Madison County Commission chairman Dale Strong spoke of the tremendous strides that had taken place during the past 10 years in Madison County, but he did not stop there during his annual address to the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday.
Strong focused on the monumental pace of the regional economy, and how North Alabama was reaping the benefits of collaboration among communities across the entire Tennessee Valley.
He cited specific regional projects such as the Gate 9 expansion for Redstone Arsenal, Mazda Toyota, GE Aviation, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin and Polaris.
“I can tell you there is a common bond across North Alabama,” Strong said in his prepared remarks. “Our local leaders have seen the value of working together as a region and know that when we stick together the sky truly is not the limit.”
He paused to introduce some of those Tennessee Valley civic leaders for their part in growing communities all across the region and invited them as guests to the chamber event.
Elected officials recognized by Strong were Limestone County Commission chairman Colin Daly, Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling, Scottsboro Mayor Jim McCamy, Rogersville Mayor Richard Herston, Decatur City Councilman Jacob Ladner and Athens City Councilman Chris Seibert.
“Meanwhile, while making new friends across Alabama my work as the chairman of the Madison County Commission never stopped,” Strong added. “Over the past year we have continued working on projects small and large to move our community forward.”
He cited the greater Huntsville area’s recognition of being ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report’s 2022-2023 edition of “Best Places to Live in the United States.”
“We were not given that recognition – we earned it!” Strong emphasized.
Strong also recognized the work and support of Madison County Commissioners Tom Brandon, Steve Haraway, Craig Hill, Phil Vandiver, Phil Riddick and Violet Edwards for their role in advancing the county.
Strong, who has frequently been quoted as saying “our best days lie ahead,” also pointed to a recent announcement that the environmental review for the new U.S. Space Command headquarters revealed no issues in moving the command to Redstone Arsenal.
Earlier this year, both the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) and the Air Force Inspector General (IG) finished their reviews of the decision to recommend moving Space Command headquarters to Redstone Arsenal.
This project, like so many of the other successful advances taking place in the Tennessee Valley, was the work of people from across the region.
“As we knew all along both reviews showed that our community won fair and square,” Strong declared. “We won based on our quality of life, cost of living, short commute times, top notch schools, and because Redstone Arsenal and its leadership are ready to make it happen.”
Strong then focused on the tremendous growth being experienced in Madison County.
“As Madison County continues to experience exploding growth, our commission has made protecting our families a top priority,” Strong noted, adding that 130,000 people live in unincorporated Madison County.
Only 42 counties in Alabama have that many residents. Unincorporated Madison County would be the fifth largest city in Alabama behind Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery.
While the Madison County Sheriff’s Department serves all of Madison County, Strong noted these 100,000 people rely solely on these deputies to protect their neighborhoods.
“During the past 10 years our commission has partnered with Sheriff Kevin Turner and his team like never before,” Strong advised. “In my tenure as chairman, we have added 67 more deputies and invested in new vehicles, equipment and technology. We have also established a new training facility at the former 911 Center so we can ensure that the men and women protecting our families have the training and tools they need.”
Strong then cited accomplishments in Madison County, giving credit to other business, civic and government leaders.
“Together, our chamber of commerce, the Madison County Commission, Mayor Tommy Battle and the Huntsville City Council, Mayor Paul Finley and the Madison City Council, our local legislative delegation, along with our DC partners, we have written a new chapter in history for Madison County,” proclaimed the chairman.
Local accomplishments cited by Strong as follows:
- More than 30,000 new jobs have been added to the region
- Diversified the economy through advanced manufacturing
- Secured billions of dollars for transportation projects
- Expanded sewer and protected drinking water
- Created better public education
- Grew University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) to more than 10,000 students
- Brought rocket engine testing back to Redstone Arsenal
- Grew Cummings Research Park
- Built a $55 million dollar baseball park
- Built a $40 million dollar amphitheater
“Together, we took calculated chances to expand and grow an economy that has perfectly positioned north Alabama for generations to come,” Strong said.
“It is for these reasons that Madison County, Alabama is the strongest and most vibrant it has ever been,” he added. “Our unemployment is low, new home starts are at a record high, our education level is second to none, we have successfully diversified our economy, and it is without reservation as chairman of the third largest county in the state of Alabama and with each of your commitment, I believe Madison County, Alabama’s finest hours are still ahead.”
Strong closed his talk with an eye on the future. He has spent 26 years on the commission and 10 years as the chairman. Much of his attention remains with Madison County but said he was beginning to think more about the United States as the Republican nominee for Alabama’s open fifth congressional district seat.
The North Alabama congressional general election will take place on November 8.
Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News