Ozark-Dale County’s Involvement With Grow Southeast Alabama Proves We Are Stronger When We Work Together

Ozark-Dale County’s Involvement With Grow Southeast Alabama Proves We Are Stronger When We Work Together Main Photo

10 Jul 2024


The Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation (ODEDC) works tirelessly throughout the year to bring new businesses to the region and create opportunities for residents and employers. Our team knows that Ozark-Dale County is a wonderful place to live and work, and we’re eager to spread the word to others. However, ODEDC has limited resources and relies on support from generous investors who want to be involved in what we do. One way that ODEDC maximizes its impact is by working with other counties in the region.

Grow Southeast Alabama (GSEA) is a coalition of 11 counties in the Wiregrass region of Alabama. This organization gives Ozark-Dale County a louder voice when talking to site selectors and employers. It also provides regional learning and networking opportunities.

“Joining Grow Southeast Alabama was an excellent choice that continues to pay dividends,” says Holle Smith, President of ODEDC. “Not only has Ozark-Dale County grown because of this organization, but the surrounding counties have also benefited, which positively impacts our residents.”

Discover why ODEDC continues its involvement in Grow Southeast Alabama and learn why the Wiregrass counties are stronger together.   

There are Several Benefits of Forming a Multi-County Coalition 

GSEA proves that our region is more successful when working as a group instead of managing all of our economic development efforts on our own. When asked about the value her organization provides, Melody Lee, Executive Director of GSEA, listed several benefits of joining this coalition:

  • Resource pooling: Working together makes conferences, programs, and tools more affordable. 
  • Greater influence on state policies: One community is a small voice against the 67 other counties in Alabama. GSEA brings together 11 counties to speak up as one group. 
  • Economies of scale: GSEA can negotiate better contracts because the vendors are working with 11 counties instead of one. This also divides the financial burden across several communities. 
  • Regional planning: The involved counties can work together to consider the future of the region as a whole, creating aligned growth. 
  • Addressing issues across county lines: GSEA allows counties to address multi-county concerns like transit or environmental issues to make the region more desirable. 
  • Learning from one another: Each county can benefit from the tools, ideas, and know-how of its neighbors. 

“Instead of working as individuals, our 11 counties have come together to increase the competitiveness of the region,” says Lee. “This makes the region more resilient and powerful when it comes to working with state governments and potential major employers.”

The Wiregrass Counties Have Become Unified in Recent Years

Lee is incredibly proud of the hard work the team at GSEA does to promote this region, along with the efforts of the 11 involved counties, their utility partners, and regional businesses that also join as members. She has watched county leaders transition away from competitive or disjointed efforts toward more collaborative relationship-building instead.

“I have been so impressed to see economic developers who used to compete against one another become a united coalition,” says Lee. “It’s been really nice to watch the group evolve.”

Lee shares a few examples that she has noticed, such as counties attending conferences together under the GSEA umbrella and using these meet-ups to discuss concerns and future plans as a team. Economic development leaders in the Wiregrass region have started helping each other by sharing leading opportunities and resources that have been effective in furthering their missions.

“It’s not just about your county,” says Lee. “It’s about growing the entire region.”

Ozark-Dale County has also benefited from the GSEA coalition's growth. The Wiregrass region still has a voice at events that ODEDC cannot attend. ODEDC can also be more effective by taking advantage of opportunities that other counties learn about.  

Growth in Surrounding Areas Benefits Ozark-Dale County

Economic development is regional, which means changes in one county will have ripple effects through others. When a major employer comes to the region, employees might commute from one county to the next. This increases employment across multiple counties and boosts the region's income levels. One employer can also attract other businesses within the same industry, turning the Wiregrass region into a hub for skilled workers.

Lee cites HudsonAlpha's recent expansion to Dothan as a valuable asset to the region as a whole. She also mentions partnerships that multiple counties have with Fort Novosel. These organizations highlight the Wiregrass region’s value to AgTech corporations and military contractors alike, which could potentially attract similar businesses in the future.

“Everyone in the organization is excited about the direction we are going in,” says Lee. “We want to brand ourselves regionally and nationally as an area poised for growth.” 

Ozark-Dale County is Stronger Because of GSEA

ODEDC has a dedicated staff and a strong board of directors who are passionate about the community, but GSEA helps Ozark-Dale County have a bigger voice regionally and nationally.

“We do our best to promote growth in the region, and GSEA is a valuable partner in achieving that,” says Smith. “We are thrilled to work with others who want to see Ozark-Dale County succeed.”

ODEDC will continue its involvement with GSEA as long as it benefits the community. If you would like to be involved in the growth of Ozark-Dale County, consider becoming one of our investors. Your support can further our efforts in the region and attract more residents and businesses to our county. Together, we can move Ozark-Dale County toward a brighter future.