The Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) program uses a comprehensive, three-phase approach to assist participating communities in planning and preparing for a more vibrant future. Throughout each of these phases, ACE partners from the private sector, government agencies and universities work with each community to successfully achieve its goals.
Created in 2002 as a non-profit corporation organized for the purpose of utilizing the collective expertise of its partner organizations, ACE provides participants with a “one stop shopping” type of experience—community development programs and tools needed to insure long term success found through one organization.
To participate in the ACE program, communities must first submit a completed application and be selected as a participant. At the beginning of each selection process, applications are mailed to the mayors of those communities having the qualifying population of 2,000 to 18,000.
The main criteria used in selecting ACE participants are: 1) the level of local commitment to the ACE program, 2) the community’s capacity to support the ACE program, and 3) the provision of complete and accurate information in the application.
Once a community has been accepted into the ACE program, it begins with Phase I, known as the assessment phase.
Phase I – Assessment
In Phase I, the community undergoes a complete assessment to identify its assets as well as the challenges affecting its growth and prosperity. A comprehensive report card detailing these community assets and challenges is prepared and presented to the community along with recommended strategy and actions. Once a community successfully completes Phase I, it is declared to be an Alabama Communities of Excellence Participant and is invited to move into Phase II.
Phase II – Leadership Development and Strategic Planning
During Phase II each community must establish a leadership development program, prepare an up-to-date strategic plan, and identify a local ACE coordinator. This local coordinator will not only spearhead ACE efforts locally, but will also serve as the liaison between ACE and the community. Once a community successfully completes Phase II it is declared to be an Alabama Communities of Excellence Developmental Community and is invited to move into Phase III.
Phase III – Implementation
In Phase III, the community initiates activities necessary for realizing the vision for the community established during Phase II’s strategic planning process. Issues addressed during Phase III include comprehensive planning, commercial business development, education enhancement, infrastructure, health and human services, retiree attraction, tourism, economic development, and quality of life. Upon completion of Phase III, a community is formally designated an Alabama Community of Excellence.
Certification as an Alabama Community of Excellence
The timeframe for completion of the ACE program varies from community to community; however, communities are encouraged to successfully complete the program within three years.
When the candidate community successfully completes all three phases of the ACE program, it is declared be an Alabama Community of Excellence.
To maintain the Alabama Community of Excellence designation, a community must be recertified after three years. Recertification is based on the ACE Community’s progress in implementing its plans and its progress towards approaching ACE Community Standards as stated in Definition of an ACE Community.