It’s no secret that Prattville’s retail offerings have been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, and now the number of people who are choosing to visit, or relocate to, the city also is climbing rapidly.
But whichever positive economic indicator you look at, one thing is clear: Prattville has become a destination city.
Quality of Life
“The quality of life, or the livability of our community, is a main reason Prattville is growing,” says (former) Mayor Jim Byard Jr. “Our citizens enjoy premier city services, like police, fire, public works and leisure services, and our residents have a tremendous amount of community pride. We have much to offer residents and tourists alike. Thousands of tourists, and our residents, are history buffs, play golf, fish, or take part in the many parades, sports events and leisure activities available.”
The numbers bear out local officials’ optimism. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from April 2000 to July 2007 Autauga County was the fifth-fastest growing county in Alabama, at 14.4 percent, while Prattville’s population has grown by 22.86 percent.
With so many people putting down permanent roots, the business community has found not only new workers but also new sources of revenue, and has grown accordingly, says Connie Bainbridge, (former) president and director of economic development for the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Our commercial growth is good,” Bainbridge says. “When Bass Pro Shops came here, it gave us credibility as a retail destination, but we’ve also seen a lot of growth downtown, both in retail and in other businesses. People follow jobs, and retail follows people, so we’ve been seeing growth across all these sectors.”
The chamber showcases the entire city and county, so if retail is picking up in one area, manufacturing or white-collar employers might be positioned in another, she adds.
“Because we’re showing property all over to commercial and retail establishments that either need to expand or are looking at coming in with new investment, we’re seeing growth citywide and countywide,” she says. “And now that we have the growth in retail and commercial, we’re focusing on white-collar jobs to fill up some office space opportunities we have.”
Long known for such interesting and diverse sites as Heritage Park and the Daniel Pratt Cemetery, the city has been adding to its roster of tourism destination sites with great success, says Jeremy Arthur, (former) executive vice president of the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Our strategy used to be, if we could get you to stop on your way to either Montgomery or the beach, that was good,” Arthur says. “Now we can market ourselves as a destination, promoting our historic sites and our downtown, and also capitalize on the success we’ve had with being a stop on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. More people are stopping here, and staying here, than ever before.”
Prattville’s central location to the various golfing opportunities in Alabama has allowed the city to promote itself in the sports world as well, along with having the only Bass Pro Shops in the state.
“We have a lot here that’s a draw.” Arthur says. “We are getting the sporting people, but also the people that are lured in by the unique boutiques and eateries that we have downtown. And a lot of history buffs come because of the Daniel Pratt Historic District and the Heritage Association’s museum. And it’s all just a few miles apart.”
All those visitors are leading to a boom in hotel/motel construction in the area, which in turn will help fuel even more destination marketing, commercial and residential growth. And that’s just fine over at city hall, where the desire for growth is always balanced with the need to ensure Prattville maintains its charming civic character.
“We at the city staff level work extremely hard planning for our future infrastructure,” says Byard. “As the leader of a growing city, I must always keep our city’s livability first and foremost in my thoughts and in my actions.”