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LAURA ANDERS LEE is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. She currently contributes to No’Ala magazine in the Shoals and Huntsville. Laura contributed regularly to Pensacola Magazine and the Northwest Florida Business Climate, wrote the annual Visitor Guide and generated more than 1,000 stories in the media nationwide promoting Pensacola as a place to visit and live. A native of Fairhope, Alabama, Laura graduated summa cum laude from the University of Alabama in communications. She now lives in Florence, Alabama, with her husband and two sons where they enjoy exploring the city’s parks and waterways. NANCY MANN JACKSON, a Shoals native, has worked as an independent writer and editor since 2001. She writes regularly about business, finance and lifestyle topics for a variety of publications. Her work has appeared in Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com, Bankrate, Working Mother, AARP Bulletin, Smithsonian. com, Business Alabama and a number of other outlets. She previously worked as an editor in New York and as an English teacher in Georgia and Birmingham. She currently lives in Huntsville but still calls the Shoals home. SHANNON WELLS has been a professional photographer since 1978 and is the university photographer for the University of North Alabama. She is the mother of five grown children and grandmother to one grandson. She lives with two dogs, enjoys cooking, gardening and mentoring young photographers. 

“We refer to ourselves as the South’s best-kept secret, but lately the word has been getting out. Just in the past year or two our community has been recognized in national publications such as US News & World Report, Southern Living, Executive Travel and Garden and Gun touting everything from our music, designers, schools and quality of life, not to mention our barbecue! ... Just ask any business or individual featured in this book, and they will tell you: There really is something in the water. Come visit us and learn more about what our wonderful community has to offer. I think this is a pretty special place, and I hope you will, too.” — Steve Holt, CCE, CED, President, The Shoals Chamber of Commerce —

ative American Indians called the Tennessee River the singing river, and its melodious tune has lured people to the area for thousands of years, flowing with promises of a new beginning. Nestled in the cozy northwest corner of Alabama, amid rolling hills, evergreen trees, secluded caves and expansive valleys, four communities are strung together like charms along the Tennessee River. Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals each possess their own distinct personality, yet are bound by common threads: Love of culture. Love of people. Love of place. The Shoals is a special place where the four towns play off each other’s strengths to form one community. The kind of place that encourages creativity and new ideas from artists, students and entrepreneurs, yet honors age-old traditions and family values. The kind of place where you’re just as likely to find a seventhgeneration native as meet an international student or multicultural executive. As you turn the pages in this book, you’ll see why word is getting out about this self-proclaimed best-kept secret of the South. Not only is the Shoals continuing to make a name for itself in the world of art, music and culture, but for a booming economy that was ranked No. 1 in 2012 for job growth and stability. This volume promises to be a treasured keepsake and resource for anyone who calls The Shoals home. We hope you enjoy your experience within these pages as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you.


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Photo courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.


The Shoals

Cities in Harmony

Sponsored by The Shoals Chamber of Commerce Written by Laura Anders Lee Corporate profiles by Nancy Mann Jackson Featuring the photography of Shannon Wells Introduction by Steve Holt, CCE, CED President, The Shoals Chamber of Commerce Editorial Staff Editor in Chief, Lenita Gilreath Profile Editor, Jennifer Kornegay Managing Editor, Rachel Beers Fisher Marketing Coordinator, Catherine Goodwin Designer, Scott Fuller

Ronald P. Beers, Publisher Paula Haider, Associate Publisher Beers & Associates, LLC 8650 Minnie Brown Road, Suite 120 Montgomery, AL 36117 Š 2014 Beers & Associates, LLC First Edition ISBN: 978-0-9913534-1-5 Library of Congress Control Number: 2014934522 Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information herein. However, the authors and Beers & Associates, LLC are not responsible for any errors or omissions that might have occurred. Printed in the USA

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Photo by Chuck Craig.

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Table of Contents Leadership Logos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Corporate Time Line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Introduction: Hitting All the Right Notes by Steve Holt, CCE, CED President, The Shoals Chamber of Commerce. . . . . . . 9 PART ONE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Chapter One The Sounds of the Shoals. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Chapter Two In Tune With the Past, Present and Future . . . . . . . . 22 Chapter Three The Muscle Shoals Sound. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Chapter Four Bravo to Arts and Culture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Chapter Five Sports and Recreation in Rhythm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Chapter Six A Standing Ovation for Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Chapter Seven Manufacturing and Transportation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 Chapter Eight Restaurants and Retail. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80 Chapter Nine Conducting Business: Health Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 Chapter Ten Encore! The Good Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 PART TWO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 Business, Finance and Real Estate Services . . . . . . . . . 108 Health Care, Education and Quality of Life . . . . . . . 122 Manufacturing and Industrial Services. . . . . . . . . . . . 138 Marketplace and Hospitality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154 Government Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166 Corporate Sponsor Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 Sources, Credits and Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . 176 5


The Shoals Chamber of Commerce and the publisher express our gratitude to the following companies and organizations for their leadership in the development of this book.

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Photo courtesy of University of North Alabama Archives


We also express our gratitude to the following companies and organizations that took time to meet with us and tell us their individual stories. The stories of the companies and organizations in color type are included in Part Two.

Corporate Time Line

1818 • Lauderdale County Commission • 1820 • City of Tuscumbia • 1826 • The City of Florence 1830 • University of North Alabama • 1853 • Milner Rushing Discount Drugs • 1855 • Tuscumbia City Schools • 1858 • Town of Rogersville • 1884 • Courier Journal • 1884 • Herald Quickprint and Technology • 1885 • City of Sheffield • 1887 • Alabama Land Services •1889 • SunTrust Bank 1890 • Florence City Schools • 1898 • Catholic Hill Community • 1913 • Lauderdale County School System • 1917 • Books-A-Million 1918 • Johnson Contractors • Trowbridge’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Bar 1919 • Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital • 1921 • Helen Keller Hospital • 1923 • City of Muscle Shoals • TEC Cherokee Division • 1933 • Printers & Stationers • Tennessee Valley Authority • 1935 • First Southern Bank • 1936 • Florence Gas and Water Department • Sheffield Utilities • TVA Credit Union 1937 • Southwire • 1939 • United Way of Northwest Alabama • Potts & Young • Joe Wheeler State Park 1940 • Northwest Alabama Regional Airport • 1941 • Wise Metals Group • 1946 • Monarch Ceramic Tile • 1947 • Bank Independent • Mars Hill Bible School • 1949 • Paper & Chemical Supply Company • Flexco Corporation • 1950 • Colbert Memorial Gardens • 1951 • B.H. Craig Construction 1952 • Listerhill Credit Union • 1954 • Ivy Green / Helen Keller Birthplace • 1957 • Tarkett 1958 • First Federal Mortgage • 1959 • FAME • 1961 • Damson Automotive Group • Dixie Signs & Decals, Inc. • Turtle Point Yacht and Country Club • 1962 • Bigbee Steel Buildings • Muscle Shoals City Schools • Big River Broadcasting • 1963 • Northwest-Shoals Community College • 1964 • BBVA Compass • General Sign Company • Ray Miller Buick-GMC • 1965 • Shoals Homebuilders Association 1967 • ES ROBBINS Corporation • Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments 1968 • Shoals Hospital 1971 • Coldwell Banker Pinnacle Properties Heritage • Christian University 1972 • North Alabama Gas District • 1976 • North Alabama Bone & Joint Clinic • International Fertilizer Development Center • 1978 • Tele-Sec Communication • 1981 • Applied Chemical Technology • Florence Lauderdale County Port Authority • 1982 • Music Preservation Society 1983 • ALABAMA Interconnect • Colbert County Tourism • 1984 • Neese Real Estate • Senators Coaches • 1985 • O’Bannon & O’Bannon • H.W. Lewis Hobart Store Equipment, Inc. • 1986 • The Shoals Chamber of Commerce • 1988 • Capital Vending & Distribution • Restoration Works 1988 • TN Southern Railroad • 1990 • Keystone Business Center • 1991 • Killen True Value/Builders Choice • Jim Bishop Toyota • 1992 • Florence Eye Center • Patterson, Prince, & Associates CPAs • Shoals Economic Development Authority • Hospice of the Shoals • 1993 • Bethesda Cancer Treatment Center • 1994 • Mini Motors Outdoor Power Equipment, Inc. • WPI Roofing & Construction • Sperry’s Restaurant • 1995 • Florence/Lauderdale Tourism • Leigh, King CPA • Anderson & Anderson, Inc. 1996 • Long Lewis of the Shoals • Ricatoni’s Italian Grill • Centiva • 1997 • Supreme Lending • Avis Rental Car • Keystone Business Center • 1999 • Global Fire Sprinkler • Family Home Builders • 2000 • Alabama Chanin • The Irons Law Firm • 2002 • Billy Reid • Shoals Orthopedic & Sports Medicine • Window World • 2003 • Investar • SCA • 2004 • B Electric, Inc. • Flournoy Yacht Charters • RTJ Golf at the Shoals • Gonce & Messer • Walgreens Call Center • 2005 • Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa 2006 • Longing for Home B&B • Rogersville Chamber • Kairos Financial • 2007 • North American Lighting • Osa’s Garden • 2008 • Progress Bank • 2009 • The UPS Store • 2010 • H&H Construction • Johnson Paseur & Medley, LLC • 2011 • Shoals Scholar Dollars • Johnson’s Cleaners • 2012 • TASUS Alabama • Shoals Ambulance • 2013 • Jamison Inn 7


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Photo by Shannon Wells.


Introduction

Hitting All the Right Notes

L

et me be the first to welcome you to the Shoals. For the past 20 years, I’ve been blessed to call this wonderful place my home. They say there is something in the water here, and I have to agree. It’s the only way to explain why our families are so happy, why our businesses are so successful, why our musicians and artists are so talented … We just seem to have it all. As you turn the pages in this book, you’ll get a taste of our area’s local flavor and our incredible way of life. They say a picture is a worth a thousand words, and that’s why we were sure to include images that capture the natural beauty of our area, our amazing arts and cultural offerings and our go-with-the-flow attitude. We refer to ourselves as the South’s best-kept secret, but lately the word has been getting out. Just in the past year or two our community has been recognized in national publications such as US News & World Report, Southern Living, Executive Travel and Garden and Gun touting everything from our music, designers, schools and quality of life, not to mention our barbecue! While we were put on the map for musical success in the ’60s, our locals are still producing hits today, whether it’s The Civil Wars picking up another Grammy; Mac McAnally being named CMA’s Musician of the Year for the sixth year in a row; The Swampers, John Paul White and Jason Isbell on the Late Show with David Letterman or the Alabama Shakes performing on Saturday Night Live. And speaking of creative talent, Shoals designer Billy Reid has been named GQ’s Designer of the Year, and Natalie “Alabama” Chanin has been featured in Vogue, Style.com and the Los Angeles Times, to name just a few. Our other industries are celebrating growth and success as well. The Shoals is the sixth largest market in Alabama, and our economy was ranked No. 1 in 2012 for job growth and stability thanks to a diverse mix of manufacturers, service industries, retailers and medical and financial institutions. Just ask any business or individual featured in this book, and they will tell you: There really is something in the water. Come visit us and learn more about what our wonderful community has to offer. I think this is a pretty special place, and I hope you will, too. A warm welcome,

Steve Holt, CCE, CED President, The Shoals Chamber of Commerce

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PART ONE

Tom Hendrix has been building a stone wall for over 30 years in memory of his great-great-grandmother’s journey. Te-lah-nay was part of the Yuchi Indian tribe that lived near here along the Tennessee River in the 1800s. Photo by Shannon Wells. 11


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Chapter One

The Sounds of the Shoals

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t’s the baritone of a barge as it glides through the Wilson Dam lock; the whir of a line from a bass fisherman; the clink of a golf ball hitting the cup at the Robert Trent Jones course; the squeals of laughter from children at the splash pad; the acoustic guitar from a singer-songwriter playing at Billy Reid’s flagship store – there are many sounds of the Shoals. Native American Indians called the Tennessee River the singing river, and its melodious tune has lured people to the area for thousands of years, flowing with promises of a new beginning. While much has changed and progressed over the centuries and decades, one thing remains the same. The river’s fertile banks provide its people a steady rhythm of life: work and play, work and play.

opposite page: The Shoals Symphony Association works to enhance

above: The Tennessee River’s fertile banks provide its people a steady

the cultural life of all residents of the Shoals area through musical

rhythm of life: work and play, work and play. Photo by Shannon Wells.

performances and educational programs. Photo by Shannon Wells. 13


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Welcome Home Nestled in the cozy northwest corner of Alabama, amid rolling hills, evergreen trees, secluded caves and expansive valleys, four communities are strung together like charms along the Tennessee River. Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals each possess their own distinct personality yet are bound by common threads: Love of culture. Love of people. Love of place. The Shoals is a special place where the four towns play off each other’s strengths to form one community. The kind of place that encourages creativity and new ideas from artists, students and entrepreneurs, yet honors age-old traditions and family values. The kind of place where you’re just as likely to find a seventh-

Shoals by the Numbers

*

147,137 Population (2010 US Census) 68,030 Labor force ( January 2013) $51,000 Median family income (Alabama Housing Affordability Index, 4Q 2013) 270 Manufacturing and distribution operations (2012) 89.6 Cost of Living index (ACCRA 3Q 2013) 60.7° Annual average temperature (2012) 6.8% Unemployment Rate ( January 2013) 2 Approximate hours it takes to drive to Birmingham, Memphis or Nashville *Data provided by The Shoals Chamber of Commerce

opposite page: The first Friday of every month, Downtown Florence

above: The Historic Shoals Community Theatre first opened as a movie

sponsors First Fridays, where artists, retailers and musicians spill

theater in 1948. Now, it’s home to where the best concerts, plays,

out onto the sidewalk allowing the crowd to shop in a street-party

musicals and other events occur. Photo by Shannon Wells.

atmosphere. Photo by Shannon Wells. 15


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Wilson Park is the site for Music in the Park, Easter egg hunts, Arts Alive, Handy Festival activities, the Alabama Renaissance Faire and Christmas in the Park. Photo by Shannon Wells.


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above: Some of the greatest artists in the music industry have recorded

below: In 1969, Barry Beckett, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins and David

at FAME Recording Studio. Photo by Shannon Wells.

Hood—calling themselves the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section—opened their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios located at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield. Photo courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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In the mid-1970s, success bred success, and Muscle Shoals became known as “the hit recording capital of the world.” Photo by Shannon Wells.

generation native as meet an international student or multicultural executive. It’s a place where everybody knows each other’s business and wants them to succeed. A place for successful companies like Navistar, Hillshire Farms, Books A Million and TNT; a place for musicians like John Paul White, Mac McAnally and the Secret Sisters; a place for nationally renowned designers like Billy Reid and Natalie “Alabama” Chanin. With picturesque lakes, rivers and woods, it’s a place for outdoor enthusiasts, too, those wanting to cast a line, take a hike or learn to ski.

Famous Locals Helen Keller

Rece Davis

W.C. Handy

Ozzie Newsome

George Lindsey

Stewart Cink

Mac McAnally

Percy Sledge

Billy Reid

Josh Willingham

John Paul White

Just to name a few!

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above: Area hotels make it easy for guests to unwind and relax by offering Southern charm and hospitality. Photo by Shannon Wells. right: Ivy Green is the birthplace of Helen Keller, known around the world for the courage she demonstrated to overcome obstacles. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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It’s the kind of place where a stranger waves to another, where a neighbor greets a moving van with a homemade casserole, and where the people are as warm as the weather.

Tom Braly Municipal Stadium, on the campus of Florence Middle School, is the home to

Getting Here

both the University of North

The Shoals is conveniently located near the fast-growing business centers of Memphis, Nashville and Birmingham, an area known as the growth triangle. In the 1930s, the Tennessee Valley Authority established a series of dams along the Tennessee River making the river accessible for commerce. Major highway systems like U.S. 72 and Alabama 157 make nearby interstates easily accessible. The Northwest Alabama Regional Airport is a convenient option for residents and business travelers, plus the Huntsville International Airport is just an hour’s drive away. The community serves a regional trade area of 410,000 people and is within a day’s drive of more than half of the United States’ markets.

Alabama and Florence High School football teams. Photo by Shannon Wells.

“Life is like a trumpet – if you don’t put anything into it, you don’t get anything out of it.” — W.C. Handy — 21


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Chapter Two

In Tune with the Past, Present and Future A Time Line of the Shoals Prehistoric Era: 10,000 BC – Early Native Americans, predating the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Creek nations, live in the Shoals area. At 43 feet high, their mound can be visited on the banks of the Tennessee River near downtown Florence and is the state’s largest trove of ancient pottery, jewelry and tools, including items such as spears and fish hooks. Early Colonial: 1715 – French traders make their way to Northwest Alabama, encountering Chickasaw and Cherokee Indians. 1798 – Chickasaw Chief George Colbert, for whom the county is later named, operates a ferry across the Tennessee River. War of 1812 – Soldiers travel through North Alabama along the Natchez Trace, a Native American game trail that later becomes a major road through the frontier from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. 1817 – The Alabama territory is created. General Jackson creates the Jackson Military Road at York’s Bluff, in present-day Sheffield. 1818 – The town of Tuscumbia is founded at present-day Big Spring Park and named for Chickasaw Chief Tuscumbia, who is friendly to the European settlers. Lauderdale County is founded, named after Colonel James Lauderdale who died in the Battle of New Orleans. The first sale of lots is held in Florence by the Cypress Land Company; General John Coffee is the original surveyor. Later, the community hospital is named for his daughter Eliza Coffee.

opposite page: Florence was surveyed for the Cypress Land Company in 1818 by Italian surveyor Ferdinand Sannoner, who named it after Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy. A bustling downtown is shown circa early 1900s. Photo courtesy of the University of North Alabama Archives.

The mural “Chief Tuscumbia Greets the Dickson Family,” was painted by Jack McMillen in 1939 as a federal Works Progress Administration project. Photo courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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Established in 1830 as Alabama’s first college, LaGrange soon became known as “The West Point of the South.” The college was destroyed by Union forces led by Colonel Florence M. Cornyn. Today, the historic site has been recreated with a pioneer village, including a welcome center and museum, restored cemetery and park. Photo courtesy of the University of North Alabama Archives.

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1819 – Alabama becomes the 22nd state to enter the Union. 1820 – Dred Scott, who later becomes famous for his role in the landmark Supreme Court case, moves to Florence with his master Peter Blow. 1824 – The Tuscumbian prints the following census: Lauderdale County has 6,859 whites, 47 free blacks and 2,468 slaves. 1826 – The City of Florence is incorporated. 1827 – The First Presbyterian Church, Alabama’s earliest house of worship in continuous service, is founded in Tuscumbia. 1830 – LaGrange College is founded and later moved to downtown Florence where it becomes the Florence Wesleyan College and ultimately the University of North


Alabama. In addition, the first railroad built west of the Appalachian Mountains, the Tuscumbia Railroad, begins transporting cotton from downtown Tuscumbia to barges on the Tennessee River. Trail of Tears – The Indian Removal Act orders the removal of the five civilized tribes including Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muskogee (Creek), Choctaw and Seminole to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). This includes thousands of Native Americans, mostly Chickasaw and Cherokee, in the Shoals, who were sent via Tuscumbia and Waterloo. 1832 – There is an abolitionist society in Florence.

Coldwater Falls in Spring Park is one of the most photographed spots in the county. More than 4.3 million gallons of water cascade down this 48-foot tall cliff daily. Near the falls, an Indian statue, Sacred Tears, stands 12 feet in height and pays tribute to Tuscumbia’s early heritage in commemoration of Native Americans. Photo by Shannon Wells. 25


above: Florence had become one of the first textile centers in the Southeast. However, the town suffered greatly during the Civil War as it repeatedly changed hands between Union and Confederate forces, leaving nearly all its industrial base destroyed along with parts of the city. Photo courtesy of the University of North Alabama Archives.

right: The W. C. Handy Music Festival has evolved into a 10-day long celebration that includes a parade, various artists at venues around town, and larger music events at Wilson Park in downtown Florence. The park features a statue of Handy and is close to his birthplace and museum. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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1844 – Te-lah-nay walks from Oklahoma back to the Shoals, becoming the first documented Native American woman to make it back to her home following the Trail of Tears. A monument built in her honor by her great, great grandson can be visited along the Natchez Trace. 1860 – The Memphis and Charleston Railroad Bridge, now part of Southern Railway, is constructed over the Tennessee River. 1861-1865 – The Civil War – Lauderdale’s Secession Convention Delegates are cooperationists, believing that all the Southern states should band together and first try to work out differences with the federal government. However, they are outnumbered, and Alabama secedes. There are no major battles during the war, but there are skirmishes. Two Union gunboats chase the Confederate C.S.S. Dunbar up Cypress Creek where it becomes stuck on a sandbar at the Gundle Ford. Confederate forces burn the M&C Railroad Bridge to keep it from being used by Union forces. Pope’s Tavern is one of several field hospitals, serving men on both sides. 1867 – Colbert County splits from Franklin County in order to give North Alabama another representative in the state senate and to make getting to the county seat easier for residents. 1872 – Civil War Guerilla Chief “Mountain Tom” Clark is arrested and confesses to murdering 16 men. He is lynched, and due to his boast that “no one ever runs over Tom Clark,” he is buried underneath East Tennessee Street, just outside the city cemetery, so that everyone would have to run over him – or so the legend goes. Also that year, Florence native James T. Rapier becomes the second AfricanAmerican from Alabama elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. 1873 – W.C. Handy is born in a log cabin near downtown Florence. He later becomes the father of the blues with notable works including St. Louis Blues and Beale St. Blues. The brick walls of the Colbert County Courthouse date back to its construction in 1881. It houses county government and serves as the centerpiece of the surrounding Tuscumbia National Register Historic District. The dome and columned porticoes were added when the building was rebuilt in 1908 following a fire. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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The life and times of Helen Keller are preserved at her birthplace and childhood home, Ivy Green. Built in 1820, the home and birthplace cottage are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Shannon Wells.

opposite page: Formerly Tuscumbia’s Railroad Hotel, Palace Drug Store is open today as an ice cream and sandwich shop. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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1880 – Helen Keller is born at Ivy Green in Tuscumbia and loses her sight and hearing at just 19 months due to meningitis. With the help of her teacher Anne Sullivan, she becomes the first blind-deaf person to effectively communicate. She graduates from Radcliffe College, publishes 14 books and is an early member of the ACLU. 1881 – During the construction of the Muscle Shoals Canal, the infamous Jesse James Gang robs the U.S. Paymaster of $5,200. 1882 – The Colbert County Courthouse is constructed in a grand Italianate/Greek Revival style. 1885 – The Shoals experiences an industrial boom, centered in East Florence, on land once part of former Governor Robert Miller Patton’s Sweetwater Plantation. The area is home to the Stove Foundry, the Pump and Lumber Company, the Bucket Factory and Florence Wagon Factory, the second largest only to Studebaker. The area of York Bluff is incorporated as Sheffield. 1900 – Tuscumbia’s railroad hotel becomes Palace Drug Store, which is open today as an ice cream and sandwich shop. 1901 – President William McKinley gives a speech from his train car in Tuscumbia. 1907 – The Southern Railway Depot in East Florence is completed. 1910 – Former President Theodore Roosevelt, on his way to Hot Springs, Arkansas stops to make a speech in Tuscumbia.


