Alabama Communities of Excellence
Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) was created in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation which partners with the Alabama Department of Commerce's Community and Information Services, along with other institutions, to provide technical assistance to small municipalities in Alabama to promote their long-term economic success. In addition, ACE provides resources and knowledge for small communities across the state to focus on the importance of planning, leadership development and broad-based community engagement.
The organization's executive director is Sidney Hoover. The program operates with funding contributed by its partner organizations, which include state offices such as the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Development Office, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the Alabama Historical Commission, the Alabama Southern Rural Access Program, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development. Academic partners include the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network, the Auburn University Economic Development Institute, Jacksonville State University, the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, and the University of West Alabama. Corporate partners include the Alabama Power Company, Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, Regions Bank and Spire. Nonprofit partners include the Alabama Association of Regional Councils, the Alabama League of Municipalities, the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, the Alabama Municipal Electric Association, the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, the David Mathews Center for Civic Life, and Reading Alabama Inc.
Community leaders are provided with training and workshops to develop vision and mission statements, implementation strategies and a sustainable leadership development program. ACE assigns each community with a team of experts from the ACE Associates Council that guide them with an implementation strategy as they work through the program. ACE principles include the active involvement by community stakeholders across a broad demographic spectrum coupled with development of local leaders and leadership capacity and an emphasis on the importance of developing and implementing short- and long-term plans to further the realization of the municipality’s vision.
Qualifying municipalities are those with a population of between 2,000 and 18,000 (originally between 2,000 and 12,000).
Each year the program's board of directors accepts a small number of applications from qualifying communities:
- Class of 2003: Brewton, Demopolis, Guin, Guntersville, Haleyville, Monroeville, Wetumpka, and Valley.
- Class of 2005: Atmore, Heflin, Fayette, Gulf Shores, Millbrook, Thomasville
- Class of 2006: Headland, Jackson, Jacksonville
- Class of 2007: Evergreen, Graysville
- Class of 2008: Childersburg, Leeds, Livingston
- Class of 2009: Arab, Eufaula, Foley, Hartselle, Montevallo
- Class of 2012: Montevallo (re-enrolled)
- Class of 2013: Alexander City, Elba, Fairhope, Helena, Rainsville
- Class of 2014: Saraland
- Class of 2015: Abbeville, Geneva, Jasper, Oneonta, Red Bay, Spanish Fort
- Class of 2017: Bay Minette, Boaz, Center Point, Chelsea, Hanceville, Tallasee
- Class of 2019: Florala, Gardendale
The program is three-tiered and offers a systematic three-phase approach with technical resources and the tools needed to help Alabama’s small towns foster growth and prosperity by focusing on their distinctive assets and resources.
- Phase I, is the assessment phase. During this time, a comprehensive report card detailing community assets and weaknesses will be prepared by an ACE Team and presented to the community along with recommended strategies and actions.
- Phase II, the Leadership Development and Strategic Planning component, each community must establish a leadership development program, prepare an up-to-date strategic plan, and identify a local nonprofit development organization.
- Phase III is the Implementation and Comprehensive Planning segment. Issues addressed during Phase III include comprehensive planning, commercial business development, education enhancement, infrastructure, health and human services, retiree attraction, tourism, economic development, and quality of life.
- Sumners, Joe A. & Larry Lee (n.d.) "Crossroads and Connections: Strategies for Rural Alabama" Auburn University Economic Development Institute
- Burlett, Lee (Fall 2010) "Small Town Alabama: Creating Quality Communities in Alabama: The Alabama Communities of Excellence Program." Southern Business & Development (sponsored content)
- "ACE Designates Three Cities as Alabama Communities of Excellence and Announces the 2019 Incoming Class"