The City of Helena has been designated as an Alabama Community of Excellence after successfully completing the Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) program, a comprehensive three-phase approach to economic and community development for cities with populations between 2,000 and 18,000. The ACE program provides a “one stop shopping” development approach for helping Alabama’s smaller towns to plan, grow and prosper.
Communities with eligible populations must complete a competitive application process in order to be considered for the ACE program,” said Sidney Hoover, Executive Director of ACE. “The two main criteria used in selecting ACE participants are 1) the level of local commitment to the ACE program, and 2) the community’s capacity to support the ACE program.”
Helena’s achievement was recognized during the Saturday, May 14th Opening Session of the Alabama League of Municipalities Annual Convention held in Huntsville, AL. Mr. Ken Smith, ACE Partner and Executive Director of the Alabama League of Municipalities, and Ms. Sidney Hoover, ACE Executive Director presented a plaque to city officials.
“We are so proud of Helena for successfully completing all three phases of the ACE program,” said Hoover. “Their dedication to community development should be commended.”
“The ACE program would not be possible without the funding, hard work and participation of the 16 ACE Partner organizations,” Hoover stated. “Throughout each of the three phases, ACE Partners use their collective expertise to work with each community to assist it in successfully achieving its unique goals,”
ACE Partner organizations include: Alabama Association of RC&D Councils; Alabama Association of Regional Councils, Alabama Department of Commerce; Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama League of Municipalities; Alabama Municipal Electric Authority; Alabama Power Company; Auburn University – Government and Economic Development Institute; Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc.; Information Transport Solutions, Inc.; Jackson Thornton and Company; PowerSouth Energy Cooperative; Regions Bank; Southeast Alabama Gas District; The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development and The University of West Alabama.
Thirty-one communities have previously been certified as Alabama Communities of Excellence: Alexander City, Arab, Atmore, Brewton, Childersburg, Demopolis, Elba, Eufaula, Evergreen, Fairhope, Fayette, Foley, Graysville, Guin, Gulf Shores, Guntersville, Haleyville, Hartselle, Headland, Heflin, Jackson, Jacksonville, Leeds, Livingston, Millbrook, Monroeville, Montevallo, Rainsville, Saraland, Thomasville, and Valley. The addition of Helena brings the total to 32 Alabama communities that have achieved designation as Alabama Communities of Excellence
During the graduation ceremony, Hoover explained ACE’s three-phase approach to community development.
“Phase I is known as the assessment phase. During this time, a comprehensive report card detailing a community’s unique assets and weaknesses is prepared and presented to the community along with recommended strategies and actions,” Hoover said.
“During Phase II, the Leadership Development and Strategic Planning component, each community must establish a leadership development program, and prepare an up-to-date strategic plan,” said Hoover.
According to Hoover, “Phase III is the Strategic Plan Implementation and Comprehensive Planning segment. 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.”
To maintain the Alabama Community of Excellence designation, a community must be recertified every three years. Helena will be eligible for recertification in 2019.
About Helena: Helena is a city in Jefferson and Shelby Counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. Helena is considered a suburb of Birmingham and part of the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area. It is also one of three cities, along with Alabaster and Pelham, that make up the area known as “North Shelby” or “North Shelby County”. As of the 2010 census the population was 16,793. Helena is highly regarded as a place to live and raise children; Business Week named Helena the 13th “Best Place to Raise Your Kids” in 2007. It has the eighth lowest crime rate per population in the U.S., and the city was ranked in Money Magazine’s 2007 list of “Best Places to Live: Top 100” in the U.S., placing at number 91. The Alabama League of Municipalities awarded Helena the 2008 Municipal Achievement Award (population 10,001 to 20,000).
About ACE: Created in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) 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 for the community development programs and tools needed to insure long term success. Through ACE the tools needed for smaller communities to plan, grow and prosper can be found through one organization