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above: Pictured is the Tennessee River Railroad Bridge, spanning the Tennessee River at Alabama Highway 43 in Florence. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

right: A part of the cornerstone of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Wilson Dam boasts one of the highest, single-lift locks in the world. Construction on the dam began during World War I. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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1913 – A new courthouse and post office building is completed in downtown Florence in a neoclassical style. World War I: 1914-1918 – The United States government begins work on Wilson Dam, named for President Woodrow Wilson. Trowbridge’s opens as a lunch counter and remains a popular place today. The U.S. Government Nitrate Plant is constructed to manufacture chemicals for the war. 1921 – Henry Ford and Thomas Edison make a trip to the Shoals. Ford offers to buy the Shoals for $5 million and finish construction of Wilson Dam, intending to create power for a city 75 miles long with 1 million workers. The Ford Bill is killed in the Senate by Senator Norris of Nebraska, who later creates the TVA Bill. 1923 – The City of Muscle Shoals is incorporated. 1926 – The Wilson Dam is completed, and the first car is driven across. The Great Depression: 1933 – On the first of three trips to the Shoals, PresidentElect Franklin D. Roosevelt makes good on his campaign promise to put the dam and nitrate plants, which had been idle, to use. Roosevelt is said to have “lit up the valley” with the creation of Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933. 1935 – Ozzie Nelson, later of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and his orchestra play in Sheffield. 1939 – The O’Neal Bridge opens connecting Florence and Sheffield, and Frank Lloyd Wright builds a home for Florence residents Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum. 1941 – The United States enters World War II. 1950 – Dexter Johnson establishes the area’s first recording studio, followed by Tune Records founded by James Joiner and Kelso Hurston. Bobby Denton performs Joiner’s A Fallen Star on American Bandstand. President John F. Kennedy (at podium) delivers an address from the speakers’ platform in front of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Chemical Engineering Building at a celebration commemorating the 30th anniversary of the TVA. Photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

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1955 – Elvis Presley plays at the Sheffield Community Center followed by Louis Armstrong two years later. 1959 – Songwriter Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford form FAME Publishing, recording songs for Roy Orbison, Brenda Lee, George Jones and Chet Atkins. Hall splits from his partners the following year and records You Better Move On, an international hit. 1962 – The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, nicknamed The Swampers, forms to provide backup to recording artists. 1963 – President John F. Kennedy speaks in Muscle Shoals for TVA’s 30th anniversary. 1964 – The Civil Rights Movement prevails, ending segregation. 1965 – More and more studios open. Area native Percy Sledge records When a Man Loves a Woman, the first No. 1 hit recorded in Muscle Shoals. Others follow including Wilson Pickett’s Mustang Sally, Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man and Clarence Carter’s Slip Away. 1969 – The Swampers open their own studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, which is featured on Cher’s album. 1970s – Muscle Shoals is dubbed the “Hit Recording Capital of the World” with the Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, Paul Simon’s Love Me Like a Rock and the Osmonds’ One Bad Apple. 1980 – Lynyrd Skynyrd’s hit song Sweet Home Alabama includes the line “Muscle Shoals has got The Swampers,” furthering the musical fame of the area. Percy Sledge worked in a series of blue-collar jobs in the fields in Leighton, Alabama before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield. Through the mid-1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends, while working at the hospital during the week. Photo courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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Roe Erister “Rick” Hall is an American record producer, songwriter, music publisher and musician who is best known as the owner and proprietor of the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. Photo courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

1990s to 2014 – The Shoals remains a hot bed for musicians including locals Gary Baker, Patterson Hood of the Drive By Truckers, Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes, Mac McAnally of Jimmy Buffet’s Coral Reefer Band, John Paul White of The Civil Wars, Jason Isbell and Secret Sisters. 2009 – Florence native Stewart Cink wins the British Open. 2012 – The population approaches 150,000, with 2,000 babies born at the two area hospitals. The Tennessee River remains a hub for manufacturers, and the business climate is strong with a mix of retailers and financial and health care institutions. iPads replace text books at Florence High School, and UNA seeks Division I status.

“I grew up in my family’s homeplace; seven generations of my family grew up in that house including my children. I grew up surrounded by lots of keepsakes from family members, and my parents had an appreciation for the town and instilled community spirit and a love of history in me. I probably gained a lot of it just by osmosis. Today I find Tuscumbia has a spirit of camaraderie. It’s nice to know your neighbors and walk to shops and restaurants.” — Ninon Parker, Tuscumbia resident — 33


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“I’ve been working on this wall for 27 years in honor of my great, great grandmother, an American Indian who left here in 1839 on the Trail of Tears and who made it back in 1844. When I visited her people in Tulsa, they told me to honor my ancestors with stones.” — Tom Hendrix — Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Chapter Three

The Muscle Shoals Sound

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ome say the Tennessee River inspires creativity; others credit the melting pot of influences. But one thing is certain: Small-town Alabama has a big name in the music industry. The first person from the Shoals to make a name for himself in music was W.C. Handy, known as the “father of the blues.” Born in a log cabin in 1873 in Florence, Handy later moved to Memphis to pursue a music career, writing the hits St. Louis Blues and Beale St. Blues. According to Terry Pace, Muscle Shoals music historian and University of North Alabama English professor, Handy’s blues were born from a mixture of music in the Shoals from the American Indians, the Scots-Irish and the African-American slaves, which all inspired Handy in his youth. From there, everything else that developed musically in the Shoals was built. “Muddy Waters said the blues had a baby and named it rock ‘n’ roll,” said Pace.

opposite page The first music festival dedicated to W.C. Handy was held in 1982 in the Shoals. Since then, every year has featured a growing number of talented musicians drawing thousands of visitors to the Shoals area. Photo by Shannon Wells.

The Helen Keller Festival is a four-day celebration that kicks off with

businesses keep their doors open late, special vendors fill the streets,

a parade along Tuscumbia’s Main Street and a block party. Local

and bands play following the parade. Photo by Shannon Wells. 37


opposite page: W.C. Handy Music Festival visitors come from all over the United States, as well as internationally, providing an economic tourism boost to northern Alabama. Photo by Shannon Wells.

The Secret Sisters are an American traditional country music duo, consisting of vocalists Laura and Lydia Rogers. The duo’s music has been compared to artists like The Everly Brothers and Doc Watson. Photo by Jessica Pajron.

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The “father of rock ‘n’ roll” is none other than Sam Phillips, another Florence native who, like Handy, moved to Memphis to pursue his career. “Phillips thought if he could find a white performer who could sing the blues, then he would be a millionaire and change the world,” Pace said. Phillips’ prophesy couldn’t have been more true as he went on to launch the careers of Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis. “Up until the late ‘50s, if you wanted to do anything in music, you had to leave,” said Pace. “But soon Muscle Shoals was established as an area that not only created the musicians, but also where music was created.” In 1950, Dexter Johnson established the area’s first recording studio in his Sheffield garage, and later that year, James Joiner and Kelso Herston formed Tune Records, recording Joiner’s song A Fallen Star with teenage singer (and future state senator) Bobby Denton who later performed on The Dick Clark Show. Then, Joiner teamed with Tom Stafford to form Spar Music, before Stafford joined songwriters Rick Hall and Billy Sherrill to form FAME Publishing in Florence in 1959. FAME’s first clients were Roy Orbison, Brenda Lee, George Jones and Conway Twitty before the partnership split, and Hall took the FAME publishing name with him to a new home in Muscle Shoals. Rick Hall pitched his first record as a studio producer, Arthur Alexander’s You Better Move On, to record companies in Nashville, but he was told it was too country for black people and too bluesy for white people. So he went home and created what became known


as the “Muscle Shoals sound,” which Pace describes as an “earthy, raw, country-blues flavored approach” to rhythm and blues. Hall formed an in-house rhythm section to provide backup for recording artists, who were drawn to the organic atmosphere of the studio. “The sound was so adaptable and so loose and spontaneous rock ‘n’ roll. They had nothing on paper and didn’t use written arrangements,” said Pace. “Muscle Shoals is all about the groove. When people wanted to break out of the mold in Nashville or other places where there was more of an assembly-line approach, they came here for inspiration and rejuvenation.” The Shoals carved out its own corner in the raciallydivided state, becoming an integrated haven for color-blind music, even as the civil rights movement intensified in the South. “While you’ve got police dogs and fire hoses elsewhere in the state, you have blacks and whites inside the studios making beautiful music together in the Shoals,” said Pace. In 1965, one of Rick Hall’s songwriters Quin Ivy, opened NorAla Sound for FAME’s spillover business. Ivy’s first client was a local musician by the name of Percy Sledge. Sledge recorded When a Man Loves a Woman, which became the area’s first No. 1 hit. After that, Atlantic Records sent

Recorded in the Shoals Against the Wind – Bob Seger Bloody Mary Morning – Willie Nelson Brown Sugar – The Rolling Stones Family Tradition – Hank Williams Jr. Howlin’ For You – The Black Keys I’ll Take You There – The Staple Singers Kodachrome – Paul Simon Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett Patches – Clarence Carter Slow Train Coming – Bob Dylan Stars Fell on Alabama – Jimmy Buffett Tell Mama – Etta James Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones When a Man Loves a Woman – Percy Sledge Just to name a few!

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“The Indians said it was the singing river. I don’t have a better explanation than that. People have come through here and made wonderful music for a long time. W.C. Handy, Roger Hawkins, it pours out of people.” — Mac McAnally, Grammy Award-winning artist and CMA Musician of the Year — Mac McAnally is pictured on page 42. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Mac McAnally continues to play alongside Jimmy Buffett in the Coral Reefer Band and has been named CMA’s musician of the year for six consecutive years. Photo by Shannon Wells.

big-name artists such as Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett to record in the area. Meanwhile, Ivy continued recording hits by Sledge and other soul artists while Hall worked with Clarence Carter, Arthur Conley, Otis Redding and Etta James. Then in 1969, Hall’s studio musicians at the time – Barry Beckett, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins and David Hood, calling themselves the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section – left FAME to open their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield. “They had a way of working together, a camaraderie, a mind-reading way of communicating with one another on the studio floor,” said Pace. “They could adapt their style to fit any artist who came to that studio.” It was that style that continued to attract a wide range of musicians into the ‘70s including the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Paul Simon. As more studios began to open in the mid-1970s, success bred 42

success, and Muscle Shoals became known as “the hit recording capital of the world.” But in the ‘80s, an economic recession had a negative impact on the music industry, especially in the Shoals. Recordings still took place, but not on the same scale, as the Shoals lost studio business to Nashville and other large recording centers. But Shoals musicians kept on creating music. Mac McAnally, a Sheffield resident, was making a name for himself as a songwriter and musician; locally based country band Shenandoah was producing national hits; and local songwriters continued selling popular works to major artists like Gary Baker’s I Swear for John Michael Montgomery, which won a Grammy Award in 1994. Pace says in recent years, the area has gone back to its roots and has started developing home-grown talent again, something the industry had largely ignored when all the big names were coming here. FAME (still under Hall’s ownership), 3614 Jackson Highway


Photo by Shannon Wells.

Classical Music in the Spotlight The Shoals might be home to the father of the blues, the father of rock ‘n’ roll and The Swampers, but an active symphony housed at UNA takes classical music to center stage. What began as a group of local string musicians wanting to play together more than 30 years ago has evolved into a semi-professional, regional orchestra. Throughout the last three decades, the Shoals Symphony has performed numerous concerts, brought in acclaimed guest musicians and helped foster the talents of students through educational

partnerships. For its 30th anniversary in 2012, the symphony commissioned renowned composer Roger Briggs, a Florence native, to write Symphony of the Shoals, a piece that honors the area’s musical and cultural heritage in four movements entitled Singing River, Boogie and Blues, Trail of Tears and Renaissance. “North Alabama musically was fantastic,” said Briggs. “And it’s improving. It’s always had an atmosphere for jazz and blues and Southern rock. It hasn’t had a name for classical music, but that’s developing, too.”

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The University of North Alabama’s department of entertainment industry has produced such graduates as John Paul White, multiple Grammy Award-winning front-man of The Civil Wars. Photo by Shannon Wells.

opposite page: Dillon Hodges translates old-time music to a new audience with his soulful voice and haunting melodies. Growing up near Muscle Shoals, he began shaping his sound by immersing himself in bluegrass music. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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and the second Muscle Shoals Sound facility at 1000 Alabama Avenue (both under new ownership), are still operating today, along with many others including Wishbone, affiliated with the drummer of Shenandoah, Mac McAnally’s LaLa Land, Jimmy Nutt’s Nutthouse and Gary Baker’s NoiseBlock. And there is still a strong network of songwriters along with a hotbed of rising stars. “There’s a sense of artistic license here that you don’t have in Nashville,” said seasoned songwriter and UNA professor Walt Aldridge. “There are more freedoms here. It’s funkier. I feel like we create better in that environment. And we want to mentor the up-and-coming talent. And that’s why one generation hands it to the next. We all feel a connection to the success that happens in the area. It’s that small-town mentality.” One of Aldridge’s protégés is none other than John Paul White, Grammy Awardwinning musician of The Civil Wars. White graduated from UNA’s Department of Entertainment Industry. “One of the great things about creating nowadays is how easily you can share those creations,” said White. “The world is but a click away. Proximity to the major hubs of music commerce is no longer a priority. That makes working in the Shoals even more advantageous. I get to work in some of the best studios, with the best songwriters, engineers and players – and do it all without a rat race. For me and my family, when it comes to work – there is no place like home.”


Another next-generation musician is Chris Thompkins, a Shoals native and songwriter who has already won two Grammys. He has written several No. 1 hits for Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton. “There are not many places in the country where you can grow up and think that being a songwriter is a career option,” said Thompkins. “I grew up here with the music history, that vibe where everybody is so laid-back and relaxed. When I didn’t know anything about the music industry, I fell in with people who were just like me – people who understand the art of song writing.” Others with roots in the area are the Alabama Shakes, Jason Isbell, the Secret Sisters, Gary Nichols, Doc Daily and the Magnolia Devil and the Drive

By Truckers, whose front man Patterson Hood is son of The Swampers’ David Hood. Native Shawna P., from the band Shawna P. and the Earth Funk Tribe, made it to the top 32 on NBC’s The Voice Season 4. Mac McAnally continues to play alongside Jimmy Buffett in the Coral Reefer Band and has been named musician of the year for the past six consecutive years. “Today, you have a resurgence or a resurrection of that spirit from the early days where you have local talent working in an eclectic way, combining a little bit of rock, a little bit of blues,” said Pace. “There’s a kind of magic here, a vibe and a spirit – that creative spark that’s in those individuals, that’s in their heart and souls and in their bloodstream.”

“Setting my mind on a musical instrument was like falling in love. All the world seemed bright and changed.” — W.C. Handy, Florence native and “father of the blues” —

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Chapter Four

Bravo to Arts and Culture Visual Arts

C

reativity seems to flow from the Tennessee River, its natural beauty and steady pace beckoning artists since the dawn of time. Ten thousand years ago, Native Americans transformed shells from the river into beautiful jewelry. Artists continue to draw inspiration from its banks today. Audwin McGee, a painter and sculptor, works in a loft above Tuscumbia’s Sixth Street. He is currently creating the Singing River Sculptures for each of the four cities. The first in Sheffield is an 18-foot-tall musician, made of recycled aluminum, representing the renowned Muscle Shoals sound. Local artist Tim Stevenson teaches weekly classes from a historic home in Florence that doubles as his gallery. Tim, who has produced thousands of watercolor and oil paintings, has recently completed a series of murals on the side of a building downtown depicting the community’s many assets. “The pace of life is ideal for creating, and we have an abundance of natural beauty,” said Tim.

opposite page: The Arts Alive Festival takes place in Wilson Park and features quality national, regional, and local artists and crafters. Photo by Shannon Wells. The University of Hawaii Art Gallery challenges artists to create sculptures the size of an ordinary shoebox. The exhibit at the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art in Tuscumbia reveals how renowned artists from around the world have dealt with the challenge of space and scale that is dictated by size. Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Valley Art Association.

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above and right: The Arts Alive Festival in Florence held every May is a juried fine arts and crafts show. A project of the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts Volunteers, the festival was started in 1986 and continues to attract hundreds of art and craft lovers to Wilson Park in downtown. Photos by Shannon Wells.

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Near downtown Tuscumbia, the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art hosts exhibits throughout the year from a variety of artists, local and regional, using traditional media, recycled materials and even Christmas trees to create their art. A highlight is the annual Helen Keller Art Show featuring the work of visually impaired, blind and deaf-blind children. In downtown Florence, the Kennedy-Douglass Art Center hosts exhibits, workshops and special events to foster cultural activity for adults and children throughout the year. The museum offers free admission daily. Art lovers can also get their fill at several annual festivals showcasing original paintings, beautiful pottery, hand-sewn clothing, handmade furniture, artistic jewelry and more. The Helen Keller Festival includes an arts and crafts show in Tuscumbia’s Spring Park each July, and the Arts Alive Festival in Florence every May is a juried fine arts and crafts show. And since Florence is named after Italy’s renaissance city, it’s only fitting that an annual Renaissance Faire is held in Wilson Park each fall where artists and artisans exhibit with medieval flair.


left: Audwin McGee is currently creating the Singing River Sculptures for each of the four cities. The first in Sheffield is an 18-foot-tall musician, made of recycled aluminum, representing the renowned Muscle Shoals sound. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Architecture With a love of art and history, Shoals residents have built and maintained a collection of impressive homes and commercial buildings representing a wide array of architectural styles and protected on the National Register of Historic Places. Several antebellum homes built in the 1820s are open to the public. Embodying charm and grace, Locust Hill is the consummate Southern home, while the Belle Mont Mansion’s Palladian-style conjures images of Gone with the Wind. Noteworthy government buildings include the Colbert County Courthouse, an Italianate/Greek Revival building from the late 1800s, and the Justice John McKinley Federal Building, a neoclassical courthouse and post office from the early 1900s. A drive along Montgomery Avenue in Sheffield and Wood Avenue in Florence reveals a lovely collection of Victorians. Florence is home to the state’s only Frank Lloyd Wright House, and it is the only one in the Southeast open for tours. The Usonian home was built in 1939 by Stanley and Mildred Rosenbaum.

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With its square tower, gingerbread trim and shingled siding, the

example of Queen Anne style, which was popular with the people

Reisman-Coffee-Looft house (circa 1890) is an almost untouched

of wealth of the period. Photo courtesy of Florence/Lauderdale Tourism.


above: An American architectural treasure, the Rosenbaum house was built for newlyweds Stanley and Mildred of Florence, in 1939. The house is the only structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the state of Alabama, and the only such house in the Southeast that is open to the public. Photo by Shannon Wells. left: The Shoals might be home to the father of the blues, the father of rock ‘n’ roll and The Swampers, but an active symphony housed at UNA’s Norton Auditorium takes classical music to center stage. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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With 1,400 seats, Norton Auditorium at the University of North Alabama is the largest venue in town, and it has long been a popular place for watching a play or a concert, from the Shoals Symphony Orchestra to The Civil Wars. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Theater From traditional to avant garde, Shoals-area theaters seem to offer something for every audience. With a history dating back to the roaring ‘20s, the Ritz Theatre in downtown Sheffield dazzles audiences today with various productions including concerts, musicals, comedies, dramas, mysteries and even festivals. And the theater has a large educational component, offering adult workshops and children’s productions. “Theater reminds us what it means to be human,” said Mary Settle Cooney, Director of the Tennessee Valley Arts Association, which runs the Ritz Theatre. “It’s taken from life stories. It’s interactive. It’s so important to expose the children to theater. If one little child is sparked by a show and begins their pursuit of passion, the whole program is worth it.” Visiting downtown Florence, it’s hard to miss the iconic “Shoals” Community Theatre sign that lights up Seminary Street. The 1948 movie theater now hosts live performances nearly every week of the year, 54

from bands like the Alabama Shakes to classic family favorites like The Sound of Music performed by the Shoals Community Theater Group. “For a small town, we do exceptional things with arts and culture,” said Randy Pettus, local performer at the Shoals Theatre and supporter of the arts. “You can walk down the street and people know your name, but you also get to go and see a new art exhibit or go hear great music. It’s just a wonderful place to live.” With 1,400 seats, Norton Auditorium at the University of North Alabama is the largest venue in town, and it has long been a popular place for watching a play or a concert, from the Shoals Symphony Orchestra to The Civil Wars. Also on campus is a new black box theater named for George S. Lindsey and Ernest Borgnine. A graduate of UNA and an area native, Lindsey, who is best known for his role of Goober on The Andy Griffith Show, had long supported the school’s theater program before his death in 2012, and he often brought his Academy Award


The University of North Alabama Department of Music and Theater is home to the newly constructed George S. Lindsey Theater. Officials broke ground on the theater in March 2011. Unlike Norton Auditorium, the new black box theater is designed specifically for professional theatrical use. It offers a transformative stage and allows for a unique, intimate setting with audiences. Left photo by Jessica Pajron. Right photo by Shannon Wells.

winning friend Ernest Borgnine with him on trips to campus. The George S. Lindsey Film Festival is held in the Shoals every March. Other area theaters such as The End run by a UNA graduate provide audiences with experimental theater in an intimate atmosphere. The theater hosts burlesques, poetry slams and special events where artists paint to the music of a disc jockey. Perhaps the most inspiring stage of all is found on the grounds of Helen Keller’s birthplace, Ivy Green, where the Helen Keller Festival has performed The Miracle Worker every summer for the past 50 years.

below: With a history dating back to the roaring ‘20s, the Ritz Theatre in downtown Sheffield dazzles audiences today with

“The pace of life is ideal for creating, and we have an abundance of natural beauty.” — Tim Stevenson, local artist —

various productions including concerts, musicals, comedies, dramas, mysteries and festivals. . Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Chapter Five

Sports and Recreation in Rhythm

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he Shoals is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream with abundant forests, champion golf courses, rolling hills and pristine lakes. And with mild temperatures, locals and visitors take advantage of outdoor activities year-round, whether it’s hunting or fishing, hiking or biking, golfing or kayaking or just finding a quiet place to watch the sun go down.

