Busby and Roberts speaks to Kiwanis

Published 7:27 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

VALLEY — Executive Director Chris Busby and Project Manager Andie Roberts of the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) were guest speakers at Wednesday’s noon-hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. Busby succeeded long-time director Valerie Gray toward the end of last year and Roberts is transitioning from a student intern into a full-time staff member. She’s currently in college and is on course to graduate in May at which time she will be a full-time staff member.

Busby told members of the club that every member of the staff is a Chambers County native and is highly motivated to do what’s best for the local area. 

The staff includes Busby, Roberts and fellow project manager Ansley Emfinger along with office manager Erica McCullough.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s very important for us to be good financial stewards of taxpayer funds,” Busby said. “We want county residents to know that we are using our funds the right way.”

In learning the new position of executive director, Busby has been concentrating on administrative details in recent weeks. 

He said he’d like to get back to being more in project management but knows that Emfinger and Roberts are doing great work in that department. He said that their skills complement each other. 

“Ansley has a passion for existing industry and workforce development,” he said, “and Andie is really good on the retail side.”

The CCDA is promoting the need to have adequate broadband service throughout Chambers County. Having broadband means that you can have internet in the home, and that’s essential to be able to work at home in case the resident chooses that, or in the case of the Covid shutdown, has to for a certain period of time.

Promoting the county for future growth can sometimes be a complex puzzle to figure out. 

“To get industry, we need to bring in people,” Busby explains, “but to do that you have to have housing people can afford and amenities they are looking for such as good schools, recreation, stores and restaurants.”

Busby is confident that more retail is on the way. There’s a $15 million project underway in Valley to expand the Village Plaza Shopping Center. An announcement is imminent on what new stores will be coming.

“The bigger retailers are transitioning their markets,” Busby said. “They are moving away from urban areas to smaller communities, where start-up costs and the overall cost of living are smaller.”

While retail development is coming off Exit 79 on I-85, housing development will be coming off  Exit 77. 

The Camellia Crossing subdivision is being built off Combs Road in Valley and another development is slated near King Road. An area near the end of 30th Street is wide open for future residential growth.

Busby said he would like to see more younger people taking active roles in community life. 

“Those who are active on boards and in civic groups are aging,” he said. “There’s a need for younger residents of Chambers County to get involved. We need to have them leadership positions. We need to have young people involved in community and governmental affairs. There needs to be civic engagement for a community to grow.”

An effort to get young people involved will be starting here in January 2025. 

“Outside people will be teaching it,” Busby said. “It has been helpful in places where it has been attempted.”

The CCDA is involved in legislative affairs. The U.S. government and state governments spend millions of dollars every year on various projects. This money goes to places that work for it. 

“If you don’t get it, someone else will,” Busby said.

Busby commended Roberts for being an outside-the-box thinker.

Roberts said that being with the CCDA had been a big factor in nurturing that. 

“I started working here as an intern when I was in high school,” she said. “I didn’t know what economic development was until I came to the CCDA. A counselor recommended that I give it a try. Covid was bad, but it helped open my eyes to what was going on with economic development. I can remember when Dunkin’ Donuts opened at Exit 79. I had no idea at the time what was involved with the opening of a new business like that. Being with the CCDA you can see what’s involved in that kind of project from start to finish.”

Roberts has had experience in handling grants. Her first one was 47 pages long and two-and-a-half months to dot every i and cross every t, but it was worth the effort. A grant of more than $100,000 was approved for the local area.

Roberts has worked on securing grants for local schools. She has been successful in getting grant money for playgrounds at Eastside Elementary in LaFayette and Springwood School. She’s landed over $350,000 in grants over the past couple of years. 

“I love doing it,” she said. “It helps the community. I also like to do press releases and flyers with graphics.”

Roberts said she loved the community development side of her job as well. 

“I love going to the local high schools and working with the students on basic life skills such as writing a check or balancing a checkbook,” she said.

“I love Chambers County,” she added. “I’ve been here my whole life, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to help promote it.”

“As you can see, there’s some amazing talent on the staff that helps me in the office,” Busby said.

Busby added that he’d like to see a new road leading to the Lanett airport and that the CCDA is working toward getting a new hotel and some restaurants for the local area.

Busby termed John Soules Foods a major success story for the local area. 

“Over 500 people are working there now,” he said. “Our largest employer has reached its personnel goal. It took them a long time to get there.”

Over the last ten years, a total of 2,107 new industrial jobs have been created in Chambers County.  More than $1.1 billion has been invested here over that same time period. There have been 48 existing industry expansions in the past decade and more than 1,000 acres are available for development in five industrial parks in Chambers County.