By that we mean diversity in how Anniston’s former Army post is redeveloped. For generations, the city put its economic eggs in too few baskets: too many jobs dependent on government money, too many jobs in heavy manufacturing, too many jobs in textiles, not much else. When the government (the Army) left, when the pipe shops closed, when the textile mills went under, Calhoun County’s long-term jobs picture was as bleak as it gets.
Today, McClellan is the proverbial half-empty, half-full scenario. Much progress has been made; plans in place now for tomorrow’s gains hold promise. Yet, our never-ending wish for McClellan to become the economic engine for an entire region remains unfulfilled. The clock, as always, is ticking.
Last week, The Star’s Patrick McCreless reported on McClellan Development Authority plans to convert part of the former fort into a retirement community that may stimulate certain lobes of the local economy. It’s not a bad idea.
McClellan is inherently situated for retiree living. Many communities’ No. 1 problem — the quality of public schools — isn’t an issue for McClellan retirees. Anniston’s system is beset with a middle school deemed “failing” by the state Board of Education and the city’s high school has a high dropout rate, but those concerns don’t weigh heavily for retirees.
Likewise, retirees’ needs — safe, affordable housing, activities, pleasant weather — are McClellan traits. Whether with homes, apartments or condos, McClellan offers, or will offer, those options. Living at McClellan means proximity to the city’s sports complex, the city’s aquatic center, a city-run golf course and miles upon miles of roads and sidewalks for afternoon strolls.
It’s a no-brainer that retirement communities at McClellan is a smart idea.
But we see McClellan’s future as much more than that.
At the top of the MDA’s to-do list must be the recruiting of industries that hire highly trained workers and pay them middle-class salaries, or better. Those efforts are well underway. Region-wide, McClellan’s real value is as a job magnet that spurs residential and commercial growth all across Calhoun County, if not northeast Alabama.