A River Runs Through It Any local will probably agree that the Tennessee River is the area’s greatest asset. Along these pristine waters is a series of dams forming beautiful lakes – two being Wilson Lake and Pickwick Lake. The river, lakes and their tributaries afford opportunities for boating, swimming, fishing and other recreational activities.

opposite page: The TVA Muscle Shoals Reservation provides both paved roads and maintained nature trails. The area is popular for joggers, cyclists and hikers who want to enjoy nature right in the middle of the city. Photo by Shannon Wells. below: Skate Park, located in Florence’s Cox Creek Sports Complex is a great place for experienced skaters or those just learning how to stand on a board or ride a bike. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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The Shoals plays host to major bass tournaments throughout the year. The BoatUS Collegiate Bass Tournament, televised on NBC Sports, attracts some 200 teams from as far east as Harvard, as far west as Washington State and as far north as Canada. The Shoals also brings in Cabela’s King Kat Tournament and Cabela’s Crappie USA. Professional bass fisherman Timmy Horton also hosts an annual tournament, paying out $20,000 in scholarships to high school students. “Pickwick is one of the more diverse lakes in the country,” said Bassmaster Timmy Horton, who has fished in lakes from California to New York. “It’s very scenic – There are bald eagles and lots of wildlife.” Those wishing to just putter around Pickwick Lake can rent a pontoon boat at McFarland Park, and boat owners can launch at numerous spots

Top 10 Recreational Activities 1. Playing golf at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail 2. Renting a pontoon boat on Pickwick Lake 3. Fishing for bass, crappie or catfish in Wilson Lake or Pickwick Lake 4. Renting a cabin at Joe Wheeler State Park 5. Jogging along the TVA trails 6. Bird watching along the North Alabama Birding Trail 7. Hiking in the Shoal Creek Preserve or Cane Creek Canyon 8. Picnicking by one of the area’s waterfalls 9. Cycling the Natchez Trace 10. Walking along Sheffield’s raised, riverfront boardwalk

opposite page: The Shoals plays host to major bass tournaments

The Fighting Joe course at The Shoals was the first trail course to break

throughout the year.

8,000 yards. Travel + Leisure Golf named the course one of the top new

Photo courtesy of Florence/Lauderdale Tourism.

courses in 2004. Photo by Michael Clemmer. 59


opposite page: The North Alabama Lions football team represents the University of North Alabama in the NCAA Division. UNA plays its home games at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence. The Lions are distinguished as the only team to win three consecutive football national championships in NCAA Division II. Photo by Shannon Wells.

Baseball tournaments are played at the Sportsplex facility, consisting of four 300-foot fields, a playground area and several small pavilions. During the fall soccer and flag football are played on the fields. Photo by Shannon Wells.

along Pickwick Lake or Wilson Lake. Shoal Creek’s swimming holes and water-ski course make it a popular boating destination for families. Also situated on Wilson Lake is Joe Wheeler State Park, offering a resort lodge, cabins, camping, a marina and outdoor activities on the waterfront.

Tee It Up A range of excellent golf courses provides an option for those without sea legs. At the top of the list is the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail featuring two, 18-hole championship courses overlooking Wilson Lake. “Guests travel from all over the country to play golf at The Shoals on our two distinctive courses,” said Scott Neal, Director of the Robert Trent Jones Trail of The Shoals. “Fighting Joe is a links-style course measuring in at an astounding 8,092 yards from the black tees. The Schoolmaster is a more traditional tree-lined course with every hole in keeping with the 60

natural topography of the Tennessee Valley. Both courses and the clubhouse offer spectacular views of Wilson Lake, and the courses have been written up as some of the best public golf in the country by Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Travel + Leisure Golf. Golfers can also play at a handful of municipal courses around the area, and members of Turtle Point Golf and Country Club have access to another Robert Trent Jones course, along with a lake-front clubhouse, restaurant, marina, pool and tennis courts.

A Competitive Edge With a long-standing tradition of sports, it’s no surprise the Shoals is home to youth, collegiate, amateur and professional competitions. Florence has hosted the NCAA Division II Football Championship for 28 consecutive years, however it left the Shoals for the 2014 Championship game. The Florence and Muscle Shoals Sportsplexes host


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With a long-standing tradition of sports, it’s no surprise the Shoals is home to youth, collegiate, amateur and professional competitions. The Bluewater Creek Polo Club hosts events in the spring and fall. Top photo by Shannon Wells. Bottom photo courtesy of Bluewater Creek Polo Club.

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numerous regional and state youth tournaments each year, including baseball, softball, soccer and flag football. The Shoals is also home to several hunting clubs and Bluewater Creek Polo Club, which hosts events in the spring and fall.

The Great Outdoors The TVA Muscle Shoals Reservation provides both paved roads and maintained nature trails with stunning views of the Tennessee River. The area is popular for joggers, cyclists and hikers who want to enjoy nature right in the middle of the city. Used by Native Americans, the Natchez Trace Parkway gives drivers and cyclists a peaceful ride through pristine forests, where they can pull over at designated areas for hiking and camping. A hike through the Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve is an ideal way to spot flora and fauna, not to mention caves and waterfalls. Those who like their nature served a little more leisurely can kick back and listen to live music at the Rattlesnake Saloon, which is built inside a cave.

“The Shoals is on the bucket list of thousands of bass fishermen who visit the area each year. Annual tournaments generate $1 million for the local economy.” — Suzie Shoemaker, Sports Marketing Manager for Florence/Lauderdale Tourism Wilson Lake is home to Joe Wheeler State Park, offering a resort lodge, cabins, camping, a marina and outdoor activities on the waterfront. Photo courtesy of Joe Wheeler State Park.


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Chapter Six

A Standing Ovation for Education

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he Shoals offers ample opportunities for education, from preschool to master’s degrees, workforce training to continuing education. Shoals area high school students score among the highest in the state and in the Southeast; the University of North Alabama awards close to 1,000 bachelor’s and 400 master’s degrees each year; and Northwest-Shoals Community College trains hundreds more for successful careers. Thanks to strong academic and technical programs, a new crop of skilled students enters the workforce each year. opposite page: With an annual economic impact of $260 million, the University of North Alabama offers 50 majors in the areas of arts and sciences, business, nursing, education and human resources. Photo by Shannon Wells.

The Kilby Laboratory School serves as a site for university students to engage in meaningful interdisciplinary teaching, research and service opportunities allowing students to maximize their academic potential as life-long learners. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Proven Success opposite page: A strong community support system, incentive programs and workforce training opportunities ensure the area’s manufacturing industry will continue to produce only the best, most innovative products for years to come. Photo courtesy of NorthwestShoals Community College.

UNA has the feel of a small, private institution yet with a quality public education. There’s a special camaraderie and personal interaction here. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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A four-year-old with personal issues at home was far behind developmentally. Then he enrolled in the Maud Lindsay Free Kindergarten, which has been teaching pre-K on a firstcome, first-serve basis since 1898. He quickly caught on, learned to read and is now above average in his elementary school classes. A Brooks High School sophomore on the verge of dropping out was encouraged by his guidance counselor to visit the Allen Thornton Career Technical Center. While he was there, he saw some students who were preparing for the BEST™ Robotics & Marketing Competition struggling with their project. The student went home, did some research online and determined the correct gear ratio. He fixed the robot for the team the following day, and now he has a scholarship to Northwest-Shoals Community College. A young woman from Nigeria, living in Indonesia, was searching the Internet looking for a way to better her life. Online, she discovered the nursing program at UNA. She enrolled and traveled overseas without any real means to pay for her education. The university’s foundation gave her a scholarship, and she has since graduated, has a green card and is employed at a nearby hospital. There are success stories just like these in the Shoals every day. Residents are fortunate to have access to quality schools to better their education, their companies and themselves.


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Secondary Education The area is home to six public school systems, in Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals and in Colbert and Lauderdale counties. Area schools have an outstanding reputation in academics as well as athletics and extracurricular activities. And high school students are able to dual enroll at UNA and Northwest-Shoals Community College, earning valuable college credit before they even receive a diploma. Florence City Schools has been named among the top 10 percent of public schools in the nation by U.S. Florence High School provides students with the latest in technological advances as part of the school’s one-to-one iPad initiative. Students use the iPads in class and at home to access digital textbooks, correspond with teachers, submit assignments and to preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios. Photo by Shanno Wells.

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News & World Report. All sophomores, juniors and seniors use iPads rather than text books, and recent graduates have been awarded more than $20 million in scholarships from universities such as MIT, West Point and Vanderbilt as well as UNA, the University of Alabama and Auburn University. As a national merit semi-finalist, Florence native Ben Graves received a full scholarship to UNA. Shortly after finishing law school, Ben and his wife Mindi moved back home, in part for the quality public education they knew their children would receive.


Northwest–Shoals Community College is a two-year public institution of higher education with campuses located in Phil Campbell and Muscle Shoals. Photo by Shannon Wells.

“Attending Florence City Schools and the University of North Alabama prepared me for law school and gave me the solid foundation I needed to be successful today,” said the Honorable Judge Graves. His wife Mindi works as a librarian in the Muscle Shoals school system. Muscle Shoals High School has a new engineering program to prepare advanced students for college. The school’s physics class partners with the University of Alabama Huntsville’s engineering program to solve real-life problems for organizations like NASA. The high school has a program for disabled students up to 21 years old, preparing them to live independently, and students on campus run an actual bank, enabling their peers to open and access checking accounts. The school is in the process of building a multipurpose, indoor athletic center as well as an onsite career tech center.

“I can’t say enough about our community support and our city council, who have really invested in our school system,” said Principal Brian Lindsey. “We are in the midst of two major construction projects totaling $12 million, and we couldn’t do it without them. It’s a team effort.” And speaking of teams, ESPN announcer and MSHS graduate Rece Davis has been known to report on campus during National Signing Day, where many of the school’s athletes receive college scholarships. For those parents who prefer a private education for their children, the area offers several options including Mars Hill Bible College, Shoals Christian, Covenant Christian, Catholic Hill Community and Riverhill School. 69


Florence City Schools has been

Higher Education

named among the top 10 percent of public schools in the nation by U.S. News & World

Report. Photo courtesy of Florence City Schools.

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For students wanting to go on to college or for employers looking to provide additional training, they need not look farther than the University of North Alabama, NorthwestShoals Community College or Heritage Christian University. With an annual economic impact of $260 million, UNA offers 50 majors in the areas of arts and sciences, business, nursing, education and human resources. UNA’s quaint and historic campus rests just on the north side of downtown, providing a safe and lively atmosphere for some 7,200 students and 650 employees. “UNA has the feel of a small, private institution yet with a quality public education,” says President Dr. Bill Cale. “There’s a special camaraderie and personal interaction here. We’re a community that knows and cares for one another.” The university places strong emphasis on the arts with an on-campus, professional symphony, an annual storytelling festival and an annual film festival, plus a new performing arts theater named for famed alumni George S. Lindsey of The Andy Griffith Show. In addition, its department of entertainment industry has produced such graduates as John Paul White, multiple Grammy Award-winning front-man of The Civil Wars. UNA also offers a full range of athletics, and while the school has many Division II championship titles under its belt, it’s taking steps to elevate its program to Division 1. Dr. Cale calls the university “a magnet for companies locating here,” because there’s a trained workforce ready for hire, and continuing education programs keep existing employees informed of the latest trends.


Workforce Development Also making a big impact on workforce development is Northwest-Shoals Community College. With an annual enrollment of 3,900, the college offers students two-year degrees in occupational technology and applied science. In addition, the college’s workforce training department provides courses and certifications on everything from software and safety to environmental health and robotics for existing industry.

The University of North Alabama is the only campus in the country to house live lions. Siblings Leo III and Una,

“Attending Florence City Schools and the University of North Alabama gave me the solid foundation I needed to attend law school and be successful today.” — Judge Ben Graves —

9-year-old African lions, were ranked No. 1 of the “25 Best Real Animal Mascots in College Football” by totalprosports.com. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Chapter Seven

Manufacturing and Transportation

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t is said that a rising tide lifts all boats. Well this expression is literally true in the Shoals. Each day, barges carrying cargo are lifted through the lock system at Wilson Dam, before going on their way along the Tennessee River. The river has always been a way to transport goods, even for the Native Americans long ago. In the late 1800s, Florence and Sheffield experienced an industrial boom along the riverfront. And in the 1920s, a series of dams and locks was built along the Tennessee River to make it more navigable for barges to carry goods to and from the area. Wilson Dam’s 100-foot locking facility remains one of the world’s largest single-lift locks. “The port serves a wide variety of businesses hauling everything from copper, aluminum, concrete and timber,” said Hal Greer, Director of the Port of Florence. “The port has intermodal capabilities so that items can easily be transferred to trucks or rail. Water transportation is the most economical and environmentally friendly.”

opposite page: Based in Muscle Shoals, Wise Alloys is the third leading U.S. producer of aluminum can stock for the beverage and food industries with a 15 percent domestic market share of the beverage can stock market. Photo courtesy of Wise Metals Group.

Founded in 1967, ES ROBBINS Corporation is an innovative manufacturer of extruded plastic products for office, industry, food service and equine facilities. Photo courtesy of ES ROBBINS Corporation. 73


above: The Port of Florence is a public, non-profit corporation owned and operated by the Florence Lauderdale County Port Authority. Located on the Tennessee River, the port connects the entire region with the rest of the United States and the global marketplace. Photo courtesy of the Port of Florence.

right: Wise Alloy’s 74-acre Element 13 complex is where used beverage cans are melted and alloyed in preparation for being recast into aluminum ingots. The facility was built by Reynolds Metals in 1969 and expanded in 2011 by Wise Metals. Photo courtesy of Wise 74

Metal Groups.


Created in 1933 as part of FDR’s New Deal, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is the nation’s largest utility company, using hydroelectric power from the Tennessee River’s series of dams. TVA is one of Alabama’s largest employers with nearly 1,100 employees in the Shoals area.

In addition to the waterways, manufacturers rely on the Tennessee Southern Railroad Company and Norfolk-Southern for their transportation needs, and the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals provides nonstop service to Atlanta daily and houses hangars for corporate planes.

Top Manufacturers by Workforce WISE METALS GROUP Aluminum can sheet and other common alloy products 1,200 employees HILLSHIRE BRANDS Breakfast sandwiches, food service and retail breakfast meats 1,100 employees NORTH AMERICAN LIGHTING Automotive light fixtures 900 employees AMERICAN WHOLESALE BOOK COMPANY, INC. (Books A Million) Book Distributer 511 employees SCA TISSUE-BARTON OPERATIONS Away-from-home paper products 500 employees SOUTHWIRE COMPANY Insulated copper electrical wire 290 employees IZZY+ Modular office furniture, stackable seating products 246 employees TIMESDAILY Daily newspaper 227 employees NAVISTAR Custom truck body and chassis manufacturing 200 employees

FLEXCO Vinyl flooring 200 employees THACKER CASKET MANUFACTURING Burial caskets 200 employees THE HON COMPANY Laminated wood table products, conference, training, computer, education, hospitality and panel systems 183 employees ES ROBBINS CORPORATION Plastic containers, closures, fencing products, vinyl chair mats, environmental doors, curtains, baby nursers and accessories, measuring cap and bottle 183 employees TOTAL MAINTENANCE CENTER Machine work, maintenance 156 employees WHITESELL CORPORATION Fasteners 150 employees SOUTHEASTERN EXTRUSION AND TOOL Precision tool and die 150 employees TARKETT ALABAMA Vinyl flooring 144 employees TNT FIREWORKS Consumer fireworks 126 employees

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Made in the Shoals

opposite page: Many business success stories take place each day across the Shoals. A strong community support system, incentive programs and workforce training opportunities ensure the area’s manufacturing industry will continue to produce only the best, most innovative products for years to come. Photo courtesy of Tarkett. SCA is a leading global hygiene and forest products company that develops and produces personal care products, tissue and forest products sold in about 100 countries. Photo courtesy of SCA.

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Incredible things are made in the Shoals, from products used in everyday life – like Jimmy Dean sausage from Hillshire Brands – to those reserved for special occasions – like TNT Fireworks. There are products made for infants – like ES ROBBINS baby bottles, products made for employers – like ABCO modular work stations, and even products made for celebrities, like luxury tour buses from Senators Coaches. A diverse mix of manufacturers like these employ tens of thousands in the community. “Florence is a good home base for running our business,” says Tommy Glasgow, President of TNT Fireworks. “It offers a great quality of life for our employees and provides a talented workforce, and we can easily ship our products to customers all over the world – all without the expenses of being in a big city.” The Shoals is situated conveniently between Nashville, Memphis and Birmingham in an area known as the growth triangle. In recent years, international companies have opened shop in the Shoals for this very reason. TASUS Corporation and North American Lighting have both opened branches to support the Southeast’s robust automotive industry. TASUS produces plastic auto parts like taillights and center consoles for Nissan and Toyota, and North American Lighting produces signal lamps and headlamps.


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Anderson Media, which owns Books-A-Million and Hibbett’s Sporting Goods, started as a newsstand in 1917. Today it’s the largest North American distributor of books, music, DVDs and in-store display units. Photo courtesy of Anderson Media.

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Other companies have been in the Shoals since infancy, incubated by the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center and nurtured by The Shoals Chamber of Commerce, the University of North Alabama and Northwest-Shoals Community College. Anderson Media, which owns Books-A-Million and Hibbett’s Sporting Goods, started as a newsstand in 1917. Today it’s the largest North American distributor of books, music, DVDs and in-store display units. For the past 55 years, Flexco has sold its commercial flooring to hospitals, schools, civic centers and other businesses in 48 states and many foreign countries. “Having been in manufacturing in the Shoals for over 40 years, I have seen a strong business climate created by The Shoals Chamber of Commerce, the Shoals Economic Development Authority, UNA, Northwest-Shoals Community College and the Alabama Technology Network that makes doing business in the Shoals successful,” says Don Blazer, Director of Operations at Flexco. “Those organizations strive to understand our needs, and it truly makes a difference.”


SCA Tissue, a $15-billion company, takes waste paper and converts it into paper towels, tissue and napkins. The International Fertilizer Development Center, once part of TVA, is a nonprofit, science-based organization working to alleviate global hunger and poverty by developing better agricultural technologies and fertilizer products. Success stories like these take place each day across the Shoals. A strong community support system, incentive programs and workforce training opportunities ensure the area’s manufacturing industry will continue to produce only the best, most innovative products for years to come.

“The Shoals area offers a great environment to raise families and gives our employees an excellent quality of life. The quality of the people in our community gives us an excellent opportunity to manufacture the very best products because of the workmanship they provide.” — George Pillow, Owner of Senators Coaches, luxury tour bus company —

Incredible things are made in the Shoals, from products used in everyday life to those reserved for special occasions. A diverse mix of manufacturers employs thousands in the community. Photo courtesy of SCA.

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Chapter Eight

Restaurants and Retail

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he Shoals has a small-town feel with the amenities a larger city has to offer. Residents can get everything they need from the national stores they trust and find one-of-a-kind gifts and clothing from local designers. Plus, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a wide variety of cuisine – from seafood to soul food – all served with a dollop of Southern hospitality.

Shopaholics in the Shoals

opposite page: English Village has merchants who specialize in unique, upscale clothing, jewelry, art, home décor and gourmet food. It’s a unique gathering of upscale shops. Photo by Shannon Wells.

Fashionistas will love the Billy Reid store or Natalie “Alabama” Chanin’s workshop in Florence. Both local designers have made international headlines. Billy Reid was named GQ Designer of the Year in 2010. Reid works out of his flagship store and studio on North Court Street in downtown Florence but he has store locations across the country in New York City, Nashville, Charleston, Dallas, Houston and Atlanta. “Alabama” Chanin has

The Shoals offers many locally owned, independent stores like Audie Mescal in downtown Tuscumbia. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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above: Ricatoni’s has served pizza and authentic Italian entrees in historic downtown Florence since 1996. Owner Rick Elliot is known for his fresh-baked bread with herbs and olive oil. Photo by Shannon Wells.

right: Founded in 1972, Bunyan’s BBQ combines Southern tastes and Southern ingredients to create their barbecue pork, hot slaw and hot sauces. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Alabama Chanin is dedicated to keeping design and production local to founder Natalie Chanin’s hometown of Florence and has been since its inception since 2006. Using only 100% organic cotton jersey, the company engages local artisans based in and around the Shoals to hand-sew its products. Photo by Rinne Allen.

appeared in Vogue, Town & Country and The Wall Street Journal for her unique craftsmanship, heirloom garments and environmental responsibility. These designers could live anywhere, but they choose to stay in the Shoals. “I live in Florence because of the wealth of artistic talent, incredible family and the most amazing tomatoes in the world,” said Natalie “Alabama” Chanin. Other locally owned, independent stores for family and home are David Christopher’s in Sheffield, and Audie Mescal and Thread in downtown Tuscumbia.

