Montgomery’s new development chief outlines his plan for the city

Darryl Washington remembers his mother sending him to deliver food to a neighbor down the street. This neighbor always sent him home with something for his own family.

“It’s a community. That’s what we need to get back to,” said Washington, who is the new economic development chief under Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed.

That’s not easy to do when “community investing” means dollars pouring in from out of state to buy single family homes and turn them into rental properties, he said.

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“(These owners) are miles away,” Washington said. “And I think that’s been one of the things that has damaged neighborhoods all over the United States.”

The Birmingham native has worked here for around 60 days and said he sees the need to focus on different parts of the city as well, whether it’s downtown or west Montgomery.

For example, he mentioned the potential for an underdeveloped area here that includes the historic St. Jude campus, the old Calhoun Foods, Carver High School, and an interstate exit near Maxwell Air Force Base. The city plans to bring in affordable housing and retail investors in August to showcase the neighborhood.

“Sometimes it only takes one person to make that investment in an area for an area to change,” he said.

Washington has spent 25 years in development, most recently serving as District Development Manager for Urban Impact in Birmingham’s historic Civil Rights District. In his five years with this organization, he helped secure $150 million for the district and left just as they were preparing for a major surge in visitors.

He arrived in Montgomery in May, at a time when restaurants in the city’s tourist district were struggling to keep doors open amid a national staffing shortage, even as the city and county worked together on the way to spend an $87 million US bailout pool. Money Law. A $50 million whitewater center was taking shape, along with a new plan for downtown.

“Downtown revitalization is a goal because that’s really the character of your city. Most people who come to visit, often they don’t go beyond downtown,” Washington said.

“…(But) if you don’t have full buy-in from the community, a plan just becomes a plan.

Washington said he decided to take the job here because of the city’s unique strengths, such as military leaders at Maxwell Air Force Base and potential uses of the nearby Alabama River, including an announced inland port facility. earlier this year that city officials estimate could generate 2,600 direct jobs and $340 million in revenue.

Meanwhile, he said the city plans to work with colleges here to develop a better-educated workforce and give them reasons to stay.

“We can go out and hire a company that creates 100 jobs, but if we don’t have the talent to fill those 100 jobs, then how does that really help the city of Montgomery?” Washington said.

“… The reality is that the tourists are the sauce,” he said. “Because when there are no conventions in town, no concerts in town, it’s the locals who do the real business.”

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brad Harper at [email protected]

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