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Economic developer to help Grifton create plan


By Amber Revels-Stocks
The Times-Leader

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

GRIFTON — The town of Grifton will receive some expert help in April to create an economic plan, the town manager said.

David Thornell, the president of the Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance, will travel to Grifton from Guin, Ala., to help the town with several economic development activities, including creating a development plan, according to interim Grifton Manager Mark Warren.

“The U.S. Economic Development Administration is providing Mr. Thornell to the town at no cost,” Warren told town commissioners at their March 12 board meeting. “It’s part of a national program that gives small towns a chance to work with an expert.”

Thornell will be in Grifton on April 1-5.

He is an experienced economic developer having worked in Alabama in Mississippi for more than 34 years, according to Dana Crater of the International Economic Development Commission.

“David Thornell has enjoyed success in every aspect of building and improving communities,” Crater wrote in an email. “He has created organizations from scratch, has led a local chamber through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce accreditation process and a doubling of leadership … and has been directly involved in the recruitment of well over 15,000 new jobs representing in excess of $2 billion in capital investment.”

Thornell is a certified economic/community developer since 1990; he also graduated from the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Georgia’s Institute for Organizational Management and the National Development Council’s Economic Development Financing Professional Program, according to Carver.

He is considered an expert in grant writing, having helped win grants in excess of $17 million in the Gulf Coast region since 2008.

Since September 2010, Thornell has served as president of the Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance. The alliance promotes business opportunities using a “public-private teamwork approach,” according to Carver. This stimulates job creation and retention with a focus on entrepreneurship, she said.

“This approach has been recognized as an ideal model for rural areas by Business Alabama Magazine,” Carver said.

Thornell will be working closely with Warren and local business leaders while he is in Grifton.

“I hope you all get a chance to come meet him and let him know what the board would like to see in Grifton,” Warren said.

Warren previously has discussed trying to grow Grifton in preparation for the opening of the Southwest bypass. He already has been receiving calls from potential home and business owners hoping to settle in the town.

In other news, the board …

■ Decided to remove all but one of the “10-Minute Parking Limit” signs on Queen Street. For 21 street parking spaces, there are five signs, according to Commissioner Claude Kennedy. He felt the signs made visitors feel unwanted.

“We put those signs up because the Sweepstakes was using every available bit of parking for hours on end,” said Grifton Mayor Billy Ray Jackson. “People were trying to come to town hall and couldn’t even find a parking space.”

Commissioner Raymond Oakes agreed with Kennedy but wanted at least one 10-minute parking sign in front of Town Hall for people with limited mobility.

■ Approved a request by Linwood Thorbs of Little Bud Thorbs Economic Development to use the farmer’s market for three days a week beginning in April. He also asked the board for a letter of support to include in a grant application to Vidant Medical Center to bring a mobile play street to Grifton. Kennedy made the motion to approve both requests. Craft seconded it, and the motion passed unanimously.