Local Food You Gotta Try Chocolate gravy and biscuits at Stagg’s Grocery Lauderdale County peaches at the Florence Farmer’s Market Tomato pie from Sweet Basil Café Slaw dog from Bunyan’s BBQ Local cheese plate from 360 Grille Harvey’s milkshake at Palace Drug Store

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above: Book lovers can spend an afternoon at ColdWater Books in downtown Tuscumbia, leisurely reading while sipping a latte. Photo by Shannon Wells. right: Stanfield’s, locally owned and operated since 1999, offers an expanded menu that exudes fine dining including hand-cut USDA steaks, as well as daily prepared soups, salads and a fine selection of homemade irresistible desserts. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Other favorite shops can be found in downtown Florence or in English Village, such as the French Basket. “One of the nice things about the French Basket is that it’s a one-stop shop, whether it’s bridal registries or interior design,” says Jenny Hill Hall, Store Manager. “We try to carry things that are unique and that you can’t find in a chain. We know our customers well, and we try to create a special look, tailored just for them.” Residents are also lucky to have an independent book store and record shop. Book lovers can spend an afternoon at ColdWater Books in downtown Tuscumbia, leisurely reading while sipping a latte. And of course there are numerous big-box stores and department stores throughout the area, mostly found along Cox Creek Boulevard and Florence Mall in Florence. For home improvement projects or a quick makeover, there is Home Depot and Lowes. There are numerous grocery store options from small, independently owned stores to national chains like Publix. And residents find everything else they need at one of three Wal-Mart Supercenters, a new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and Sam’s Club.

Billy Reid was named GQ Designer of the Year in 2010. Reid works out of his flagship store and studio on North Court Street in downtown Florence but has store locations across the country. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Palate Pleasers The Shoals is home to a wide variety of restaurants to suit any taste. There are the tried-and-true national restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings alongside dozens of family-owned restaurants serving one-of-a-kind dishes. Local restaurants offer a diversity of cuisine, whether it’s Thai at Yumm Sushi, Italian at Ricatoni’s, Mexican at Rosie’s, or a good steak at George’s or Sperry’s Restaurant. “The restaurants have a collaborative effort with local farms in Alabama and Tennessee to bring farm to table to our guests,” said Jeff Eubanks, Chef at City Hardware. Visitors and locals savor Southern comfort food with a modern twist at places like City Hardware, Odette, Dish Café and the Marriott’s 360 Grille. Those wanting a taste of how life used to be can visit Palace Drug Store or Trowbridge’s for an old-fashioned hot dog and hand-dipped ice cream. And of course barbecue reigns supreme in the South. Whether dressed with slaw, chopped or pulled, doused in vinegar sauce or white sauce, the abundance of barbecue found in the area means everyone lives high on the hog. There are also several independently owned coffee shops, an upscale wine shop and neighborhood bars ready to serve a cappuccino or a celebratory cocktail to end the day. Cheers!

opposite page, above: Those wanting a taste of how life used to be can visit Trowbridge’s for an old-fashioned hot dog and hand-dipped ice cream.

Photo by

Shannon Wells.

opposite page, below: Staggs Grocery, an East Florence landmark, was originally a mom-and-pop grocery store that served sandwiches for the mill workers. Through the years, as the textile mills closed and larger grocery stores appeared, their main focus moved from groceries to food service. Don’t miss the chocolate gravy and biscuits at Stagg’s Grocery. Photo by Shannon Wells.

The Wine Seller is the only boutique wine and specialty beer store in the Shoals. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Chapter Nine

Conducting Business: Health Care

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he Shoals is a medical hub for the region, serving patients in North Alabama, Eastern Mississippi and Southern Tennessee with three major hospitals and a full host of clinics and facilities ranging from obstetricians and pediatric dentists to assisted living facilities and hospice care. The nursing programs at UNA and Northwest-Shoals Community College ensure patients are in the hands of the most skilled workforce. Doctors and specialists are recruited to the Shoals from all over the country and the world, and they are drawn to the quality of life the area has to offer. Area hospitals continue to reinvest in technology, equipment and their employees to ensure patients receive only the best care throughout the spectrum of their life.

opposite page: Located in Sheffield, Helen Keller Hospital, named for Shoals native Helen Keller, has 185 beds with 150 physicians and 420 nurses. Photo courtesy of Helen Keller Hospital..

Shoals Hospital boasts the area’s only acute rehabilitation center, the J.W. Sommer Rehabilitation Unit. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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The Shoals has a proud heritage of providing the finest of health care options, but none so important as personal and compassionate care. Photo by Shannon Wells.

ECM Eliza Coffee Memorial hospital, known as ECM, is the largest of the three hospitals with 358 beds, 200 physicians, 455 nurses and 1,000 employees. Founded in 1919, ECM’s downtown Florence building was constructed in 1943, but in 2013, ECM received a certificate of need to build a state-of-the-art, $250 million hospital*. The new facility is expected to have a $1 billion economic impact on the area over a five-year period. ECM and UAB have signed an affiliated agreement to collaborate on possible future programs, such as a cancer center. “We hire the most talented staff and offer the very best services so that patients and their families can get quality care and attention at home without traveling to other markets,” said CEO Russell Pigg. 90


ECM is a full-service community hospital with 42 specialties including a heart and vascular surgery center. On staff is one of the top heart surgeons in the Southeast, Dr. Constantine Athanasuleas, a professor at UAB who studied at Baylor University’s renowned program. ECM recently purchased a $1 million daVinci Si robotic surgical system and is home to the only nationally accredited palliative care program in the state. The hospital brings 1,000 babies into the world each year, and its 24-hour ER serves a wide geographic area including 11 counties in three states. When seven-year-old Jon Andrew McKinney began having back-to-back seizures as a result of his Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, his mother rushed him to ECM’s Emergency Room. “We were soon placed in an ER room where the nurses expedited care of my son right away, all the while displaying a genuine care for his well-being,” said Jonathan McKinney, Jon Andrew’s father. “From the moment we arrived to the time we left, we experienced the warmth, care and hospitality that should be the standard for proper health care.”

Area hospitals continue to reinvest in technology, equipment and their employees to ensure patients receive only the best care throughout the spectrum of their life. Photo courtesy of Eliza Coffee Memorial.

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Helen Keller Hospital

The Kanuru Hospitality House provides overnight lodging for family members of patients who live 50 miles away or more so they can remain close to their loved ones. Photo courtesy of Kanuru Hospitality House.

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Located in Sheffield, Helen Keller Hospital is named for Shoals native Helen Keller whose home, Ivy Green, is located just a mile from campus. Founded in 1921, Helen Keller has 185 beds with 150 physicians and 420 nurses. Helen Keller, which operates as a not-for-profit organization, is affiliated with Huntsville Hospital. The facility has received ongoing recognition from J.D. Power and Associates as a Distinguished Hospital for “An Outstanding Inpatient Experience” and has been named one of the nation’s top performers on key quality measures by the Joint Commission. “Our mission at Helen Keller Hospital is to provide patients with premier health care,” said CEO W. Doug Arnold. “Since 1921, we have fulfilled this mission through continued growth and the expansion of services and facilities and by providing leadingedge equipment.” Helen Keller Hospital offers general acute care, OBGYN services, imaging, emergency services, palliative care, intensive care and a full range of surgical services, featuring the daVinci robotic surgical system. The hospital welcomes more than 1,000 babies each year. Ashley Richardson chose Helen Keller Hospital for the birth of her daughter, Baya Lynleigh.


The birth of a child is one of the most important moments in any woman’s life, and local hospitals have created a caring, familycentered environment available for that special time. Photo Helen Keller Hospital.

“It is wonderful having this quality of care, this close to home,” said Ashley. “Everyone at Helen Keller Hospital, from the admitting staff, to the nurses, to my physician, has made sure that this experience was special and problem-free for the whole family. My husband said that everyone made sure he had a comfortable stay as well.” In addition, the North Alabama Cancer Institute allows patients to stay close to home for advanced cancer treatment. Also onsite is the Keller Wellcare Center, a 20,000-squarefoot fitness and rehabilitation facility for the use of patients and the public through memberships. The Kanuru Hospitality House provides overnight lodging for family members of patients who live 50 miles away or more so they can remain close to their loved ones. 93


The Shoals is a medical

Shoals Hospital

hub for the region, serving patients in North Alabama, Eastern Mississippi and Southern Tennessee with three major hospitals and a full host of clinics and facilities. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Located in Muscle Shoals, Shoals Hospital has 178 beds, 150 physicians and 250 nurses. Its more than a dozen specialties include a senior care center, sleep lab, plastic surgery and the area’s only acute rehabilitation center, the J.W. Sommer Rehabilitation Unit. Its whole-breast health center is one of only two certified quality breast centers in the state. The hospital prides itself on its service and attention to patients. All patients have large, private suites, and their outstanding experiences gained the hospital a J.D. Power award. “The most impressive thing about Shoals Hospital and the Shoals in general is the sense of family,” says Chief of Staff Dr. Terry True. “When the tornado came near our community in 2011, before I had the chance to call any of the doctors, they were at the hospital ready to work. It was true of the nurses and the housekeeping staff, too. We look at patients as members of the family, and we treat them, not just their symptoms. Our concern is bigger than the hospital; it’s the whole community.”


Shoals Hospital’s rehabilitation services have received national media attention, and programs are designed for patients suffering from a stroke, fractured hip, spinal cord injury, amputation, trauma and neurological disorders. After a head-on collision, 63-year-old Reverend Eddie Wix of Sheffield suffered 49 broken bones and underwent eight surgeries. He was released from UAB and sent to Shoals Hospital where the staff customized his treatments each week. Soon, he went from a wheelchair to a walker and then to a cane, and finally, was able to walk again on his own two feet. He now has 100-percent mobility and calls himself a miracle.

Shoals Hospital has 178 beds, 150 physicians and 250 nurses. It’s more than a dozen specialties include a senior care center, sleep lab and plastic surgery. Photo courtesy of Shoals Hospital.

“We hire the most talented staff and offer the very best services so that patients and their families can get quality care and attention at home without traveling to other markets.” — Russell Pigg, ECM CEO — 95


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Chapter Ten

Encore! The Good Life

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here is something about Alabama’s warm climate that just puts people in a good mood, making them willing to share, whether it’s a homemade pie or a good story. It’s the kind of friendliness that’s only found in a small town. On any given day, families are out enjoying a city park, concert goers are setting up their lawn chairs and people are sitting on their porches with a glass of iced tea. The people of the Shoals love where they live and they love how they live.

Parks Each of the four cities of the Shoals maintains excellent parks for its residents. Gattman Park in Muscle Shoals has a fun splash pad for youngsters ready to get their feet wet, or there’s River Heritage Park in Florence for older kids wanting to make a big splash. In Tuscumbia’s Spring Park, there are plenty of ways to spend the afternoon from riding the train, rollercoaster and carousel to feeding the ducks or just resting by the waterfall. Equally popular among kids and adults, Deibert Park in Florence offers a large playground, duck pond and scenic jogging trails, which wind through a former horse farm. For those wanting to enjoy the Tennessee River, Riverfront Park in Sheffield and McFarland Park in Florence provide playgrounds and picnic areas with scenic vistas.

opposite page: Each of the four cities of the Shoals maintains excellent parks for its residents. River Heritage Park is located at the base of the Renaissance Tower and adjacent to the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Conference Center. The park contains scenic overlooks of the Tennessee River and Wilson Dam. Photo by Shannon Wells.

In Tuscumbia’s Spring Park, there are plenty of ways to spend the afternoon from riding the train, rollercoaster and carousel to feeding the ducks or just resting by the waterfall. Photo courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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Charming cottages, graceful

Neighborhoods

mansions and other 19thcentury buildings are preserved in Tuscumbia’s historic districts, boasting over 25 antebellum structures that are listed on the National Register. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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The Shoals offers numerous housing options – at some of the best prices in the South – to suit a variety of lifestyles and budgets. Downtown Sheffield, Florence and Tuscumbia each have historic districts for those seeking the charm of an older home. There are many other options along the waterfront, whether on the cliffs in Sheffield overlooking the Tennessee River or lakeside in Muscle Shoals, Florence or Killen. For those families who wish to spread out in the peace and quiet, there is land available in the country. And there is in-city living, including college rentals and trendy lofts to family homes in both new and established neighborhoods that are convenient to shopping, dining, work and school.


A drive along Montgomery Avenue in Sheffield and Wood Avenue in Florence reveals a lovely collection of Victorians. Photo above by Shannon Wells. Photo on left courtesy of The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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Southerners know how to eat, and that’s because the climate is ideal for growing the best fruits and vegetables. Various farmers markets in the Shoals make it easy for families to bring the freshest ingredients to their tables. Photos by Shannon Wells.

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Farmers Markets Southerners know how to eat, and that’s because the climate is ideal for growing the best fruits and vegetables. Various farmers markets in the Shoals make it easy for families to bring the freshest ingredients to their tables. The Florence Farmer’s Market on Chisholm Road offers everything from native peaches and watermelon to homemade vegetable soup, salsa and jams. In Tuscumbia, the weekly Thursday night farmers market is a great place to socialize as well as pick up something fresh for supper. In the fall, there’s no better way to get into the season than a visit to McGee Farm for pumpkins and a hayride.

Six Picks for Kids 1. Visit the Children’s Museum of the Shoals 2. Ride the train through Spring Park 3. Take a trip to the McGee Farm Pumpkin Patch 4. Get an old-fashioned sundae at Trowbridge’s or Palace Drug Store 5. Cool off at one of the area’s splash pads 6. Attend story time at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library

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Some say the Tennessee River inspires creativity; others credit the melting pot of influences. But one thing is certain: Small-town Alabama has a big name in the music industry. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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above: Since Florence is named after Italy’s renaissance city, it’s only fitting that an annual Renaissance Faire is held in Wilson Park each fall where artists and artisans exhibit with medieval flair. Photo by Shannon Wells.

right: Killen Park is home to arts and crafts, plenty of food and live music during Founder’s Day. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Calendar of Events No matter what time of year, there is something fun going on in the Shoals, from plays and concerts to outdoor arts and music festivals. The first Friday from March through December downtown Florence sponsors First Fridays, where artists, retailers and musicians spill out onto the sidewalk allowing the crowd to shop in a street-party atmosphere. Famous locals Helen Keller, W.C. Handy and George Lindsey are honored each year at annual festivals bearing their name. Save the date for the following events:

MARCH UNA’s George Lindsey Film Festival APRIL Shoals Earth Day Festival Historic Downtown Walking Tours Swampers 5K and Fun Run MAY UNA Front Porch Storytelling Festival Arts Alive Frontier Day Celebration JUNE Helen Keller Festival North Alabama African Heritage Festival Muscle Shoals Street Rod Run

JULY W.C. Handy Music Festival Fourth of July Fireworks SEPTEMBER Coon Dog Labor Day Celebration Oka Kapassa Native American Celebration Trail of Tears Motorcycle Ride OCTOBER Alabama Renaissance Faire DECEMBER Tennessee Valley Museum of Art Trees of Christmas A Dickens Christmas Belle Mont Mansion’s A Plantation Christmas

The Shoals offers many great opportunities for people to live, work and play with community events like the W.C. Handy Festival. Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Photo by Shannon Wells.


PART TWO

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Photo courtesy of the City of Florence.


Business, Finance and Real Estate Services

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The Shoals “ Chamber of Commerce

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hat makes our area great? Everything!” said Steve Holt, President of The Shoals Chamber of Commerce. According to Holt, expressing this pride and enthusiasm is just one part of his job as head of the Chamber, the organization that makes it its mission to be a cheerleader for and champion of the Shoals by providing leadership for a strong, positive business environment that enables new and existing businesses to flourish. Founded in 1986 when the Colbert County and Florence Chambers of Commerce merged, The Shoals Chamber of Commerce has been operating under a basic philosophy ever since: to enable Shoals citizens to achieve a higher standard of living and better quality of life through the economic successes of its over 1,000 members. As one of the top 10 largest Chambers of Commerce in the state, The Chamber pursues this vision in several ways.

Member Support

Chamber members enjoy a Business After Hours at the Roundhouse in Tuscumbia. Business After Hours are hosted by Chamber businesses monthly, just one of the many networking opportunities offered by the Chamber.

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Holt explained what makes the Chamber valuable to area businesses. “We provide assistance and support to commercial, retail and professional sectors that includes, among other things, multiple networking and professional development opportunities, and that’s what our members really want and like, the chance to meet and get to know each other,” he said. Networking events like Brown Bag Briefings, Business After Hours and Chamber

Breakfasts allow members to share what they do and what they offer with like-minded business owners and leaders. The Chamber is also active in public policy and represents area business interests in the halls of government. “The Chamber is the cohesive component for business here,” Holt said. “We are a voice for businesses of all types and sizes and work with both local and state government, and we bridge and bring together the distinct communities that make up the area.” Members are invited to annual legislative meetings with political leaders such as the area’s United States Senators and Representatives, the Governor and other officials.


The Shoals Chamber of Commerce is housed in the Shoals Center of Business and Economic Development.

The Chamber offers one-on-one business counseling services too, in conjunction with University of North Alabama’s Small Business Development Center, which provides other resources as well.

Promoting and Enhancing Positives “The Shoals is a great place to do business. Our cost of living is low. We have competitive tax rates. We have extraordinary schools, proven by the fact that our students consistently score among the highest in the state and the Southeast. We also have wonderful access to post secondary education through the University of North Alabama and

Northwest-Shoals Community College,” Holt said. “These schools and colleges give us an educated and trained workforce, which is a major plus and why we put such emphasis on our education and workforce development programs. We try to hit it from every angle.” To build the quality workforce of the future, the Chamber is dedicated to keeping kids in class through high-school graduation. “We say, ‘No dropouts and no excuses.’” Holt said. The Chamber’s CHOICES® program strives to give teenagers the tools they need to stay in school and is an interactive decision-making workshop that empowers 8th grade students to achieve academic

The Chamber celebrates a local health care expansion with a ground breaking ceremony.

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The BEST™ Robotics & Marketing Competition allows students to be mentored by business and industry volunteers and become competent and confident in applying math, science, technology and engineering principles to real-life challenges.

Unites States Senator Richard Shelby visits the Shoals Chamber of Commerce each year.

success in pursuit of their career and life aspirations through two 50-minute sessions led by local business and community volunteers. The Chamber’s next goal is to encourage those students to keep progressing by pursuing post secondary education, either skills training or a college degree. The Chamber’s BEST™ Robotics & Marketing Competition for middle and high schools is an exciting, nationwide workforce development program cleverly disguised as a robotics competition and engages students in a whole new way. The program is free for schools to participate and utilizes the expertise of business and industry volunteers to

mentor teams of students as they design, build and market a robot that must solve a specific challenge. The teams have only 42 days from kick-off to the competition resulting in an intense, hands-on education that benefits all involved. But the Chamber doesn’t just reach out to students. Its Summer Technology Institute closes the gap between what teachers are teaching and what businesses need and want from their prospective employees. By bringing educators and businesses together for small group discussions and industry tours, educators can better understand how their academic subjects relate to and are used in real jobs within the community.


A Community Coalition “We are a very proud partner of the Shoals community,” Holt said. The Chamber works to attract business to the area and does so by promoting its good schools, good transportation and good hospitals. But the natural beauty of the Shoals is a draw as well, so the Chamber created its Keep the Shoals Beautiful program to preserve its attractive assets. “These things keep the image of the community shining and are what can make a major first impression,” Holt said. “We want that impression to be a good one.” The Chamber works in tandem with the local Crime Stoppers program for the same reason. Giving back by applying for and receiving financial grants is one more way the Chamber makes a difference in the Shoals. The Chamber Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization through which The Chamber can administer grants to further its initiatives, particularly its education 112


Chamber members gather to celebrate the opening of a new small business.

and workforce development programs. “Having the foundation arm just adds to what we can do for our community,” Holt said. “It has been very active and effective in helping us build our programs.” Finally, the Chamber has shown its commitment to improve the Shoals communities by recognizing the importance of informed, involved citizens and developing and sharpening a group of ready, willing and able leaders to move the area ever forward. For over 20 years, Leadership Shoals has offered an established platform for individuals to gain knowledge about the area, its history, its current status and its future and to learn and hone leadership skills. So far, over 500 businesses have been represented in Leadership Shoals, and the program’s graduates have benefited from networking and the creation of life-long friendships and, in turn, benefit their home by answering the call when leaders are needed. Youth Leadership Shoals is a nine-month program for upcoming high school juniors through which students enhance their skills in leadership, professionalism, communication and team building. In addition, students become familiar with what makes the Shoals area unique and participate in community service projects as a group. Not only does it enhance cooperation among schools, it develops a greater sense of community pride.

“Training our community leaders with our leadership programs contributes to the high quality of life we enjoy here, which then brings in business and then jobs; it’s all a big circle,” Holt said. A circle of success that The Shoals Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to continuing for its next 25 years and beyond.

Area teachers participate in the Summer Technology Institute in a control room simulation at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.

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Bank Independent

The Pine Street branch in Florence, Alabama demonstrates the iconic Colonial Williamsburg architecture that is the signature style of Bank Independent.

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ank Independent’s roots run deep in the Northwest Alabama area, and like the 17 communities it serves, the bank’s heritage is rich and steeped in tradition. Its story began in 1947 in Leighton, Alabama, when the town’s only bank unexpectedly closed, leaving the hardworking residents of eastern Colbert County without banking services. A group of Leighton farmers, including Leonard Preuit, recognized the needs of their community and pooled their resources to open The Bank of Leighton on August 4, 1947. The Colbert County Reporter newspaper reported that, “the appreciation of the townspeople was thoroughly demonstrated by the nice deposits made on the first day.”

