In 2015, Jasper leaders partnered with two programs that have the know-how and proven success to boost a city’s economy and stimulate its growth – the Main Street and Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) programs. These programs give cities access to proven methods for revitalization and draw upon resources that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the town. Because of these partnerships, Walker County residents and visitors will see exciting new changes happen in the upcoming year.
Planning For Success
In the ACE program, Jasper is part of a “class” that includes five other Alabama cities. Each city has to complete three different phases. During each phase, ACE Partners work with a city to reach specific goals. Some of the items addressed during these phases are leadership development, commercial business development, education enhancement and many more.
Only towns with a population between 2,000 and 18,000 can participate.
Tana Collins, the local coordinator for the ACE Program, says Jasper has already completed Phase I, and she expects to receive the full designation as an Alabama Community of Excellence in less than two years.
A Hip, New Downtown
The Main Street Program concentrates on revitalizing the downtown area to make it more retail-, restaurant- and consumer-friendly. Jasper’s downtown already has a lot to offer. Bernard’s Store for Men and Lavish, both located on 19th Street, provide great places for locals to get high-end clothing and fashion-forward brands. Not to mention the annual festivals that bring the community together, like the Foothills Festival.
Mike Putman, a resident of Jasper for over 20 years, was recruited to serve as the executive director for the program and will oversee the future changes to the downtown area. He talks about the quality of what’s already in the area, but the necessity for change.
“The downtown Jasper area has a lot of bright spots where people have come in and opened businesses and restaurants, but it still has improvements to make before it is economically stable and revitalized,” Putman says.
Some of the anticipated changes to the downtown include planting new trees, which will enchance views from restaurant and shop windows, and banners celebrating the town will be hung on lampposts. Putman says they plan to resurface parking lots and make the lots more easily accessible.
A new mural project is underway, which will feature three new murals to help beautify the town. The first is already finished, located at the corner of 19th Street and 4th Avenue, depicting a picture of Sergeant William Jasper, a Revolutionary War hero who’s responsible for the town’s name.
As Putman talks about these upcoming projects, you can hear the commitment in his voice. He’s seen how successful the Main Street Program can be, citing Birmingham as an example.
“If you follow their formula, it works. It’s worked in so many towns before. Like Birmingham,” Putman says. “I grew up in Birmingham, and while I was growing up, the downtown was slowly dying.”
To help solve that, he says, the city began working with the Main Street Program, and today the downtown is flourishing. His hope is Jasper will have a similar success story to tell in the years to come.