Jackson County has been selected to participate in the Rural Recovery Accelerator, a new community-oriented technical assistance program designed to help rural communities build the economic resiliency strategies they need to survive the current crisis. The Rural Recovery Accelerator is a new initiative launched by Opportunity Alabama, a statewide 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to connecting communities with capital.
Jackson was selected from a statewide pool of applicants for the new program, which has already received national attention from Forbes Magazine. Opportunity Alabama is working closely with the Jackson County Economic Development Authority, Main Street Alabama Scottsboro, the Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Impact Learning Center, the City of Scottsboro, and TARCOG to equip communities in Jackson County with the data, relationships, and strategies to recover and to thrive post-COVID-19.
“We were impressed with the capacity Jackson County demonstrated for economic growth, even in the midst of the current national crisis,” says Opportunity Alabama CEO, Alex Flachsbart. “We are excited for the opportunity of showcasing Jackson County and all our assets. Jackson County is centrally located between Huntsville and Chattanooga and we are ready for business!” says Nathan Lee, Project Manager for the Jackson County Economic Development Authority.
Lee said that the biggest thing community residents can do to support the initiative is to take this survey to help Jackson County leaders and OPAL better understand the impact of COVID-19 on Jackson County residents and businesses. “We will be relying on your feedback to help us set the course for economic recovery,” said Lee.
Rural Recovery Accelerator operates at the county level to foster collaboration between neighboring townships and municipalities. The Jackson County team will meet regularly with Opportunity Alabama staff to address economic resiliency in five key ways: strategy development, data analysis, network development, marketing materials, and investment opportunities. The team already completed its first meeting with Opportunity Alabama and has already identified various projects that show real promise.
Opportunity Alabama (OPAL) is a nonprofit organization that connects Alabama communities and projects to a statewide and national network of impact-oriented investors. Though its primary focus to date has been projects in Opportunity Zones, OPAL has broadened its view to better address the needs of Alabama’s rural and low-income communities. Rural Recovery Accelerator is one of the ways OPAL intends to address those needs.
“We see this moment–where communities are setting aside their differences to work together on recovery–as a chance to put lasting infrastructure in place to improve local economies,” says Alex Flachsbart. “To us, the question is not: how do we reopen over the next 2-3 months? Rather, it is: how do we leverage this moment to build a stronger economic foundation over the next 6-24 months?”
Jackson is one of six counties statewide selected to participate in the beta version of the Accelerator. Other communities statewide selected to participate in the Accelerator include Sumter, Butler Calhoun, Limestone, and Chambers counties.