville, Gadsden, or Guntersville for most of our dining out.”
Lowe considers restaurants the same as industry, but said he also sees a market for a coffee shop/bookstore in the Oneonta area and has received several comments from people wanting to see that type of business.
Several commenters who wished for more entertainment stated they wanted their teens and children to have options closer to home rather than having to travel to a larger city.
“It would ease some parents’minds when their teenagers wanted to do something fun, and parents wouldn’t have to worry about staying up all night and waiting for their children to come home from Timbuktu because they would be right here in town,” said one commenter.
Lowe said he has not had any contact with anyone concerning any type of entertainment such as a movie theater, bowling alley, or arcade.
Many participants who wished for more recreational opportunities said they wanted parks, splash pads, soccer fields, running trails, bike trails, and more.
“As a fairly avid cyclist, my vote is for recreation,” said one commenter.“Our sweet little county has some not-so-sweet little motorists when it comes to biking along roadways. We need bike trails, running trails, and other safe areas for people to partake in the recreation of their choice. I would love to see this develop before someone is seriously injured or killed while trying to enjoy some healthy exercise.”
Concerning recreation, Lowe said the city is in pursuit of a city-owned outdoor area that could have trails, camping, a dog park, and other amenities.
“That will be a big project completed in phases,” he said.“But the city is interested in obtaining land for that type of attraction. The biggest obstacle is the land acquisition.”
While many voted for all of the above, some took their own approach. Several wished for more educational opportunities, better Internet service, and improved road conditions, but some said they like Blount County just the way it is.
“What’s wrong with remaining a rural county?” asked one commenter.“If you want all that entertainment and traffic in your neighborhood, move to the city.”
Others asked residents to begin supporting already existing businesses before wishing for new ones.
“We need local folks who are committed to supporting local businesses who try as hard as they can!” said one commenter.
Thank you for your participation
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