Tana Collins, who has been involved with combatting substance abuse and promoting economic development in the community, has been named Outstanding ACE Local Coordinator for her work with Alabama Communities of Excellence-Jasper.
The ACE Star Awards were presented at the Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) Annual Community Reunion on July 14, at the Clanton Conference Center, and Collins was among the award recipients across the state.
A press release from ACE states, “The ACE Star Awards recognizes individuals who have performed above and beyond the call of duty and embody the principles of the ACE Program, a comprehensive development program designed to assist Alabama’s smaller communities in their efforts to plan, grow and prosper.
“These ‘rising stars’ bring outstanding leadership and a passion for small-town Alabama to all that they do. They are recognized for their commitment to making their communities better places and for their support of the ACE process. ACE offers communities a ‘one stop shopping’ experience by centralizing community development programs and tools in one organization.”
Collins said Jasper was accepted into the ACE program in September 2015, and the city was designated as an Alabama Community of Excellence in May, after completing the ACE three-phase approach, which includes assessment, leadership development, strategic planning and implementation of the strategic plan, along with comprehensive planning.
When Jasper was accepted into the ACE program, the Jasper City Council and then-Mayor Sonny Posey appointed Collins to coordinate the local ACE chapter.
Collins was the city’s public information officer at the time she received the appointment.
Collins said she was surprised to receive the award and that she couldn’t have coordinated the program without the help of many people in the community.
“I was very surprised,” she said. “They did let me know ahead of time that I was receiving it, but I was just thrilled beyond all belief because I didn’t think that anybody would nominate me.”
She added, “I’m getting credit for the work that a bunch of people did. One of the reasons that I received the award was because the city of Jasper completed the designation at such an accelerated rate, and that was not me. That was the community coming together as a whole to take these steps because they saw the value in the program.”
Currently ACE-Jasper is working on action items for their five-year strategic plan, along with a comprehensive plan for the city. Items in the city’s strategic plan include tackling substance abuse in the community and exploring housing and economic development.
Collins said substance abuse is crippling the community by preventing economic growth. She said the local chapter is working to address ways to combat drug abuse and educate the community.
“We’re working to develop a community meeting to educate citizens on substance abuse and the impact the behavior has on the community, involving economic development,” she said.
“A lot of people just see the drug issue and think about the overdoses that occur and the personal impact that those drug issues bring on, but they don’t think about the economic impact and what it’s costing us in law enforcement, and the fact that if we’re trying to do economic development and we have a workforce that can’t pass drug tests, industry is not going to come here,” Collins said. “We want to educate the citizens on how the substance abuse issue impacts us comprehensively.”
She said the strategic plan will be implemented through the year 2021, and ACE-Jasper will work with Jasper Main Street on retail recruitment and industrial development.
In the press release from ACE, Collins was complimented on continuing her work with ACE-Jasper, all while making the transition to her new role at Bevill State Community College as their director of communications.
Collins said she doesn’t consider her work with ACE as a job, but rather her way of giving back to the community she loves and its people.
“One of the things that’s very important to me, and as we learned this week is also extremely important to Bevill State and our community, is economic development for our region,” she said.
“This is the community I live in, and I want this community to thrive and grow and have the economic resources available to do that. That drives me to continue.
“I love everything about this community. I think that our most valuable resource is the people in this community, and I want to see them have a good life.”
ACE-Jasper is among 35 communities that are certified as Alabama Communities of Excellence, and is the only community in Walker County to be a designated ACE city.
Other ACE Star Award recipients include Robert Joslin (Outstanding ACE Mayor) from Arab; Rev. Willie Blue (Outstanding ACE Volunteer) for Brewton; Brandon Bias (Outstanding ACE Ambassador) with Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, Inc.; and Dr. Arturo Menefee (Exceptional ACE Leadership) for Auburn University’s Alabama Cooperative Extension System.