Edward Mauldin was photographed among the cotton fields of Leighton, Alabama for the January 1960 edition of Harvester World magazine. “I’d like to see every last farmer and farm laborer and tenant in the country double his standard of living and go on from there and improve some more.  From an economic as well as moral point of view it would help us all.” – Edward Mauldin

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This new, aggressive organization was renamed First Colbert Bank in 1965. The bank soon advanced from a state-chartered bank to a national bank in 1967 to become First Colbert National Bank after moving headquarters from Leighton to Sheffield, its present home. In 1975, Board Chairman Edward F. Mauldin organized a group of investors, including some directors of First Colbert National Bank, to charter The Bank of Florence in Lauderdale County, while First Colbert continued to expand its offices in Colbert. The two banks merged in December 1982 to become Bank Independent. According to a 1983 article in the Times Daily newspaper, the formation of Bank Independent “began a new era in banking for the citizens of Colbert and Lauderdale counties.” It wasn’t long before Bank Independent expanded its footprint, opening offices in Morgan and Limestone counties, then in Lawrence and Franklin through the acquisition of 17 branches of Colonial Bank and the purchase of the Citizens Bank of Moulton. In August 2009, the bank welcomed Interstate Billing Service, Inc. (IBS) to the family. IBS, a corporate billing service based in Decatur, offered the bank new and different growth opportunities. “We’ve certainly grown in so many ways in the past 66 years,” said Macke Mauldin, President of Bank Independent. “But what’s radically original about Bank Independent is that in all those years, we haven’t changed our values or our commitment to serving the folks in our communities.” Mauldin and his brothers Fennel and Preuit are third-generation bankers following in the footsteps of their grandfather, Bank founder Leonard Preuit


and their father, Edward Mauldin. Macke Mauldin continues to embrace their philosophy that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” “I truly believe that the more we can do to improve the local economy and give back to our communities, the more everyone benefits,” he said. “Our dad, Edward Mauldin, built this bank on that premise. We strive to follow his lead and remain deeply involved in promoting local economic development efforts and providing opportunities for businesses of all sizes and types to open or relocate here, and then to thrive here.” Over 20 years ago, Edward Mauldin wrote, “Our most important assets, our people, worked harder and smarter than ever to make our community a better place to live, work and to do business. Our team is also acutely aware of our responsibility in areas of civic and charitable involvement, and we are especially proud of the many different roles our members continue to serve in the betterment of the community.” In addition to each employee’s personal volunteerism, the bank offers its Operation Helping Hands program, which was created in response to the devastating April 2011 tornados and employees’ requests to help. That opportunity led to an initial commitment by the bank to donate 4,000 hours of volunteer labor to charitable efforts throughout the six counties served by Bank Independent. After only two years, bank employees had worked over 1,300 hours in animal shelters, charitable events, thrift stores and other worthy endeavors. The Operation Helping Hands program is representative of the values that have been integral to Bank Independent since 1947, including respecting differences, playing by the rules and honoring commitments. Tenets such as these permeate the organization and are reflected in the strong financial standing of the bank, which has consistently earned superior “5 Star” and “Sound” ratings from Bauer Financial and Bankrate rating services.

“Our bank’s commitment to our customers, neighbors and friends obligates us to perform effectively, responsibly and ethically at all times,” said Mauldin. Now with over $1 billion in assets, Bank Independent continues to grow by deepening relationships through outstanding customer service and by offering products and services that meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s customers. These needs include being able to bank late and on weekends, and to talk to a real person, so Bank Independent offers drive-thru service Monday through Saturday until 8 p.m. at most sales offices, plus Customers Service representatives personally answering calls during the same hours. “We strive to stay true to our roots and appreciate our heritage, while at the same time implement cutting-edge technology,” said Mauldin. “Staying high-touch in a high-tech environment: That’s ‘Radically Original.’ That’s Bank Independent.”

Bank Independent team members gathered in September 1993 to celebrate reaching $200 million in assets.

Bank Independent team members participated in the Operation Helping Hands volunteer program sorting clothes and other donated items at the Loaves and Fishes warehouse in Florence, Alabama.

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Listerhill Credit Union The Cyril B. Mann Service Center, located on Second Street in Muscle Shoals, is the center of operations for the 18-branch credit union. It was erected in 2006 and named for one of the credit union’s founders and longestserving chairman of the board.

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s Muscle Shoals grew during the postWorld War II economic boom, so did the number of loan sharks who preyed upon the hard working, yet financially uneducated, men in the region’s thriving factories. Mr. Cyril B. Mann noticed that too many good employees of Reynolds Metals Company were losing their jobs due to wage garnishments from these unsavory lenders. In 1952, Mann and six other employees of Reynolds Metals Company each contributed five dollars to form a credit union with the goal of giving their co-workers a viable option for borrowing money. Sixty years later, Listerhill Credit Union has grown dramatically, offering loans and a full line of financial services to more than 77,000 members at 18 locations in Northwest Alabama and Southcentral Tennessee. While its product line has expanded to meet modern needs, the credit union’s mission of member service has remained the same. As a not-for-profit financial cooperative, Listerhill is owned and operated by its members. Members put their money in a variety of savings accounts, and that money, in turn, is loaned to members. After operating expenses and reserve requirements are met, income is returned to all members in the form of dividends and comprehensive financial services.

Listerhill’s first office on Second Street in Muscle Shoals (circa 1958), was located across from Reynolds Metals.

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This unwavering commitment to service has allowed Listerhill to establish and develop lasting partnerships within the community. Locally, Listerhill has partnered with the University of North Alabama to establish the Center for Financial Literacy on the university’s campus in addition to providing an on-campus branch with trained student workers. The university also has a financial literacy course for credit through the College of Business that is instructed by Listerhill’s Director of Financial Literacy. On an international level, Listerhill Credit Union founder Cyril Mann was recognized in 1991 as the longest-serving credit union board member in the world. For 57 years, Mann served as Chairman of the Board of Directors without financial compensation of any kind. His selfless leadership and dedication have guided Listerhill from a seven-member cooperative with ambitious goals to a thriving community service organization with noteworthy accomplishments. As Listerhill Credit Union continues to grow and change to adapt to community needs, it endeavors to honor its legacy of service with humble roots in a Muscle Shoals factory.


SunTrust Bank

The SunTrust main branch is located in the SunTrust building at 201 South Court Street in downtown Florence.

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ounded in 1889 as First National Bank of Florence, SunTrust Bank has a long, rich history in the Shoals area. The original bank merged with Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks, Inc., in 1993, becoming part of one of the nation’s largest and strongest financial holding companies, but retaining its connection to the people and heritage of the Shoals. “We focus on relationships at SunTrust,” says Jeff Daniel, Shoals Market President since 2008. “We are a big bank, but that doesn’t mean we lose touch with our clients on a day-to-day basis. SunTrust’s heritage in the Southeast helps us understand our market and meet our customers’ needs.” SunTrust’s lasting presence in the Shoals area translates into a certain level of familiarity between the bank and the people who live here. The SunTrust Bank building, which serves as the bank’s main office in Florence, is a local landmark and defines the downtown skyline. The bank is known for its generous support of numerous local charities and events. With more than 125 years of longevity in the Shoals area, SunTrust has seen — and helped finance — broad shifts in the local economy and the local landscape. Founded in 1889 with $50,000 from 16 local investors, the First National Bank of Florence became a strong institution, maintaining continuous operation throughout the Great Depression, while many banks across the country closed their doors. Following World War II, the bank served the community by providing G.I. loans

to returning service members, helping them buy homes and farms and establish businesses. From 1958 to 1985, the bank underwent a period of rapid expansion, growing its assets from $23 million to more than $276 million. In October 1981, the downtown bank headquarters opened with great fanfare. When the bank celebrated its centennial anniversary in 1989, its assets totaled more than $327 million, and it was named one of the safest banks in the nation. Four years later, in 1993, First National Bank of Florence merged with SunTrust Banks, Inc., a regional powerhouse with assets totaling $35 billion. Today, SunTrust has assets totaling over $170 billion. Since becoming part of a larger institution, the bank has not lost its local flavor; the merger has allowed SunTrust to better serve its longtime community. “When you go from a small independent bank to becoming part of a larger, regional bank, the array of resources that you can bring to your community really expands,” Daniel says. “We have been able to provide more products, services and technology to our customers than we would have had the capacity to provide as a smaller, independent bank. Being part of a larger bank just allows us a greater depth of resources within the company, and that allows us to serve our customers better.” SunTrust operates five branches in the Shoals area. The bank’s business spans retail and consumer banking, private wealth, business banking and commercial banking. 117


Alabama Land Services

Christopher S. Bobo is the President and Owner of Alabama Land Services.

Lauderdale Abstract Company, now Alabama Land Services, is shown during the 1920s. Pictured from left to right is unknown, Richard Smith, unknown and G.H. Smith (founder).

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ndustry was booming in the Shoals in the late 1880s. Cotton mills were thriving in the Sweetwater district, and the Florence Wagon Company would soon become the country’s second largest wagon maker. As more people grew interested in buying and selling property in the area, it was the perfect time to open a land title company. Local attorney G.H. Smith launched Lauderdale County Abstract Company in 1887, and the company continues to serve the Shoals area, now under the name of Alabama Land Services, Inc. Alabama Land Services specializes in title searches, title insurance and real estate closings, and its long history in the business ensures that customers get the expert, professional service they expect. “Our history really makes us unique,” said Chris Bobo, who has served as president of the company since 2000, following his father, who previously led the company. “We now use state-ofthe-art technology to serve our customers, but the methods we use are the same ones we’ve used for more than 125 years.” While the company has always provided dedicated land services, its leaders have seen their business evolve over the years. For instance, the advent of title insurance in the area in the 1970s and 1980s assured buyers that their land purchase was genuine. “Real estate property is our nation’s largest asset,” Bobo said. “The work of land title companies like Alabama Land Services ensures the quick and secure transfer of land, fostering lender and consumer confidence in their real estate investments.” Before the Bobo family took over the business in 1972, three generations of the Smith family ran the company. “It’s really a miracle that after all these years, this business has only been in two families,” Bobo said.

Throughout the long history of Alabama Land Services, company leaders have been actively engaged in the local community. Bobo serves on the board of The Shoals Chamber of Commerce and is a previous Rotary Club president. Even his predecessors in the 1800s and early 1900s were involved; Marshall Smith, who joined the business in the 1940s, served as a Florence city commissioner. In addition to giving back to the community through volunteering, Alabama Land Services has become a de facto archival center for the Shoals area. Through more than a century of conducting title and land research for local clients, the company’s records include some of the oldest maps of the area and reams of documents detailing the history of land ownership. For instance, one of the only surviving copies of the original map of Florence, known as the Sannoner map, hangs in the hallway of Alabama Land Services and was used as a model for the map etched into the sidewalk at the corner of Court and Tennessee streets in downtown Florence.


BBVA Compass

Pictured on the top row (left to right) are Greg Taylor, BRE Florence Main Office; Allison Hayes, BRE Cox Creek Parkway Office; and Brent Willingham, BRE Muscle Shoals Office. Pictured on the bottom row (left to right) are Steve Nesbitt, Quad Cities Market President and Ron Hendrix, Quad Cities Commercial Lender.

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or more than 50 years, BBVA Compass has been providing outstanding banking services for its clients in Northwest Alabama. Today, BBVA Compass continues that proud tradition. BBVA Compass is a modern financial institution offering cutting-edge services to its clients across the Southeast, Southwest and West. But the bank has strong roots in the communities it serves. Its history in the Shoals area goes back to State National Bank of Alabama in the 1960s, and it established the bank branching system in the 1970s under the name Central Bank of the South. Later, the bank’s name was changed to Compass Bank and it merged with BBVA in 2007. Long known for leading the industry in bank product technology, BBVA Compass recently invested more than $400 million in high-tech innovations. The resulting technical platform has allowed the bank to offer real-time transaction processing, and online banking capabilities. These innovations also help the bank to keep pace with changing technology and customer expectations. “BBVA Compass is customer centric; everything we do revolves around the client and serving those needs,” says Steve Nesbitt, City President for the Shoals area.

In the Shoals area, BBVA Compass operates three full-service branches to serve local clients. The bank specializes in meeting the financial needs of both individuals and businesses. Bank leaders say the Shoals area and Northwest Alabama have always been a good location for operating a financial institution. “The Shoals community has a long history of producing quality jobs for our citizens and promoting an entrepreneurial spirit in the community,” Nesbitt said. “Many of the local businesses are owned by second and third generation owners. The quality of life in the community is outstanding with many educational, shopping and recreational opportunities.” Not only does BBVA Compass enjoy the perks of doing business in the Shoals area, but the bank also focuses on giving back to make the community even better. “BBVA Compass believes in giving back to the community by our sponsorship of numerous charitable events,” Nesbitt says. To that end, the bank allows time for its employees to provide leadership in charitable organizations and promotes organizations that really change lives, “not with only dollars but with human capital,” Nesbitt said.

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Neese Real Estate

Historic renovation by Jimmy Neese

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hen newcomers visit the Shoals area or when longtime residents look to relocate to their next home, Neese Real Estate is frequently the first stop. For more than three decades, Shirley Neese has been a topproducing real estate agent in the Shoals area, and since 1984, she has operated Neese Real Estate, a real estate brokerage firm that has built a reputation for top-notch service to both property buyers and sellers. “We care about Shoals area residents and their families, and we feel like they have supported us for 30 years,” Neese said. “I have sold to grandparents,

Progress Bank Banking on a Community

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team of innovative bankers launched Progress Bank in 2008, in an effort to create the best banking experience their customers have ever had. Progress Bank began operating in the Shoals in 2010. In 2013, the bank opened its Shoals headquarters office, located in historic downtown Florence. “Our business model is truly customer centered… our clients benefit from a consistently pleasurable, uncomplicated banking experience where decisions are made locally,” says Andy Mann, Shoals Area President.

parents and then to their children. The people here are great to work with, and everyone cares about each other.” In 1995, Neese sold the business to her son, Jimmy Neese, and the two continue to work together along with sons Marc and Kenny. The Neeses and the other Realtors who work with them focus on treating their customers like friends and family, an approach that has been successful. The company gives back to the community by sponsoring charity fundraisers, local festivals and through active involvement in The Shoals Chamber of Commerce plus the school systems. ”We are a small family business and it is our intention to build lifelong relationships; one client at a time and personal referrals are the greatest compliment we can receive,” Neese said. Not only is Neese Real Estate a well-known business in the Shoals area, but its office; located in downtown Florence’s historic district is considered a local landmark, registered with the National Parks Service. “We have put a lot of focus and energy into the re-development of downtown Florence. It’s exciting to watch the district evolve into a prosperous area for new business, lofts and restaurants,” Neese said.

Along with Progress Bank’s mission to make banking simple and provide an unexpected level of service to its customers, it also aims to be a valued corporate citizen that makes a difference in the community. For instance, the bank’s headquarters building in Florence revives a blighted piece of property, breathing new life into the downtown business district. The bank supports a number of local charities and is committed to supporting new and existing businesses in the Shoals through business financing. A number of Shoals area residents have shown their confidence in Progress Bank by becoming shareholders. “Our local shareholders know that they are not only investing in a bank, but also in their community, because we strongly support this community,” Mann says. Progress Bank continues to expand, having exceeded $525 million in total assets and a superior five-star rating from BauerFinancial, Inc., the nation’s leading bank rating and research firm. The five-star rating shows that Progress is one of the strongest banks in the nation.


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ogersville may be a stone’s throw away from the rest of the Shoals area, but it has become a destination in its own right. In addition to the recreation and outdoor activities that come with Rogersville’s location along the Elk and Tennessee Rivers, the town has also become known for beautiful Joe Wheeler State Park and Lodge, which sits on Wheeler Lake, for its thriving downtown shopping experience and a highly anticipated annual Southern music festival. In recent decades, Rogersville’s once-abandoned downtown has been revived and is home to antique stores, gift shops, clothing boutiques, unique home furnishings, dining and much more. The downtown shops draw crowds during seasonal events, such as the scarecrow contest each fall and Christmas Open House in November. “People who love Rogersville just started investing in it, buying old buildings, renovating them and opening new businesses,” says Janna Whitley, Director of the Rogersville Chamber of Commerce. “That spirit is contagious and inspires others, and now downtown Rogersville is really something special again.” Rogersville has also become a destination for musicians and music lovers across the region. Its Southern Roots Music Festival, which began in

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ew technologies and constantly evolving government regulations means the mortgage industry is in a state of constant flux. But the professionals at Supreme Lending, backed by the expertise of a national mortgage company, remain continually ahead of the curve, always prepared for the next change. That means Supreme Lending customers still receive the same quick service and one-on-one support they expected before the world became a different place. While some financial institutions required borrowers to wait 120 days to close on a mortgage loan, Supreme Lending has continued to provide closings in about 15 days for most mortgage loans, says Natalie Cochran, Branch Manager. “At some large banks, there are just so many steps in the process and so many different people have their hands in each file,” Cochran says. “Here, we may be part of a bigger corporation, but we function like a small, hometown mortgage company.” Being a part of the Supreme Lending network allows the local office to remain informed and ready for ongoing changes, but “our headquarters staff

1999 as a bluegrass festival, draws crowds every year to hear gospel, classic country, jazz, Southern rock and other music of the South. In 2013, the Alabama State Legislature made Rogersville home of the annual Alabama Bluegrass Championships in banjo, dobro, flat pick guitar, finger pick guitar and mandolin. Those championships now bring multitalented, nationally recognized musicians to the festival each year to compete for the state titles.

Rogersville

gets that we’re from a small town so they’re willing to make exceptions for us,” Cochran says. For example, appraisal-comparable sales within a certain mile radius may need to request additional comps or extend the radius to meet the comparable sales requirements. “We’re still a hometown firm, and we love working with our customers face to face,” Cochran says.

Supreme Lending

Small-Town Charm Attracts Visitors to Rogersville

Pictured left to right are Natalie Cochran and Cyndee Owen.

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122Photo by Shannon Wells.


Health Care, Education and Quality of Life

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University of North Alabama

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ocated on a scenic, 130-acre campus in downtown Florence, the University of North Alabama (UNA) enrolls some 7,000 students each year and serves as a powerful economic engine and cultural catalyst for the historic Muscle Shoals area. Building on a rich, distinguished heritage dating back to 1830, UNA offers today’s students an outstanding education and solid, well-rounded preparation for the future. Students and faculty consistently earn some of the nation’s highest academic awards and honors, while the university itself continues to expand and evolve in order to meet the latest demands of the academic and professional world. “Growth, progress, development and constant improvement are ingrained in the culture here,” according to Terry Pace, UNA’s Director of Communications and Marketing. “That culture raises the bar for our students and our faculty and staff. The better and brighter students choose to come to UNA because they know they will receive an excellent education. Once they’re here, they perform some truly extraordinary achievements as they complete their college careers and receive their well-earned degrees.” Founded as LaGrange College, UNA was the first state-chartered university in the state of Alabama. In 1872, the school became the first college in Alabama (and one of the first colleges in the nation) to admit female students. The university began as a teachers college, and its vibrant teachertraining program remains a living testament to that original educational mission. Today, however, UNA’s educational vision encompasses a number of emerging and rapidly developing academic fields.

Standing Out In addition to its teacher-education heritage, UNA is well known for top-ranking programs in nursing, geography, business and the entertainment industry. Graduate programs in the UNA College of Nursing received the highest possible level of accreditation in 2012. The UNA College of Business is moving in a similar direction and recently set new admission standards, establishing exciting new challenges for its students and graduates. UNA’s Center for Integrative Health, a venture formally announced in the summer of 2013, will be located in a new facility to be constructed on property west of campus. The center will offer a graduate-level, interdisciplinary program developed through a first-of-its-kind partnership with Shenqi Ethnic Medicine College in China. The center will prepare students to become leaders and professionals in this emerging field, which focuses on a holistic, preventative approach to health and nutrition. UNA’s location in the Muscle Shoals area makes the university an ideal learning environment where students interested in the music and entertainment industries can study and perfect their craft. The Shoals’ rich musical heritage provides direct access to world-class music-industry professionals who are eager to share their knowledge and expertise


with a new generation of talent. The UNA Department of Entertainment Industry shares space with Noiseblock Recording Studio – founded by Grammy Award-winning Muscle Shoals songwriter Gary Baker (“I Swear,” “I’m Already There”) – and students frequently find themselves observing recording sessions and live jam sessions while engaging in one-on-one interaction with household names in the music and entertainment industries. “The Shoals area has a tremendous musical history, and in recent years the music of the Muscle Shoals area has experienced a vibrant resurgence that should carry us well into the 21st century,” Pace explained. “Students enrolled in our entertainmentindustry program often have a chance to train and work alongside some of the greatest and best-known talents in the entertainment industry.”

Ongoing Growth When you first visit UNA, it’s immediately evident that you have arrived at a thriving, evergrowing university. The skyline of the campus is constantly changing as new construction and renovation projects are started and completed. The George S. Lindsey Theatre – a blackbox performance hall designed specifically for professional theatrical use – opened in 2012. A spacious new building known as The Commons – which houses the University Success Center and a number of other academic services – also features an expanded campus bookstore and restaurants as well as The Hill, a full-service, student-operated branch of Listerhill Credit Union. A new $41-million Science and Technology Building – scheduled to open in the fall of 2014 – will house the departments of biology, chemistry and industrial hygiene, and physics and earth science. Meanwhile, the university’s athletic program is in the process of transitioning to the NCAA Division I level of competition. “UNA has been building, growing and evolving for years in terms of higher enrollment and a greater range of academic offerings,” Pace noted. “These additional projects are just the latest tangible, highprofile symbols of that growth.”

