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Outdoor Incentives – Preserving our Natural Beauty Improves our Business Prospects

December 21, 2018

This article was originally published in Huntsville Madison County Chamber’s Initiatives Magazine, December 2018 issue.

Cover Image by Robert Posey

Putting the puzzle together for work force recruitment takes a holistic approach.  More and more employers not only have to create a great work environment, but also must sell our community to prospective employees.  Chad Donald, President of Avion Solutions, understands that recruiting and retaining a skilled work force is a multifaceted task.  “We’re fortunate to have a growing business with outstanding employees. However, we know that to meet the needs of our customers, we must continually attract talented, skilled workers. We are not only competing locally for strong employees, but nationally. And when you market yourself nationally, the quality of life of the city you’re located in is an important consideration”, he says.

Many factors are mentioned as measures of a community’s quality of life, but one recurring aspect is the availability of nature-based outdoor activities. In North Alabama we are fortunate to have a beautiful and diverse natural landscape in which to provide those outdoor recreational opportunities.  We are also fortunate to have a history of leadership that understands the importance of saving natural places for people to enjoy. Consider that just two miles from the heart of downtown Huntsville, the Land Trust of North Alabama’s 1,100 acre Monte Sano Nature Preserve adjoins the 2,400 acre Monte Sano State Park.  No other city in the country can boast of such an expansive natural resource so close to its urban center.

And this is just the cornerstone of our foundation. One that has us poised us to be an outdoor recreation destination.  The Land Trust of North Alabama offers an additional six nature preserves located throughout the county for hiking, mountain biking, and trail running.  Ditto Landing on the Tennessee River has a variety of water- related recreational opportunities. Huntsville, Madison, and Madison County each have greenway systems and nature preserves offering a myriad of outdoor activities.  But even with all these options, the parking lots are full and the trails are crowded.  All before the reality of the thousands of new jobs arrive bringing the need for thousands of new employees.

Our challenge is to continue to preserve significant natural areas and create more outdoor recreation opportunities at a pace that will allow us to remain competitive in the changing workforce environment, particularly with the younger workforce.  Initiatives like the Land Trust’s River to Gap project, which will connect the Tennessee River to Blevins Gap across the western face of Green Mountain, Launch 2035’s Singing River Trail project, a multi-jurisdictional greenway which will connect Limestone, Madison and Morgan Counties together, and the interconnected greenway systems that are being developed by Huntsville and Madison.  All acknowledge the importance of a embracing and highlighting the natural attributes of our community and improving our quality of life.

But, to meet the challenge, these must become more than initiatives, they must become reality.  We must invest financially, and we must act quickly. With the rapid growth and development throughout our metro area, key lands and corridors of connectivity are being compromised.  Our peer cities are making substantial investments in outdoor recreational pursuits centered around active lifestyles.  As the speed of life has gotten faster, having these choices convenient and close to home has become a necessity for many.  If we want to stay competitive in work force recruitment, we must make those same investments.