Decatur's location gives it potential for growth
"Location, location, location," goes the old maxim about the top three determiners of real estate value. The same can be said of economic development, and Decatur has it covered.
In the short term, Decatur's plight is rough. Cargill, Delphi, Calpine, Solutia, Goodyear and Wolverine Tube are ailing. If they are Decatur's foundation, we have built our city on sand.
Step back far enough to see the big picture, however, and it becomes clear that industry is not Decatur's economic foundation; location is. Our city will no doubt suffer more pain in the months to come. That pain is more akin to a teenager's growing pains, however, than the pain of an invalid gasping her last breaths.
Especially because our city sits near prosperous Huntsville, it is easy to be pessimistic. Focusing on the many who have lost or soon will lose their jobs creates an image of economic disaster.
Negativity is not entirely bad if it helps our city's leaders scrutinize Decatur and plan for a better future, but in the long term our city has tremendous potential. The core of that potential lies in its location.
What does Decatur have to offer? Lots.
We are on Interstate 65, a fact that gives Decatur businesses the ability to send and receive their products. We are on the Tennessee River, which provides barge access to the Gulf of Mexico. We are situated along a major railroad, providing inexpensive access to much of the United States. We are 15 minutes from an international airport. Decatur is within hailing distance of a Toyota engine plant in Huntsville and a growing crop of auto assembly plants elsewhere in the state.
While our proximity to Huntsville sometimes forces painful comparisons, its amazing growth cannot help but benefit us in the long term. It is bursting at the seams. When those seams finally tear because it has run out of land and workers, much of the spillover will end up in Decatur.
Self-criticism is healthy, but we should season it with optimism. Decatur enjoys a location that is unmatched by most cities in the nation.
Our economy may get worse before it gets better. But make no mistake: It will get better.