Campus Life As UNA’s physical campus and academic offerings continue to expand, so have the opportunities for a vibrant campus life. The

UNA President, Dr. William Cale

university is home to a strong Greek system and more than 100 different student organizations. Focused programs in UNA’s residence halls are designed to help freshmen living on campus become more deeply and directly involved with university life. “Not only do we have a beautiful campus, but we have a very active campus,” Pace remarked. “There are constant activities for students and for members of the local community. There’s a very positive town-and-gown spirit between the campus, downtown Florence and the rest of the surrounding Shoals area.” One of the most surprising and memorable sights for visitors to UNA’s campus is the presence of Leo and Una, the university’s two live lion mascots, who live in the 12,764-square-foot George H. Carroll Lion Habitat. UNA is the only college campus in the United States that houses live lions. In 2012, Leo and Una were ranked No. 1 of the 25 Best Real Animal Mascots in College Football by totalprosports.com. UNA and the Shoals area truly enjoy a healthy, prosperous, symbiotic relationship: The university has a local economic impact of more than $200 million per year, and the region serves as an ideal setting for a first-class university that retains a warm, intimate, friendly atmosphere. “This community offers so much for students,” Pace concluded. “The area offers all the standards – movies, music, restaurants, shopping – but there’s also such a rich, deep local culture for students to enjoy and a great heritage that students have an opportunity to experience and enjoy.” 125


Florence City Schools Reaching the Top

A focus on the arts

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Engaging students through technology

ormed in 1890, the Florence City School system has had a longstanding commitment to academic success for students in the Shoals. In recent years, the district has taken its success to new levels, adding new programs and technology, rethinking its approach to modern instruction and earning a spot as one of the top school systems in the state and the nation. “Our goal is to give students a deep, cuttingedge curriculum and extracurricular offerings that will allow them to succeed at every level, and in doing that, to become the top-ranked school system in Alabama and among the top in the United States,” says Superintendent Janet Womack. In the Florence City Schools (FCS), talented student actors, artists and musicians find a place

to thrive. Students who want the skills needed to go straight to work have wide-ranging options. High-achieving students, determined athletes and curious learners all reach their potential and find opportunities to be challenged. With a rigorous instructional program, FCS offers 16 advanced placement courses, 52 career technical offerings, 15 competitive sports with 62 teams and education from the “cradle to career,” Womack says. The district includes a Blue Ribbon School, two Alabama Torchbearer Schools and was one of only two districts in Alabama declared by the State Board of Education as an Innovative School District in 2011.

Rethinking Instruction The FCS mission, redeveloped in 2012, is to “empower students to explore, create, challenge, innovate and lead.” This new focus represents a fundamental shift in the way teachers teach and students learn, leading to increased success. “It’s no longer enough to provide students with information and have them spout that information back to you,” Womack says. “In today’s world, students need to know how to apply that information to any situation and create something new. The teacher becomes more of a facilitator, and the students become members of a classroom think tank. Through collaboration and the use of innovative tools, students arrive at solutions to problems. It’s about engaging the student; once they are engaged, they will rise to the occasion.”

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To engineer this shift in teaching approaches, FCS is committed to continual professional development. With ongoing training, teachers now focus on instructional methods that encourage critical thinking, problem solving, collaborative leading, analysis, creativity, adaptability and entrepreneurialism.

Incorporating Technology New technologies play a vital role in FCS’ mission of educating students for a changing world. The district became the first in the Shoals area to implement a full digital curriculum and a oneto-one iPad initiative, which provides an iPad to each student in grades five through 12 and takes advantage of the latest learning tools and methods. Implementing such an initiative requires an unwavering commitment to teacher training. “It’s not just about having the technology tools available; we have to be able to engage students with them,” Womack says. “And we invest in our employees as well as our students by ensuring that teachers know how to use the technology and integrate it into their classrooms.”

Adding Programs In an effort to provide all the resources students need to reach their potential, FCS regularly adds new programs, activities and initiatives. The system launched its Florence Academy of Fine Arts (FAFA), which is located within Florence High School, in 2013. Students admitted to FAFA have expanded opportunities to major in their choice of Performing Arts, Visual Arts or Digital Arts. For student athletes, FCS regularly expands its athletic programs. In recent years, the school district has added an indoor athletic facility and launched Alabama’s first public high school equestrian team.

The rigorous academic program is the hallmark of Florence City Schools, grades K-12. The commitment to academics continues to grow through Advanced Placement offerings, dualenrollment opportunities with both NorthwestShoals Community College and the University of North Alabama, and the newly instituted Florence Virtual High School.

left: Rigorous curriculum through inquiry-based instruction right: Developing college- and careerready students

Building Community Along with its commitment to educating local students, FCS is dedicated to providing an educated workforce for employers in the Shoals area. To that end, system leaders have strong relationships with the local business community and enjoy its long-term support. The 12 for Life program with Southwire Corporation is an example of a powerful school-business partnership: Southwire has invested more than $1 million in the project, and students benefit every day from learning and profiting through jobs at the student-run manufacturing facility. In addition to playing an active role in the business community, FCS endeavors to build strong relationships with district parents. For the past 18 years, FCS has received the national “What Parents Want Award” from SchoolMatch. “We see education as a vital partnership,” Womack says. “It takes a connection between home and school to make students successful.” The district works to communicate openly and regularly with students, parents, faculty and administration through the district’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and its websites: FlorenceK12.org, GoFlorenceFalcons.com and GoFAFA.org.

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NorthwestShoals Community College

Industrial Systems Technology students experience hands-on training.

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orthwest-Shoals Community College has been providing postsecondary and workforce education to the Shoals area for 50 years. A comprehensive two-year college, Northwest-Shoals provides vocational, technical, academic and lifelong educational opportunities for northwest Alabama. It operates two campuses, the Shoals campus in Muscle Shoals and the Phil Campbell Campus in Phil Campbell, located in nearby Franklin County. With approximately 3,900 students on campus each year, and 75 percent receiving financial aid, Northwest-Shoals makes higher education a reality for a wide range of students at various income levels. A variety of programs are available to help learners meet their individual goals. The college is an ideal option for those interested in academic transfer, career/technical programs, and health sciences careers. “What sets us apart from other higher education institutions in the area is that we are comprehensive,” says Humphrey Lee, Ph.D., President of Northwest-Shoals Community College. “We offer whatever a student could want, whether they are preparing to go straight to work or take the academic transfer route.” Students who attend Northwest-Shoals to obtain basic educational requirements before transferring on to a four-year university save 50 percent to 60 percent on tuition costs.

A Strong Reputation Northwest-Shoals may be best known for its well-renown Health Studies programs, which has had a long waiting list for several years. The program offers associate degrees in registered nursing and paramedics, career certificates for licensed practical nursing and paramedics, and short-term certificates for nursing assistants and emergency medical technicians. In Fall 2012, Northwest-Shoals’ health sciences school added a medical assisting technology program. In addition to health careers, Northwest-Shoals has a reputation for successfully preparing workers for technical careers. The advanced welding and machine shop technology programs maintain full enrollment and regular waiting lists. The college also works regularly with local employers to meet workforce development needs. “We are the premier option for retraining workers in the area,” Lee says. “Wise Alloys and other leading employers turn to us to develop customized curriculum to meet their needs, and we also help educate workers who are underemployed to prepare for upward mobility.”

A Flexible Approach True to the mission of a community college, Northwest-Shoals operates nimbly, able to quickly adapt curriculum or add programs to meet local needs. “Our three-pronged mission focuses on adult education, academic transfers and workforce development,” Lee says. “When a new employer 128


moves into the area and needs workers skilled in a particular trade, we can quickly begin offering training programs to equip local workers to meet that need. We are able to customize curriculum as needed, and our programs often fluctuate based on what is needed in the area.� For instance, when enrollment data showed that the college was losing students in the developmental math program, leaders launched developmental math labs in 2009. These labs revamped courses that were traditionally lecture-style and turned them into labs where students struggling in math can proceed at their own pace and can drop in anytime to work on math. The developmental math labs have been widely successful, and representatives from a number of other colleges including Miami Dade College and Louisiana State-Eunice have visited the labs to learn what’s working and how to implement them at their own campuses.

A Community Partner Along with providing much-needed educational options, Northwest-Shoals is a vital community resource. The college provides a local economic impact of approximately $98 million annually, and employs approximately 525 local community members. The local community benefits from a number of programs available at Northwest-Shoals, including the NW-SCC broadcasting station and studio, on-campus fitness centers, child development center and ready-to-work programs. The college also offers GED, ACT, SAT and placement testing, as well as training classes for those preparing for the tests.

A Long History Northwest-Shoals Community College has a rich, half-century tradition of serving the people of northwest Alabama. The Phil Campbell Campus was founded in 1963 as Northwest Alabama State Junior College to provide access to postsecondary education for citizens of the rural counties of northwest Alabama. It was the first public junior college in the Alabama College System. The Shoals Campus, founded in 1966 as Joe Wheeler State Trade School, provided occupational and technical training. Eventually, the two campuses evolved into Northwest Alabama Community College in Phil Campbell and Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals. In 1993, the two schools joined forces to form Northwest-Shoals Community College, in order to provide more effective and efficient educational services to residents of rural northwest Alabama and the Shoals area. In addition to providing better educational options to people in the area, the merger has provided business and industry with a single focal point for addressing educational and training needs and a single workforce development center to assist communities with economic development activities.

NW-SCC added a medical assisting technology program to its strong health studies programs in fall 2012.

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Helen Keller Hospital

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The Keller Imaging Center is dedicated to comfort and convenience. This comprehensive imaging center provides diagnostic imaging in an independent facility with abundant parking, spacious waiting rooms, reduced wait times and faster test results.

elen Keller Hospital has provided health care for the people of the Shoals since 1921. As the area’s only enduring nonprofit, community hospital, Keller continues to fulfill its original mission of simply providing good care for the individuals and families who live and work in the Shoals area. “Our focus on quality patient care drives every decision that’s made,” said Doug Arnold, President and CEO of Helen Keller Hospital. “We believe that if you take good care of patients, everything else will fall into place.” Not only has “everything else” fallen into place at Keller, for almost 100 years, the hospital has been successful and regularly praised for its accomplishments. National organizations have

recognized Keller for outstanding service and have identified them for proven excellence in delivering specialty care. The hospital boasts an infection rate of less than one percent on surgical site infections. And Keller is a top performer on key quality measures designated by the Joint Commission, the independent organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.

Investing in Technology As health care becomes increasingly automated, Helen Keller Hospital has invested millions of dollars in modern, state-of-the-art equipment. Much of this investment has been in high-tech surgical equipment, such as the da Vinci robotic surgical system, making Keller the first hospital in Northwest Alabama with the capacity for robotic surgery. The hospital’s radiology department also offers cutting-edge equipment for sophisticated diagnostic procedures. For instance, Keller has invested more than $1 million in high-definition MRI technologies, and its MRI scanner offers the most modern imaging capabilities available. And with digital mammography as well as molecular breast imaging capabilities, Helen Keller Hospital provides highly sophisticated breast cancer detection technology, allowing diagnosis at the earliest stages. Early detection gives women in the Shoals the best possible chance for successful treatment.

Meeting Evolving Needs As a community health center, Helen Keller Hospital is committed to developing new resources 130


as needs evolve. This commitment results in a growing family of services dedicated to quality patient care, comfort and convenience. For instance, in 2010, the hospital opened the Keller Imaging Center, which is easily accessible on the hospital campus with abundant parking, spacious waiting rooms, reduced wait times and faster results. The Imaging Center offers women’s imaging services such as digital mammography, bone densitometry and stereotactic breast biopsy. The center also offers open MRI, nuclear medicine camera for diagnostic testing, multi-slice CT and ultrasound. The state-of-the-art Keller Outpatient Surgery Pavilion opened in 2009, providing surgery patients with ease and comfort as well as expert care and the latest surgical technologies. The 16,571-squarefoot Outpatient Surgery Pavilion shortens patients’ wait times and recovery periods and simplifies day surgery. In order to care effectively for local cancer patients, Helen Keller Hospital offers palliative care suites and hosts an American Cancer Society research center on its campus. The hospital is in the process of developing a cancer institute. “We have all the modalities in place to develop a state-of-theart cancer center,” Arnold said. “And we want to do that to allow people in the Shoals to stay here rather than travel for treatment.”

home of Colbert County’s only labor and delivery unit and only pediatric unit, Keller is especially important to families with children. And the hospital delivers more and more babies every year. When the labor and delivery unit closed at nearby Russellville Hospital, Helen Keller Hospital opened an OB/GYN clinic in Russellville to reach out to that community. The clinic allows expecting mothers to receive prenatal care close to home until it’s time to deliver their babies. The hospital aims to build a healthier community, and an important tool in reaching this goal involves educating local residents about their health and encouraging them to participate in a healthy lifestyle and preventive maintenance. To that end, the hospital hosts Healthy Valley Women, an exclusive club for women who value their health and the health of their families. Local women can join the club at no charge and attend free seminars, participate in events and get to know like-minded women across the region. Additionally, Helen Keller Hospital offers regular community outreach programs, such as free monthly educational programs that feature local physicians as speakers. The 20,000-square-foot Keller Wellcare Center, which offers membership to the public, features fitness equipment, exercise classes, personal trainers, fitness testing, massage therapy and weight-management programs. As a valued member of the community, Keller is actively involved with nonprofit organizations such as the Junior League, American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. Each year, the hospital also serves as presenting sponsor for the Helen Keller Festival, a local tradition celebrating music, arts and crafts and history.

Helen Keller Hospital has been serving Northwest Alabama since 1921 with the mission of providing compassionate, quality, cost effective health care services to the citizens of this area.

The Keller Outpatient Surgery Pavilion is dedicated to bringing ease and comfort to surgery patients and their families. Innovative surgical equipment, reduced wait times, convenient parking and highly trained staff make the pavilion the premier outpatient surgery facility in Northwest Alabama.

Caring for Communities Helen Keller Hospital is committed to providing for the health care needs of the people who live and work nearby. As families in the Shoals grow, Helen Keller Hospital has grown with them. As the 131


Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital

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A new life starts at the Birthplace of the Shoals. ECM provides technology to keep patients at home for care.

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stablished in 1919, Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital (ECM) is the largest, most comprehensive medical facility in the Shoals and surrounding areas in Tennessee and Mississippi. Since 2010, ECM and Shoals Hospitals have been part of RegionalCare Hospital Partners. With 358 beds and 200 staff physicians with 42 different specialty areas, ECM serves a wide variety of patient needs. ECM provides Northwest Alabama with a full-service heart program that provides both diagnostic and interventional cardiology, as well as cardiothoracic cardiovascular and vascular surgery. ECM’s heart program has been recognized as a Blue Distinction Center for Cardiac Care by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. It operates three full-service cath labs and a special procedures room for vascular procedures. ECM has expanded neurosciences in the Shoals with the employment of both a neurosurgeon and neurologists. The goal of the hospital is to continue adding new services and programs that will allow area residents to remain at home for care. Other key services include “The Women’s Pavilion” known as “The Birth Place of the Shoals,” The Childrens’ Center pediatric wing, an eight-bed sleep diagnostic center, a wound healing center with hyperbaric chambers, a designated Endoscopy Center, PET/ CT and MRI services and an in-patient adult psychiatric unit, known as the Renaissance Center for Emotional Health. ECM is also the area’s only hospital with an infectious disease specialist on staff. The hospital’s 24-hour Emergency Department is staffed with physicians who are all board-certified in emergency medicine. In an effort to boost service, ECM offers a mobile app that shows the current ER wait time. “We are proud to offer this community many unique services and look forward to continued

growth and the provision of new and expanded services,” said Tom Whetstone, Director of Marketing and Communications. If approved, ECM plans to construct a new regional medical center for Northwest Alabama. “This may be the only opportunity the Shoals has for many years to have a brand-new, regional hospital,” Whetstone says. “These facilities are very expensive to construct, and as a community, we are fortunate that RegionalCare Partners has the resources to build this facility that will meet the needs of the area for years to come.” Along with providing health care for the people of the Shoals, ECM also boosts the local economy. As a for-profit hospital since 2010, ECM is a local taxpayer and “provides multiple millions in tax dollars” to the area each year, Whetstone says. In addition, an independent study showed that the construction of the new hospital will bring a $1 billion economic impact to the Shoals area, including construction jobs and other new development that will result from the project.


Shoals Hospital

Shoals Hospital’s campus is situated on three acres in Muscle Shoals.

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n 1968, a group of physicians founded Shoals Hospital in an effort to serve the residents of Colbert County. Today, the hospital continues to serve Colbert County and the greater Shoals area as a 184-bed, general acute care facility with more than 170 physicians on staff. Along with ECM, Shoals Hospital is an affiliate of RegionalCare Hospital Partners. Shoals Hospital’s current facility, which is in Muscle Shoals, was built in 1984 and features many of the modern amenities today’s patients have come to expect. Most rooms are private and oversized, and most outpatient services are located on the first floor, making them efficient and easily accessible. Patients at Shoals Hospital have access to medical and oncology services, medical/surgical inpatient units, a post-surgical care unit, and intensive care and short-stay surgery units. Additionally, Shoals also offers some unique services. The J.W. Sommer Rehabilitation Unit, the area’s only in-patient acute rehabilitation facility, is housed at Shoals Hospital. This 32-bed facility provides a wide range of therapy services, including physical, occupational and speech, in order to treat stroke patients, amputees and others who need time and specialized care “to help get their lives back on track,” says Michelle Eubanks, the hospital’s community relations director. Shoals is also home to the area’s only geriatric acute psychiatric facility. The Senior Care Center is the Shoals’ only inpatient facility for senior adults suffering from psychiatric disorders. “Many adults who are 55 and older deal with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and this unit is specifically focused on their needs,” Eubanks says. Shoals Plastic Surgery is also on the Shoals campus. The wide range of services offered, from

physical enhancements to skin-care treatments, gives individuals specialized service that can be found nowhere else in Colbert County. The Sleep Center at Shoals Hospital was uniquely designed with the patient in mind. In addition to traditional sleep studies, the program also offers innovative programs including PAP-Naps and in-home sleep studies. Not only does Shoals provide a wide variety of medical services to meet the needs of patients and their families, but the hospital does so with an uncommon level of service. In 2011, Shoals Hospital received a J.D. Power Award for Outstanding Patient Experience. In addition, the hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission, has been designated a Certified Quality Breast by the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers two years running, is a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Tier 1 Hospital, and has received a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Distinguished Award in hip and knee replacement surgeries.

The Post-Surgical Care Unit offers patients a specialized area designed for their recovery from a surgery or procedure.

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Shoals Scholar Dollars “Free” 2 Year College Scholarships

Joe Wheeler State Park, located on Wheeler Lake, offers something for everyone; a resort lodge, a restaurant, cabins, camping, fishing, golf, tennis, swimming, convention/ banquet facilities, transient slips and a marina.   Whether you’re looking for a place to spend the weekend or a place to have the perfect wedding, Joe Wheeler State Park can be your dream destination. 

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here may be a number of reasons high school graduates don’t attend college, but in the Shoals cost is no longer one of them. Qualifying students who graduate from any of the Shoals 17 high schools can attend NorthwestShoals Community College for 2 years free. That’s because Shoals Scholar Dollars, a citizen-driven scholarship program, will help cover the costs of either academic or technical pursuits. This will enable the Shoals to attract employers seeking a highly trained and motivated workforce. “We are working to change the destiny of the Shoals,” says Harold Lewis, member of the

Shoals Scholar Dollars board. “Providing a higher education for our kids will enable the Shoals to be second to none in the quality of our local workforce. These are our kids; if they live in the Shoals it’s our responsibility to make sure they have the opportunity for a better tomorrow.” Shoals Scholar Dollars is a tax deductible 501(c)3 foundation and funded through the donations of the Shoals’ citizens, civic clubs, churches, and businesses. Originally launched as a joint project of the Florence and Muscle Shoals Rotary Clubs in 2011, Shoals Scholar Dollars quickly became a community-wide citizen driven program; in less than two years 10,000 plus individual have donated over $800,000. Many groups and individuals have participated in fund raising activities including; an annual SSD auction, Student of the Year competition, fishing tournaments, car and truck shows, benefit concerts, 10K runs and many others. Various civic, educational, and religious organizations have made Shoals Scholar Dollars the recipient of their service projects. The class of 2014 will be the first to qualify; they must have maintained a C+ average, 95 percent attendance rate throughout high school, must be free of behavior problems in and out of school; and a U.S. citizen. www.shoalsscholardollars.com This page donated on behalf of PFI Group.


Lauderdale County School System

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he Lauderdale County School System (LCSS) has established a tradition of excellence, graduating its first class in 1913. Today it has 10 schools with over 8,700 students and 587 teachers, 70% of which hold advanced degrees. Each school plays a vital role in its community, providing a quality education and a sense of family and stability. LCSS consistently produces graduates who serve their community in a variety of civic, professional, and artistic endeavors. Student ACT scores have risen for the past five years, surpassing state and national averages. They proudly claim the first-ever recipient of the ACT College and Career Readiness Campaign National Student Readiness Award winner, Sheree Gremillion, a 2013 graduate of Rogers High School. Every faculty member has been trained to fully implement Alabama College and Career Readiness Standards. The LCSS works diligently to incorporate technology with immediate plans for a one-to-one student technology initiative, beginning with 8th grade students. Each school has full wireless capability. The LCSS works closely with local agencies to provide the maximum support for its students. The Alabama State Department of Education selected LCSS to pilot its innovative Learning Support system, which aims to remove barriers that inhibit student achievement. The LCSS has created an alternative academic program, LIFE Academy, which allows at-risk students a chance at success. The LCSS provides cutting-edge career technical instruction with 15 programs, including a dualenrollment welding class, at Allen Thornton Career Technical Center and its satellite campus at Central School. The LCSS boasts five pre-kindergarten classes and three pre-school classes which serve three- and four-year-old children in the district. Advanced

placement and dual-enrollment classes are offered at six of the high schools in the district, allowing students to earn valuable college credit while fulfilling high school graduation requirements. In 2012 the LCSS formed a partnership with the Tennessee Valley Art Association, creating a school of performing arts which affords students the opportunity to receive world-class instruction in theater, dance, and voice, while receiving fine arts credit at their local schools. Students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of state and national award-winning athletic, academic, and fine arts teams. Students in Lauderdale County may take a variety of distance-learning classes via ACCESS labs. Instructional partners collaborate with classroom teachers to support literacy instruction. The LCSS is committed to excellence through education, embracing the belief that the road from poverty to prosperity runs directly through the public school. Pictured is Sheree Gremillion, 2013 winner of the ACT College and Career Readiness Campaign National Student Award.

