CCDA project manager talks Leadership Chambers County, other projects

Published 8:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2024

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VALLEY — Ansley Emfinger was the guest speaker at this week’s meeting of the Valley Lions Club, held Monday evening at San Marcos Restaurant. She’s a senior project manager for the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) and talked about an effort that’s underway to help train and educate Chambers County’s future leaders. The initiative has the full support of local governments and is being called Leadership Chambers County.

“You have to be dedicated to be in it,” Emfinger said. “We will have our first class next year, and we will make sure it goes well.”

The application process will start in October with the first class convening for an organizational meeting in December.

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This will allow the first class to hit the ground running when the instructional classes get started in January. It’s important to be present for each class.

To be part of Leadership Chambers County’s first graduating class in November, the participant must have attended every session.

Emfinger explains that the participant will miss a lot by missing that one class. Should they miss a class, they can make it up the next year and be part of the 2026 class.

“We want this to be a program people will be excited about,” Emfinger said. “We want the participants to see the value of it.”

To be eligible to participate, the individual must be at least 21 years of age and a Chambers County resident. Emfinger is hoping that the first class reflects a good cross-section of Chambers County residents.

There’s a nomination process involved and a cost of $500 to take part.

“The class will be designed to put a participant on the path of being a good local leader for Chambers County,” Emfinger said. “We’ll start with 15 people.”

In the post-Covid era, participation has declined statewide in leadership training programs. Initiatives such as Leadership Chambers County are needed to help get more people involved in this.

“We will be talking about what it takes to be a good leader,” Emfinger said. “We will be talking about nonprofits in the local area, economic development, local education and health care, our infrastructure needs, law enforcement and tourism opportunities.”

There will be multiple levels of sponsorship for businesses and individuals who want to assist with what’s being done. Each name has a Chambers County connection. There’s a Joe Louis Barrow level, a Griffin level,  a Lanier level and a Bradshaw level.

The Joe Louis Barrow level is for the world championship boxer who was born in Chambers County, the Griffin level is for the well-known symbol of West Point Pepperell and its successor companies, the Lanier level is for the industrialists and business leaders who have had such a big economic impact on the Valley and the Bradshaw level for Grady Bradshaw, a much beloved Scout executive who had a big impact on young people who grew up in the Valley.

Each member of next year’s first class will be given a handbook that spells out the expectations of the inaugural class.

“We want our participants to have a well-rounded view of Chambers County,” Emfinger said. “We have studied this a lot and talked to people from other counties who have done these types of programs. St. Clair County has had one going on for a number of years and there’s one in Randolph County. Each session will be on a different topic. Our first class will be setting a standard for the classes that will follow.”

Emfinger told the club that industrial and commercial recruitment are high priorities for the CCDA, but it’s the county’s existing industries that are the bread and butter. “They are so important,” she said. “It’s vital for us to have good relationships with them.”

Industries and retailers looking to expand want to know about available land, the kinds of utilities that are available, water resources, transportation and significantly, the local workforce.

“We go to retail shows every year to get their feedback on what they are looking for,” Emfinger said.

“We are seeing growth here,” Emfinger said. “It showed up in the 2020 Census and in other surveys that are being done, such as traffic counts. We are blessed to have a campus of Southern Union here in Chambers County. They are very good in workforce development.”

Emfinger is a graduate of Valley High and the University of Alabama. She worked in economic development in Elmore County before coming to the CCDA four years ago.