Limestone County selected for Rural Recovery Accelerator Program

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The past five months have been devastating for some local businesses.

Many are still in danger, and now help is on the way in Limestone County.

It’s been selected to participate in the Rural Recovery Accelerator Program, a new community technical assistance program designed to help rural communities build economic resiliency and come out of this current crisis stronger than it went in.

Limestone is one of six counties across Alabama selected to take part in the program.

It was launched by Opportunity Alabama but a handful of other organizations in Athens are on board too. These groups are the Limestone County Economic Development Authority, Athens Main Street, Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, City of Athens, and TARCOG.

The program calls different areas throughout the county, “opportunity zones.”

These are based on economic and poverty numbers from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community affairs.

In the last 10 years, Athens has grown by 25 percent and the accelerator program is intended to showcase this growth to investors, as well as show them available land that’s ready to build on.

Jennifer Williamson, president of the Greater Limestone County Chamber, says investors can receive tax incentives if they build within the zones.

Williamson says Athens also has lots of new housing developments, another incentive to invest in the community. 

“Through these opportunity zones it could mean more affordable housing options, it could mean employment opportunities, small business growth…and so these are just opportunities for revitalization and bringing economic and social change which is something that is greatly needed especially after this pandemic,” Williamson said.

The Limestone County team and Opportunity Alabama have created a survey to help leaders better understand the impact of COVID-19 on residents and businesses.

Williams says this survey is critical to the program and its success.

“The survey will help us better understand how the pandemic affected our businesses and individuals… and how we can help bridge the gap to recovery for our community,” Williamson said.

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