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Shoals Ambulance

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hen people are experiencing the worst and need help the most, the dedicated experts at Shoals Ambulance are at their best, providing medical care and emergency transport for Lauderdale County and the cities of Florence and Muscle Shoals. “We provide advanced life support ambulance care as well as emergency and non-emergency transport services,” said Owner Bryan Gibson. Gibson opened Shoals Ambulance in the spring of 2012, and from the beginning, he and his team have focused on earning the community’s trust. “We know our services are essential,” he said, “and we take the fact that we’ve been entrusted with peoples’ care very seriously.”

Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Shoals Ambulance’s vehicles have a Mercedes chassis and are specifically engineered to ensure patient safety and comfort. They are outfitted with continually updated state-of-the-art equipment, including the latest technology in cardiac monitors and unparalleled communications and dispatch capabilities. But it is the company’s employees who truly stand out. “All of our employees are trained above and beyond what the state requires in emergency medicine,” Gibson said. “And they are passionate about what they do.” When Shoals Ambulance gets the call, those in need can count on the team’s commitment to quality, compassionate care.


Catholic Hill Community Grow spiritually.

Shine academically.

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n 1898, a non-Catholic, Lena Peters, donated land to be used for a Catholic church and school, which was named St. Joseph. Local residents called the area “Catholic Hill,” and the nickname has endured as St. Joseph has built a reputation for educating students academic excellence and spiritual growth for more than a century. During the 1960s, the three local Catholic schools merged to become St. Joseph Regional Catholic School, which still meets on Catholic Hill in Florence. The school serves students from three years old through 8th grade and is known for instilling an emphasis on service in its students. With an average of 20 students per class, St. Joseph teachers are able to build close relationships

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ethesda Cancer Treatment Center in Florence and Valley Regional Cancer Center in Sheffield have served patients in Colbert, Lauderdale and surrounding counties for more than 25 years. Patients rely on the centers’

Serve others.

with their students and closely follow them through their school years, says Principal Kelley Dewberry. A St. Joseph education follows the state curriculum but the school embeds its own additional benchmarks for success, Dewberry says. “We focus on the basics, but we are very progressive and aware that we need to educate students for their futures,” she says. “We want to make sure that we are relevant to the students we’re teaching today.” Religion classes are an important part of a St. Joseph education, but 30 percent of students are non-Catholic, and all develop “a sense of security about their faith and who they are,” Dewberry says. In addition to spiritual development and academic excellence, St. Joseph students learn the importance of communal service and develop a foundation that

physicians and staff to provide compassionate, skilled and quality care. In addition, an independent research shows a 98 percent patient satisfaction rate. Not only are patients satisfied, but the centers provide top-notch therapy that yields results. In 2013, Bethesda and Valley earned accreditation by the American College of Radiology, becoming the only accredited radiation oncology centers in the state of Alabama. “It is such a relief for our community to realize that they can undergo radiation treatments right here at home,” says Wanda Pinkston, Site Administrator.“We are fortunate that Shoals area patients have no need to go through the extra hardship of traveling for daily radiation treatments.” As a vital member of the local health care community, Bethesda and Valley take an active role in building a better Shoals area. “Employees work closely with the American Cancer Society and participate in several community involved events throughout the year.”

Bethesda Cancer Treatment Center Quality Treatment, Hometown Convenience

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Photo courtesy of ES ROBBINS Corporation.


Manufacturing and Industrial Services

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North American Lighting

New expansion area for 2014

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orth American Lighting (NAL) opened its Alabama plant in 2007 to much fanfare. The community welcomed the factory and its promise of jobs, and the company has thrived in the Shoals. The plant, which makes lighting products for automotive manufacturers, opened with 200,000 square feet and about 250 employees, and within seven years, it will have tripled in size and in number of employees. In 2014, NAL’s Muscle Shoals facility will include

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600,000 square feet and eventually employ more than 1,000 workers. The plant also manufactures products to be used in Toyota, Honda, Nissan and General Motors vehicles, all of which also have manufacturing facilities in the Southeastern United States. North American Lighting is a subsidiary of Koito of Japan, a global leader in automotive lighting. Its Muscle Shoals plant is the company’s fourth facility in the United States.


Meeting Evolving Demands

Enjoying Community Benefits

North American Lighting has been supplying lighting products to many of the major vehicle manufacturers in North America since 1983, but the business of designing and manufacturing vehicle lamps continues to change. In 2007, the company introduced the world’s first LED vehicle headlamp, and in 2013, it began supplying the first forwardlighting LED lamps for the Honda Acura MDX. LED technology is desirable for vehicle manufacturers and owners for a number of reasons. For instance, the new lamps are more energy efficient and environmentally friendly and will save fuel and reduce the electricity load on a car’s alternator. In addition, the LED’s are brighter which makes it easier to see the road making it safer for the driver. Not only are NAL-built lighting products in step with the latest technologies and safety expectations; they also meet modern design specifications, which go way beyond the traditional “simple round headlights” that cars and trucks sported for decades. In fact, NAL’s customers look at the lights as the “jewels on the car” and use them to help distinguish their car from their competition. To develop the headlight and taillight packages that will play such an important role in the look and feel of each vehicle, NAL works closely with automotive designers and engineers.

As NAL works to meet the changing lighting demands of the automotive industry, the Shoals area has been an ideal place to make it happen. When the company has needed to hire new workers over the years, the local workforce has been a valuable resource. NAL is able to fill the large majority of its positions with area workers who have the needed skills to perform well. When it is necessary to recruit more technical workers, such as engineers, from outside the immediate area, the local schools systems and the natural and cultural resources of the area help to sell NAL. In addition to benefiting from the local workforce and the appealing community, NAL has enjoyed the lasting support of local government and economic resources. The Shoals Economic Development Authority (SEDA) has been very involved from the beginning, providing financial incentives and connecting the company with other services. While enjoying the local resources, NAL also gives back to the community. The company is a sponsor of UNA athletics and participates in a number of local charity fundraisers such as the Salvation Army Christmas Angels and the WAFF Can-a-Thon. NAL also provides employment opportunities to assist with rehabilitation through the Shoals Easter Seals center and sponsors annual blood drives on site.

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SCA

This group of paper machine operators work on Paper Machine #14. They include (standing from left) Adam Wimberly, Barry Hensley, Bruce Newton, Charles Copeland, Anthony Miller, (on steps, from top) Stephanie Thompson, Bill Jordan and John Wyatt.

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n 2003, leading global hygiene and forest-products company SCA opened its newly built $240 million facility in Colbert County’s Barton community. By 2008, the company had added a second paper machine and almost doubled the size of the plant. Today, after a total investment of more than $5,000,000, SCA’s

Barton facility employs approximately 500 people and produces 180,000 tons of napkins, paper towels and toilet paper each year. “SCA wanted to locate a plant in the Southeast because it is the fastest growing region of the country,” says Fred Albrecht, Vice President of Product Supply for SCA in North and South Before she came to work at SCA in 2003, Barbara Estis (right) owned several businesses, including a pawnshop and a tanning salon. She enjoyed being an entrepreneur but says she appreciates the stability and benefits that come with working at SCA. Here, she is working with Team Lead John Goode, Jr., who has been at SCA since 2003 and spends his spare time going to church and traveling — favorite destinations include Tunica, Mississippi and Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Riley Neal, originally from Enterprise, Alabama, moved to the Shoals area to play football at the University of North Alabama, where he played defensive tackle for the Lions from 1985 to 1989. When he’s not working in the converting department at SCA, he serves as a minister at a nearby church, takes online classes to complete his college degree, and spends time with his wife and teenage daughter.

America. “We picked the Barton location because it offers the best combination of access to our customers, raw materials suppliers, a skilled and knowledgeable workforce and an attractive business environment.” The products made at SCA’s Barton plant are used in restaurants, hotels and other establishments

across the country. But company executives say the people of Barton are the difference behind the products they make. “The workforce here in the Shoals area is as good as any in the country,” says John Crane, Barton Site Manager. “The people here are hard workers who want to succeed, and they want the company to succeed.”

Two years after Chris McDonald (right) joined SCA, his wife Kim McDonald (left) joined him in the plant’s converting department. And it’s a real family affair: Their daughter, Tiffiny Vandiver, and Chris’ brother and sister-in-law, Connie and Mike McDonald, also work at the facility. After work, Kim spends time scrapbooking and making handmade greeting cards — she sends 300 each month to U.S. troops overseas — and Chris drag races at a nearby racetrack.

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Tarkett

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n 1957, Shoals businessman Stanley Robbins converted some cattle barns along Shoals Creek into a vinyl flooring plant. There, with 35 employees, he launched National Floor Products Co. (NAFCO). In 2003, NAFCO became a part of the Tarkett Group. Tarkett is the world leader for innovative and sustainable solutions for flooring and sports surfaces. Some 10,700 employees and 38 production units serve Tarkett customers in more than 100 countries. Tarkett’s North American headquarters are in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

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Early History From its beginning, the vinyl flooring industry in the Shoals area has been known for innovation. Robbins built a reputation for developing a number of new products and processes to constantly improve his products. He held patents on a number of manufacturing processes that helped pave the way for many advances in the flooring industry and the high-quality construction of modern flooring products. A few years after NAFCO launched, the company purchased the first site available in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park. In 1965, NAFCO built one of the world’s most modern vinyl plants, on the Florence campus that continues to produce luxury vinyl tile and other flooring products, under the Tarkett brand, for North America. Shoals-based NAFCO engineers designed the equipment that developed the first solid vinyl flooring, and the company was the first manufacturer to make a pure vinyl floor. Some of the company’s early innovations include precisionsizing of the tile, processing patents on wall base and the first vacuum-back waffle tile that needed no adhesive in order to be installed. In addition to the company’s technical innovations, NAFCO was known throughout the industry for its high-end style and design. From the beginning, NAFCO had a reputation for luxury vinyl tile in both product construction and interior fashion.


Changing Hands In 1994, NAFCO was sold to Domco Industries, and the innovations continued. The company developed the first vinyl tiles with a seamless look, or two-sided grout, in 1997. This cutting-edge product was later named GroutFit. Two years later, the company introduced Tritonite, a revolutionary surface treatment. And in 2002, PermaStone with GroutFit and Tritonite was introduced, featuring 16” by 16” tiles. Faced with economic difficulties, Domco merged with Tarkett in 2003, saving the Shoals plant from shuttering. Founded in France, Tarkett is the largest flooring company in the worldwide industry and shares NAFCO’s long history of highend design and cutting-edge flooring construction. Today, the former NAFCO is part of Tarkett and operates under its Tarkett North American division. The Shoals Tarkett plant specializes in producing luxury vinyl tile, wallbase, and some commercial products. It continues to introduce new, innovative products and manufacturing processes. In 2004, Tarkett introduced PermaStone Modular and in 2009, it introduced GroutFil and GroutLess products. In 2013, the company re-launched its luxury vinyl tile line, including its signature PermaStone product.

the Shoals facility. The expansion and company investment included hiring approximately 150 new workers, bringing the number of Tarkett employees in the Shoals area to more than 300. As a longtime fixture in the Shoals area, Tarkett and its employees are dedicated to making a positive impact on the local community. Each year, the company and its employees get involved in Toys for Tots, canned food drives for a local children’s home, and fundraising for the Ronald McDonald House. Tarkett also makes contributions to other local charities and looks for opportunities to encourage its employees to give back to the community, says Stuart Mills, Human Resources and Safety Manager at Tarkett Alabama.

Building for the Future In 2013, Tarkett decided to relocate operations from a Houston plant to the Shoals area. This change resulted in a $30-million expansion of 145


B Electric, Inc.

B Electric’s. ribbon cutting was held in 2004 at the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center in Florence, Alabama.

Pictured is an early morning service call to repair parking lot lighting.

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Electric, Inc. is a rapidly growing electrical contracting company providing quality electrical services with only the best electricians. Since it opened, B Electric, Inc.’s sales, customer base and employees have steadily increased every year, indicating that the decision to locate in the Shoals was a good one. Company President James Bowles comes from a long line of electricians, and he always knew he wanted to own and operate an electrical contracting business. He spent nearly two decades laying the groundwork for his dream in areas needed such as state licensing, electrical training, business management and higher education, including earning a BS and MBA from the University of North Alabama. When he launched his company, B Electric, Inc., in 2004, it had been 20 years in the making.

The Shoals Connection Born and raised in Louisiana, Bowles grew up visiting relatives who lived in the Shoals and fell in love with the area. After he and his wife Karen married, they both knew Florence was where they wanted to live. Now after 25 years in the area, Bowles says the Shoals has been a great place to live, work and raise a family.

A Community Partner B Electric, Inc. is an active corporate citizen with employees serving on various committees and community boards as well as donating funds and electrical work on several church mission projects and other charitable causes. Bowles is a past president of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association and serves as the 2014 Chairman of the Board of The Shoals Chamber of Commerce.

History of Success Now licensed in four states, B Electric, Inc. has built a reputation for high quality electrical work on commercial and industrial construction projects and has achieved an “Unlimited Bid Amount Limit” from the State of Alabama. The company undertakes basic electrical work such as lighting and power as well as specialized control systems for manufacturing companies. The company’s “B” logo is one of the most recognized symbols in the Shoals area. Bowles attributes his company’s success to good employees, ongoing training, a stellar safety record, a positive reputation, strong relationships, community support and a heart for service. “There is no doubt God has blessed B Electric, Inc., and we try our best to be a good steward of what He has provided,” Bowles said. 146


Bigbee Steel Buildings

The Steel Cowboy

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erry Bigbee left his home in the Shoals when he was 13 years old to “make a fortune in the Kansas wheat fields,” he once told a reporter for the TimesDaily. Before he made it to the wheat fields, he was distracted by the rodeo, where he found a job and a lifelong passion for the cowboy lifestyle. After spending several years out West, Bigbee eventually found himself working in Tucson for a general contractor that specialized in metal buildings, which was a brand new industry in the 1950s. He decided to come home, bringing his new knowledge with him. In 1962, he opened Bigbee Steel Buildings in Muscle Shoals. “When the company first started, they were making metal building systems by welding frames up in the backyard, and buying components from the few manufacturers that were around at the time,” says Roy Rudolph, President of the company. “As time went on, Mr. Bigbee bought an old roll former and started roll forming wall and roof panels on site.” Today, Bigbee Steel Buildings engineers, designs and fabricates steel building systems that are erected all over the world. Over the years, demand for steel buildings has grown because they are economical, flexible and the erection process is “fairly quick from start to finish,” Rudolph says. “And you can make them look as nice as you want. A lot of buildings that look fancy start out as metal buildings.”

Although Bigbee’s buildings can be found across the Southeast and as far away as Siberia, Saudi Arabia and Africa, the company’s location in the Shoals has always served it well. “We are strategically located right in the middle of Memphis, Nashville and Birmingham, which are our three biggest markets,” Rudolph says. “Mr. Bigbee always said there couldn’t be a better place to be located.” Before his death in 2010, Bigbee built a reputation for local philanthropy, and his company continues to give back liberally to its community. One of his proudest moments was receiving The Shoals Chamber’s Golden Glove Award for extraordinary contributions to the community. Bigbee Steel Buildings is also highly respected in its industry as the smallest member of the Metal Builders Manufacturers Association to earn accreditation under the American Institution of Steel Construction Certifification Program in the 1990s. In addition to building a lasting company that would make a global impact and employ more than 100 people in his beloved hometown, Bigbee also found time to nurture his love of rodeo, hosting an annual team-roping event that was once the largest in the world. Today, the “Biggest East of the Mississippi” Team Roping brings thousands of rodeo fans each year to Longhorn Arena, which is just a stone’s throw from the Bigbee home and housed in, of course, a Bigbee Steel building. 147


ES ROBBINS Corporation

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hoals native Ed Robbins grew up in the plastics business, as part of a family who helped pioneer the industry. In 1967, he founded ES ROBBINS, an innovative manufacturer of extruded plastic products made in the USA, which has been a leading employer in North Alabama for almost 50 years. As leader of the company, Robbins has dedicated his life to innovating polymer-based products that improve the quality of life, work and play, and he holds more than 160 patents for products used in homes, offices, industry, food service and equine facilities. The products manufactured at ES ROBBINS facilities in the Shoals area are sold under the brand names ES ROBBINS, Aleco® and Centaur®

Ed Robbins is the inventor of Centaur®, the horse friendly fence, and he is President of ES ROBBINS Corporation.

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Horse Fencing. They include leading edge chair mats, environmental strip doors, revolutionary horse fencing and other products that are known for performance, innovation, design and safety features. “Our products are not only practical and useful; they also are designed to ensure the safety of those who use them, whether that is home cooks, office workers, restaurant staff or valued companion animals,” Robbins says. “We have a long history of developing innovative uses for raw materials and innovative designs for practical products.” In recent years, as consumers have demanded more sustainable products and new government regulations have required more environmentally safe materials, ES ROBBINS has responded by developing new applications in polymer science. These new products offer the company’s traditional improvements to safety and quality of life, but they are developed from renewable resources. Some of these newly developed, proprietary products have earned GREENGUARD® certification, which requires a product to meet the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive standards for indoor air quality standards. “Our goal is to be efficient, economically and ecologically friendly in all stages of our processes,” Robbins says. “We pioneer innovation in our product categories to use sustainable materials and components, and we constantly look for innovative ways to package, transport and display our products that minimize resource usage and maximize efficiency.” Throughout its long history in the Shoals, ES ROBBINS has striven to be a good corporate citizen. The company has participated in local beautification projects such as providing Centaur fencing and installation for Florence’s Deibert Park. As a member of the Shoals Business Council, ES ROBBINS has maintained its commitment to manufacture products locally with American labor, employing more than 200 workers in the Shoals area. A recent $2.2 million expansion to the company’s headquarters and primary manufacturing facility allowed the company to add 25 new employees over a three-year period. “The Shoals has been a great place for our business to grow,” Robbins says.


Dixie Signs & Decals, Inc.

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hen Rick Milberger was in his early twenties working in Louisiana, his parents started Southern Graphic Printers, a screen print business. They printed novelty car tags and peddled them to truck stops and convenience stores from Gulfport, Mississippi, into the Carolinas. Milberger returned to the Shoals in the late 1970s, joined the business and discovered he was a designer at heart. “I thought I would never want to be in this business, but when I learned how to hand letter signs and do artistic design, I loved it,” Milberger says. The only thing he didn’t like was “the peddling,” so when he eventually bought the company from his parents, Milberger changed its name and restructured the business plan to eliminate the need to drive a route to sell products. Instead, Milberger and his wife Teresa focused on printing decals and fabricating signs for business and industry. Dixie Signs & Decals manufactures custom decals, nameplates, dataplates, control panel fronts, magnetic signs, safety decals, equipment labels, and signs made of wood, plastic, metal and other materials. It fabricates these products with high-tech equipment such as computer driven CNC cutters, and wide format digital printers. “We are unique in the sign industry because we make a greater variety of products than most sign companies,” Milberger says. “We really see ourselves as problem solvers; we use our vast combined knowledge or invent ways to do what our customers need. And we’ve been around so long and are experienced in so many different methods of manufacturing, we can always design a solution.” For more than 32 years, Dixie Signs & Decals has been solving problems for customers across the United States, including many manufacturers. For

instance, the company produces tough adhesivebacked decals that are used on the control panels of tractors, trucks and other vehicles and has developed a foam-backed adhesive embossed aluminum plate that can be used on diamond plate truck toolboxes, cab guards or any irregular surface. The Shoals has always been a good place for Dixie Signs & Decals because “we could grow slow here,” Milberger says. “When we started, we didn’t have a lot of competition here and we were able to work our way in.” The company has many local customers, but Dixie Signs & Decals has grown its business nationally by attending national industry trade shows, advertising in trade magazines and hiring outside salespeople. While the Milbergers enjoy working with customers all over the country, they have been glad to call the Shoals home for more than 32 years. “You just can’t beat this area as a place to live,” Milberger says. “I’ve lived in lots of different cities, and it’s a lot easier to meet and get to know people in a smaller community like the Shoals.”

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Applied Chemical Technology

Pictured above (left to right) are Daniel Lewey, Don Fitts, Andy McAlister, Curtis Lewey, Jane Shirley and Ray Shirley.

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o be a leader in any industry, one must demonstrate a commitment to achieving excellence in all endeavors. For more than 30 years, Applied Chemical Technology, Inc. (ACT), located in Florence, has followed this formula. As a result, the company has grown exponentially to become one of the most innovative manufacturing companies in the world. ACT was founded as a small consulting firm in 1981 by A. Ray Shirley Jr., an engineer who set out to provide clients in the chemical industry with innovative solutions at the lowest possible cost. Demand for Shirley’s services quickly grew, and ACT expanded through the years, adding a team of more than 50 professional engineers, designers, laboratory and computer technicians, master craftsmen, and business and support staff. Today, ACT provides development, engineering and custom-made equipment to the international chemical industry. Equipment designed and built by ACT can be found in laboratories, smallscale testing facilities and full-sized commercial

production plants around the world. The company’s clients are located on six different continents and range from universities to commercial corporations and government agencies. Its markets include fertilizer, chemical, pharmaceutical, alternative energy research, biomass and rocket and space fuels just to name a few. Every design is created specific to each client’s needs at ACT’s state-of-the-art laboratories in Florence. Fundamental to ACT’s success are its relationships with clients and its employees, who are team oriented, highly dedicated and world-class craftsmen and professionals. ACT is sought out for its technological capabilities, but its commitment to excellent customer service is what drives more than 80 percent of customers back for repeat business. Clients are encouraged to be involved with their projects on a day-to-day basis so they can watch how their project evolves from start to finish. The company prides itself on being a “one-stop shop” capable of taking any chemical product idea and developing the process, systems and equipment to bring a product to full-scale commercial production. ACT’s on-site engineering, development and fabrication teams ensure that every project is marked by continuous improvement. This commitment to excellence has paid off not only in continuous growth for the company, but in the honors it has received. ACT was recently named Small Manufacturer of the Year by the Alabama Technology Network and the Business Council of Alabama. The award is part of the Alabama Manufacturer of the Year Awards, an annual program that recognizes Alabama manufacturing enterprises that exhibit an uncompromising commitment to excellence.


