SPECIAL REPORT: WHAT TUSCALOOSA CAN LEARN FROM GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA

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More than 70 Tuscaloosa County business leaders spent two days in Greenville, South Carolina, last week, learning all about how a city with two-thirds the population of Tuscaloosa is experiencing a booming revitalization.

In many ways, Greenville is a lot like Tuscaloosa, but it’s setting the bar high for how a city should be run.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said he calls it a three decade effort in strategic planning and investments.

“There are elements that are embedded in what Greenville has done that can translate perfectly into Tuscaloosa,” Maddox said. “I’m excited, but the most exciting thing to me is this isn’t a government-led initiative, this is being led by the business and civic leaders in our community.”

Like, Northport, Greenville’s mayor is a part-time position, said Northport Interim City Administrator Bruce Higginbotham.

“People look at (Northport) and see that we have so much room to grow,” Higginbotham said. “Kind of like Greenville 20 and 30 years ago when they were focusing on developing their strategic plan for the future. Northport is at that point today, and that’s probably the biggest thing we have in common.”

Clemson University is a 40-minute drive from Greenville, and officials say it’s not a big contribution to Greenville’s success. But it’s no secret that in Tuscaloosa and Northport, the University of Alabama plays a major part in the future.

UA President Dr. Stuart Bell said he’s pleased with the partnership.

“It’s important to us for our students, but also our faculty and staff,” Bell said. “For us to achieve our mission of impacting the state the way we want, we have to come together. We need to come together, and there’s a lot of people who want to see that happen.”

Greenville has one school system with more than 72,000 students. Like Tuscaloosa, the system has a strategic plan known as Priorities with Performance.

But what stood out for District 5 Tuscaloosa City Schools Board Member Erika Grant was Greenville’s unusual schools.

“They are very innovative,” she said. “They are taking it to the next level with elementary engineering — children start learning engineering as early as third grade.”

Chamber officials said they’ll host a public forum about their Greenville trip in the near future.

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