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25 Years of Progress: The Alliance marks quarter century

Alliance President Clayton Stanley (left) talks with site consultants at the Rail Hub industrial site.

By Brant Sappington

bsappington@dailycorinthian.com

Working together works.

It's a lesson The Alliance has proven over the past quarter century of bringing people together to move Corinth and Alcorn County forward.

The organization is marking the 25th anniversary of its formation this month when the Corinth-Alcorn County Chamber of Commerce came together with the Industrial Development Foundation to create a single umbrella organization leading the fight for community and industrial development.

"It's worked," said Kenneth Williams, a longtime Alliance supporter and volunteer who has served in numerous leadership roles since the very beginning of the organization. "It's proven that it was the thing to do because it's been done since in so many other communities," he said.

Current Alliance President Clayton Stanley said he believes the key to The Alliance's success is in that idea of getting everyone together under one roof with one goal pulling in the same direction.

"This is a collaborative organization and a collaborative society," he said.

Under The Alliance the roles of industrial and economic development and overall community development come together with a single purpose. Previously they were all done by separate organizations operating independently.

Stanley said the combination allows for a unity of purpose that helps drive economic development in a changing world.

"Recruitment and a successful chamber organization is much more than having available land and a ready workforce. It's about what makes the community. It's about the people and it's about the attractiveness of the community. It's about all those things. At The Alliance, under our umbrella, we address all those," he said. Williams said the vision in the early days was creating that umbrella that represented the community, government and the private sector and could bring them all together to not only promote industrial development but also retail growth and community development with an experienced adminstrator at the helm leading the organization with a single purpose.

"That's what we tried to do was put it all together," he said.

In April 1994 the Corinth-Alcorn County Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Development Foundation came together to form The Alliance. He said it was important in the beginning to get people to buy in to the vision and that has clearly been successful with the growth of the organization and the massive impact it's had on the community.

Gerald McLemore was also present at the formation and recalled working with a consulting group that made the recommendation to create a single umbrella organization. The Alliance was among the first groups of its kind in the state and helped create a model for success that's been duplicated many other places, he said.

"It seems to have worked over the years. It gives us everything under one umbrella and the power and authority to direct different functions. The key is working together with a common goal and common leadership," he said.

Williams said he's proud of the way The Alliance has helped lead and guide the community through good years and through challenging economic times. He pointed to a pivot toward recruiting retail employers to diversify the local economy during times when manufacturing jobs were being reduced across the country as an example of the group's success and impact on the local economy.

Stanley said economic development has changed in the past several years with potential employers looking closely at quality of life issues for employees before choosing a location.

"The number one thing is people," he said.

The Alliance's numerous groups and organizations brings people together, tapping into the immense pool of talent in the community to bring together volunteers willing to work together and make a difference and ensuring all those functions are working toward a common goal, explained Stanley. In his role focused on economic development keeping all those players aware of what's happening on that side and how their efforts can contribute to success in that area is a major benefit of The Alliance's structure.

"I want them to be aware of what I've got going on on a day to day basis and how their sphere of influence impacts what we do," he said.

The collaborative structure also makes it easier for people who want to impact the community through volunteer and civic work to find their place. As new members join The Alliance, the organization can help them promote their business while at the same time finding places for their management and employees to help continue to build the community's success and growth.

Stanley points to the small business park off of Harper Road which is home to Masterpiece Engineering and other companies, as an example of The Alliance's early and continuing efforts to support the growth of locally grown businesses.

As they mark the anniversary but also look to the future Stanley said the Rail Hub site near US Highway 72 and the Kimberly Clark Parkway will play a key role in future development. The site is one of only three sites in the Southeast offering true dual railroad access, a key piece of infrastructure for potential industry.

The Alliance also has a developed site on US Highway 45 at the Camp Warriner Road intersection Stanley said offers major benefits to possible new employers. The Alliance President said the future is bright for Corinth, Alcorn County and The Alliance. He said he's most excited about the fact membership in The Alliance is at an all time high.

He said the membership numbers reflect a desire in the community for continued growth and improvement and a belief among residents in the mission and ability of The Alliance to continue to lead the way.