Wise Metals Group

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he legacy of Wise Metals Group began in the 1940s when its facilities were built to produce aluminum for World War II aircraft. The original Reynolds Metals plant brought jobs and relief to an area that had just begun recovering from the Great Depression. After the war, the plant created products such as aluminum foil and helped build the post-war Shoals economy as a key employer in the area. In 1999, as many Reynolds plants around the country were sold, Baltimore-based Wise Metals Group purchased the Shoals facility, maintaining production. In 2011, Wise moved its headquarters to Muscle Shoals. “Alabama has been good to us, and the Shoals area offers everything our company needs,” says David D’Addario, Chairman and CEO. Today, Wise Metals Group employs more than 1,500 workers. Wise Alloys is the world’s third-leading producer of aluminum can stock for the beverage industry. The immense alloys plant produces primarily can sheet metal, used to make aluminum beverage cans for customers like Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola. Wise metal is an environmentally responsible product, as the can sheet starts as used beverage cans, which are recycled and melted, then rolled into thin gauge coiled sheet. Additionally, Wise Alloys rolls and finishes aluminum sheet wider than any other mill in North America.

provides maintenance, repairs and fabrication to industrial plants worldwide. Alabama Electric Motor Services, with locations in Sheffield and Mobile, sells, repairs and refurbishes industrial electric motors throughout the Southeast.

For more than 70 years, a sprawling alloys plant located in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, has produced aluminum for the global market. Along with product rolling off its lines, the plant has provided reliable jobs that have long sustained Shoals-area

A Community Fixture

families and the local economy.

Wise also strives to be a generous corporate citizen. The company supports a number of local organizations including the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, along with local school systems. Wise representatives insist that giving back to the community is only fitting, as the area has been vital to business growth. “The Shoals has given us employees who excel at improving the safety, quality and efficiency of our operations,” D’Addario says. “That has allowed us to compete on a worldwide stage in the can sheet market.”

Beyond Metal Fabrication Along with producing aluminum sheet at the alloys plant, Wise also operates Wise Recycling, Total Maintenance Center and Alabama Electric Motor Services. Wise Recycling is one of the largest collectors of aluminum beverage containers in the United States, with locations around the country. Total Maintenance Center, in Muscle Shoals, 151


Herald Quickprint and Technology

TASUS Alabama

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ince 1884, Herald Printing has been a fixture in downtown Florence. A fifthgeneration family business, the company started as a newspaper publisher and now serves the Shoals area as a commercial printer and technology service provider. Herald Printing, which has been owned by the Martin family since the 1920s, has long played an important role in the lives of local citizens. For almost a century, the company published The Florence Herald newspaper, a vital weekly newspaper circulated throughout Lauderdale County. When Jack Martin returned from service in the U.S. Navy

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n November 2012, the Shoals area economy added its newest automotive supplier when TASUS Alabama began its operations in a temporary facility. In September 2013, TASUS began manufacturing in its new, 106,000-square-foot facility in Florence with 50 employees; that number will grow to 200 when the plant is at full capacity.

in 1962 and joined his father in the family business, he began leading the company out of the newspaper business and into commercial printing. Today, Jack Martin’s son, Jay Martin, and grandson, Tyler Martin, are fourth- and fifthgeneration members of the business and have continued to lead the company into new territory. “We have made gradual transitions to change with the times,” said Jack. “As new technologies have become available, we have shifted to provide the services our customers need in the most efficient, cost-effective ways.” Today, the company is known as Herald Quickprint and Technology and offers digital printing, high volume copying and bulk mail services as well as computer repairs, networking, system installations and backup services. In addition to an aggressive commitment to serving customers well, Herald has been extremely active in local civic activities, with the Martin family members and employees serving in the Florence Civitan Club, YMCA, the United Way, United Cerebral Palsy, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Florence Lauderdale Port Authority and many other civic organizations.

As an injection molder for the automotive industry, TASUS manufactures automotive exterior and interior components such as sun visors and consoles, exterior lighting components such as lenses and housings, and engine management components such as radiator shrouds and power steering fluid reservoirs. “The Florence location was ideal for us, and the Shoals is a good place for us to do business for a few, very good reasons,” said Melanie Hart, President of Tsuchiya Group North America. “Not only is Florence near a very large customer of TASUS and within reasonable shipping range to several other high potential customers, but the community has much to offer, with a fine university and a downtown with vitality. In addition, the community’s leadership strongly supports economic development and manufacturing growth.” TASUS Alabama is the fourth Tsuchiya plant in North America. Tsuchiya Co. Ltd. is headquartered in Japan and was founded in 1950. The company operates other facilities around the globe in Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Czech Republic and Indonesia.


United Way of Northwest Alabama

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or over 75 years, United Way of Northwest Alabama has been bringing people together to make their community a better place to live. By supporting and partnering with multiple non-profit programs and agencies in the area, UWNWAL pools resources and energy in an effort to fulfill its mission of “improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of the community to create lasting change” and recruits people and organizations who are ready, willing and able to get things done. In 2012, over $1 million was invested in Colbert, Lauderdale and Franklin counties through UWNWAL. Whether it is through monetary donations, volunteering time and expertise, in-kind services or simply promoting UWNWAL’s mission and message, the organization stresses that each individual in the Shoals can get involved and by working together, they can accomplish positive change. That change is focused on three crucial areas: education, financial stability and health. From improving access to quality childcare to working with schools and parents to decrease drop out rates, UWNWAL is working to ensure area children achieve their potential through education. The organization is also helping families become stable and financially independent by providing opportunities for job training and financial This page donated on behalf of International Paper.

education and striving to increase the options in affordable housing for seniors and families. Finally, United Way is committed to improving the community’s overall health by reducing substance abuse, child abuse and domestic violence and raising awareness about basic health education and preventative care. United Way of Northwest Alabama is dedicated to maximizing its impact and encourages everyone to unite with its motto: “Uncommon people united for the common good.”

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154 Photo by Shannon Wells.


Marketplace and Hospitality

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Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa

The area’s only Four Diamond hotel, the Marriott Shoals offers a great resort experience for guests.

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n its inception, the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa was designed to be a positive member of the local community while providing a strong economic impact for the Tennessee Valley region. Associates were hired based on their attitude, not their hotel background. Owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the Marriott Shoals was designed to make a difference in the community while fostering a culture of caring and excellence. All of these expectations were quickly exceeded. The Marriott Shoals was ranked the top hotel for overall guest satisfaction, dining, golf and spa in 2012 within Marriott International for North America. Of the 336 full-service Marriott hotels in North America, the Marriott Shoals was the leader in overall guest satisfaction and 22 other categories. Ongoing surveys for Marriott guests are conducted daily by a third party research company and are tabulated each week to gage how individual hotels are treating their guests. For all of 2012, the Marriott Shoals was the top hotel in North America for the following categories: overall satisfaction; intent to return to property; intent to recommend in the future; staff service overall; high quality golf experience; spa service relaxing and enjoyable experience; quality of food and beverage overall; restaurant could be one of my favorites: atmosphere for drinks/hors d’oeuvres; in room dining quality of food; genuine caring; luxurious; offers touches of luxury; departure experience overall; comfortable room for meeting/ event; property experience influences future brand stay considerations; compared to competition

on staff service overall; secure, safe environment; provided helpful information about the area; perfect hotel for someone like you; helped you enjoy your trip; engaging and offered all you need to accomplish business objectives. “This is a real honor for our associates and our owners — the Retirement Systems of Alabama,” said Larry Bowser, General Manager of the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa. “Twenty years ago before the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail opened, people would have laughed if they heard Marriott’s top golf was in Alabama. No one would have guessed Alabama had the top spa, dining and luxurious atmosphere within Marriott,” said Bowser. “Now, Marriott’s leadership and others in the hospitality industry are well aware of the Marriott Shoals and the other seven hotels in the Resort Collection on Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. We continue to take care of our guests and associates while being a vital member of the community. We have embraced the area’s musical heritage and Southern hospitality, and it shows.” Former skeptics are now believers and some of the hotel’s best advocates, according to Bowser. “The Marriott Shoals has stunning views of the Tennessee River, grand architecture and a host of other amenities; however, it is our caring team of associates that makes this hotel come to life,” he said. “The Retirement Systems of Alabama has invested in our hotels, and collectively, we are helping enhance Alabama’s reputation one guest at a time.”


manner, and they want to know more about your area,” Wilson said.

About the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa

Florence/Lauderdale County Tourism Director Debbie Wilson says the good news has been spreading quickly. “It’s really big news to have a hotel in your market to be recognized as the best of the year, especially coming from a chain like Marriott International,” Wilson said. “It is big for our community, and everyone should be proud of Larry Bowser and his outstanding team at the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa.” Wilson said she and her staff will be using the ranking as a marketing tool and has already spread the word throughout the hospitality industry and specifically at the Cincinnati Golf Show. “People see a hotel in your market that is recognized in this

Overlooking the Tennessee River and historic Wilson Dam in Florence, the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa continues to be the Marriott leader for exceptional golf, spas, dining, hotel rooms and guest satisfaction. The 200 guest rooms, including seven suites, have private balconies and riverfront views. The resort features Alabama’s only revolving restaurant and more than 30,000 square feet of versatile meeting space. The Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa is a short distance from two Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail courses — Fighting Joe and Schoolmaster. The Fighting Joe was named among the top 10 new courses by Golf Magazine and Travel + Leisure Golf. The Schoolmaster course opened in 2005 and approaches 8,000 yards. In addition to great golf, the Shoals area is internationally known for two things: bass fishing and a rich musical heritage. Swamper’s Bar and Grill celebrates the area’s rich musical heritage. Little Richard, The Rolling Stones, Cher and others recorded in the Shoals, and the area still has many songwriters and recording studios. For upscale dining, the revolving 360 tower restaurant offers remarkable cuisine and amazing views of the Tennessee River. The 6,000-squarefoot European-style spa and salon help make the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa the premier resort in the Tennessee River Valley.

The Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa has been named to Florence’s Green Team for its environmental efforts.

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals was the top-ranked Marriott golf site in North America for 2012.

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Milner Rushing Discount Drugs Family + Service = Success

Alabama’s oldest operating independent pharmacy

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hen Shoals natives John and Kathy Lawson moved back to their hometown and purchased a business in 1973, they were building on a long heritage of service to the local community. Milner Rushing Discount Drugs, originally opened in 1853 in downtown Florence, was already a respected local business known for serving customers well. In the 40 years since, the Lawson family has not only continued that longtime tradition, but they have expanded Milner Rushing’s services, added locations and have made the business a pillar of community service. When the Lawsons purchased Milner Rushing, it was a small drugstore on Florence Boulevard. By the late 1970s, they had added a durable medical equipment and home health division, which has become one of the largest in the state. With four locations, including three storefronts, business office and home medical equipment office and warehouse, Milner Rushing is now the largest independent pharmacy in the Shoals area. Service has always been the number one goal of Milner Rushing Drugs and Home Care. “We have always enjoyed serving our community and the people of the Shoals have always supported us,” says De Barnes, Company Administrator. “We wouldn’t be who we are without our customers.”

Family Business For the Lawsons, Milner Rushing has been a true family business for more than 40 years. In the early years, John and Kathy Lawson both worked in their first location on Florence Boulevard, often with their young children underfoot. “They raised their kids in the drugstore, as they both worked together to grow the business,” Barnes says. “It has always been a family effort.” As the business grew, so did the family. After finishing college and pharmacy school, the Lawsons’ son Jeff came back to the Shoals and joined the business. He now works side by side with his father to run the company. His sister Julie Lawson Frederick also worked in the business before becoming a full-time wife and mother. But the business “family” doesn’t just include the Lawsons; it extends to all employees as well. “Milner Rushing has always been a family operation,” says Barnes. “We have employees that have been working here for more than 30 years. People don’t leave; they just become part of the family.” Not only do Milner Rushing employees tend to remain in their jobs for many years, but they also often work with their own family members. There are husbands and wives, parents and grown children, who all work in the company. “We have generations of family members working together,” says John Lawson, CEO. “If you are not family by blood when you come to work here, you become family by love. It just works great, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Outstanding Service Milner Rushing employees feel like they’re one big family, but they also care for their customers the same way they would care for their own family members. That dedication to treating each person with fairness, kindness and full attention has long been the backbone of this successful family business. “Our service has built our business; it is second to none,” Lawson says. “People just can’t believe how quickly their prescriptions are filled. We know our customers by name, and they know us.” As part of Milner Rushing’s dedication to fast, personal service in a professional manner, the company is committed to patient and community education and to improving the pharmacy and home health care industry. Milner Rushing is a member of the American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc., Alabama Durable Medical Association and 158


the American Association of Home Care. The company is also accredited by the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, as well as registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Milner Rushing employee Al Jackson is an active member and has served on the state board for the Alabama Durable Medical Association. Employee Wayne Lewis serves on the Alabama State Licensure Board for DME, and Barnes serves on the Alabama Board of Directors for the Alabama Department of Senior Services.

Giving Back For the Lawson family, helping to build a stronger community has been just as important as serving its customers well. For decades, Lawson family members and Milner Rushing employees have been intimately involved in giving back to the Shoals area. John and Kathy Lawson have always set the stage for community service and volunteerism by living lives of service as they built and ran their business. For instance, they have served as foster parents for the state of Alabama and as active volunteers for Heritage Christian University, where John Lawson serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Kathy Lawson serves as President of the Heritage Associates. That spirit of giving back is contagious at Milner Rushing. The company helped provide funding for The Shoals Chamber of Commerce headquarters building and supports a number of local charities and charity events, including the

John and Kathy Lawson

American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, The American Heart Association, the Cerebral Palsy Center, the Children’s Museum of the Shoals and others. Staff members volunteer their time with these organizations and serve on the boards of directors for organizations including Hospice of the Shoals, Shoals Christian School, Better Business Bureau, The Shoals Chamber of Commerce, The American Cancer Society, The Alabama Association of Durable Medical Equipment and The Alabama Department of Senior Services. Familiar faces, expert care

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Books-AMillion Approaching a Century of Service

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n 1917, 14-year-old Clyde W. Anderson began delivering newspapers to help support his family. He heard that the Northern construction workers who had come to Florence to help build Wilson Dam were disappointed they couldn’t buy their hometown newspapers in the area, and he had an idea. Anderson coordinated with Northern newspaper publishers and the railroads to send stacks of newspapers to Florence, where he sold them from a makeshift newsstand he built with piano crates on Court Street. Within a few years of building his piano-crate newsstand, Clyde Anderson and his brothers had earned enough money to invest in their first bookstore in downtown Florence. That was the beginning of Books-A-Million, one of the country’s leading bookstore chains, which today operates more than 250 stores in 33 states and employs approximately 5,000 associates.

Exponential Growth

Court Street Newsstand

The Anderson family business grew from that single bookstore to a regional chain that thrived under the leadership of Clyde’s son, Charles C. Anderson, who took the helm in 1950. By the end of the 1970s, the business had expanded into a 50-store enterprise located in Southeastern shopping malls and operated under the name Bookland. In the 1980s, with the advent of the superstore, the Anderson family business took a leap into the new world of “big box” retailing. The company doubled in size in 1988 when it purchased Gateway

Books, a 50-store chain. In 1992, the company changed its name to Books-A-Million, reflecting its new focus on the superstore format, and became a public company trading on the NASDAQ exchange. Over the years, Books-A-Million has continued to build its business by entering new markets and acquiring other companies in related businesses. In 1994, the company purchased Books & Co., and in 2001, it acquired a portion of Crown Books. In 1999, Books-A-Million purchased NetCentral, a web development company, which led to the development of BooksAMillion.com, a highpowered online marketplace through which the company sells and ships products all over the world.

A Modern Experience The Anderson family still maintains majority ownership in the family business, but Books-AMillion has come a long way from the makeshift newsstand in downtown Florence. At each bookstore location, Books-A-Million offers an expansive selection of books, magazines, bargain books, collectible supplies and extensive gift and card departments. The superstores are home to an array of uniquely designed departments, such as Faithpoint, featuring Christian books and merchandise; Kids Department, featuring plush toys, gifts and special daily readings for children; and the legendary Newsstand, which extends across the entire width of the back of the store and features the largest selection of magazines in the field. A Joe Muggs Café, located in most Books-A-Million superstores, offers a full coffee and espresso bar with a wide selection of gourmet teas and desserts.

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Staff at the AWBC warehouse show their support for the University of Northern Alabama.

The modern Books-A-Million stores are located in power shopping centers, lifestyle centers and malls. They are usually situated as a vital component of a complete shopping experience, in close proximity to national anchor stores, department stores, big box electronics and home goods stores, grocery stores, restaurants and movie theaters. In 2012, Books-A-Million opened a new, updated store in Florence on Cox Creek Parkway. While the Anderson family business has come a long way since 1917, Books-A-Million is still in the business of bringing people together and providing them with the reading material they want. Each store creates a sense of a “book place” and is enhanced with comfortable chairs and the café. In those comfy chairs, on any given day, booklovers and shoppers settle in to read a good book, use the store’s wireless Internet access or simply chat with friends and neighbors. At each location, Books-A-Million hosts regular in-store events, such as readings and book signings, which always attract crowds.

Founded in 1992, AWBC is located in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park, where its inventory and distribution facilities cover eight acres of industrial property. In addition to AWBC’s main building, which spans 320,000 square feet, the company operates a 60,000-square-foot fixture warehouse. BookSmart, Inc., the company’s bargain book distributor, is housed in a 200,000-squarefoot building nearby. BookSmart services a large number of retail and wholesale clients throughout the country and offers a wide assortment of valuepriced books from specially published packages to publisher remainders of previous bestsellers.

Mt. Juliet, Tennessee

American Wholesale Book Company American Wholesale Book Company is a subsidiary of Books-A-Million and is based in Florence. It provides complete book wholesale and distribution services for retailers across the Southeast. Additionally, the company has developed to provide Internet fulfillment services for book products sold by various e-commerce companies. The integration of complete wholesale and distribution services within the corporation provides significant economies and opportunities for cost savings for both the retail and e-commerce divisions of Books-A-Million, Inc. 161


Window World Providing Views of the Shoals

M Michael and Melissa Edwards, and their bulldog Molly

Ray Miller Buick-GMC 50 Years of Homegrown Service

Ray Miller Buick-GMC’s newly renovated facility

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ichael Edwards started out working as a window installer for Leon Whitworth, Owner of the original Window World in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Edwards decided to buy into the Window World family and purchased his first franchise in 2002. Edwards and his family moved to North Alabama and opened their Window World franchise, which has since become a highly respected member of the community. The Edwards family didn’t just start a business in North Alabama; they planted roots here. Mike and his wife Melissa oversee the company’s Huntsville operations, and Mike’s mother Virginia Edwards manages the Muscle Shoals location. At each location, Window World is known for providing

superior replacement windows, installed by talented craftsmen at affordable prices. The Edwards family and their employees are involved in giving back to the communities across the Tennessee Valley. They are supporters of St. Jude, and they match any donations made by customers to the organization. They also sponsor missions for Veterans Airlift Command. Of the almost 200 Window World offices in 45 states, the North Alabama location is among the most successful, says Katharine Kenney, Marketing Director. That success comes from “treating customers like family,” she says. “We are a family owned and operated business, and when people do business with us or work for us, they just become part of the Window World family.”

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he Miller family has a long history of selling, servicing and repairing vehicles for the people of the Shoals. Ray Miller grew up working in his father’s independent mechanic shop, Miller’s Garage, near Tuscumbia. He then worked at a Buick dealership in Sheffield, working his way up from mechanic to service manager to salesman. In May 1964, he and two partners purchased the Buick dealership in Florence, which became Ray Miller Buick-GMC. “We’re homegrown and have always been locally owned and operated,” says Mike Miller, who grew up in the business and took over for his father as dealer in 2000. “People know that they’re not dealing with strangers when they do business with us. Everybody that works here grew up here in the Shoals, and we do business with several generations of the same families.” For almost 50 years, local drivers have relied on Ray Miller Buick-GMC for unmatched service, and the dealership has been rated No. 1 in customer satisfaction among Buick-GMC dealers across the state for four years in a row, attaining Mark of Excellence Awards.

In addition to providing good service, Ray Miller Buick-GMC works to build a better community. The dealership sponsors the annual Susan G. Komen Rally for a Cure golf tournament at Blackberry Trail, participates in Toys for Tots and frequently contributes to the local United Way and its member charities.


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or more than 20 years, Rita and Larry Rawdon have been helping people get healthy the natural way, by offering produce, juices and other foods without pesticides, herbicides, hormones and other unnatural additives that are found in many commercially available foods. Rawdon’s family business, named Osa’s Garden for her grandmother Osa, relocated to

Highway 72 in Florence in 2007. As locals have become increasingly interested in the natural, organic path to nutrition and health, the store has become the Shoals’ center for living well. More than just an independent grocery store, Osa’s Garden features a juice bar and full-service café serving tasty, natural dishes and a wide selection of foods, supplements and beauty products for the most health-conscious lifestyles. “We focus on providing items that people can’t find at the mainstream grocery stores,” Rawdon said. “And we are always ready to answer questions and find what our customers need. We are focused on bringing a lot of goodness to the area.” Osa’s Garden offers fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs; free-range, organic chicken; wild caught, sustainable seafood; and naturally produced packaged foods. Shoppers with unique needs can find a variety of foods that are gluten-free, dairy free, low-carb or made with alternative sweeteners. In addition to serving Shoals area shoppers, Osa’s Garden also ships its products across the country. Online shoppers can order through the store’s website, www.osasgarden.com.

Osa’s Garden

Rita and Larry Rawdon

Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Flournoy Yacht Charters

Florence/ Lauderdale Tourism

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fter years of enjoying it themselves, Chip and Pam Flournoy realized there was an opportunity to share their love of sailing. Flournoy Yacht Charters was launched in 2004. The company started by offering sailboat charters and sailing lessons on the Tennessee River, but the Flournoys had always planned to expand locally and in the Caribbean. “We always wanted to teach people how to sail here and then graduate them to the Caribbean,” said Chip. In an effort to reach that goal, both Chip and Pam Flournoy became U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains. In 2008, Flournoy Yacht Charters added a 45-foot boat to its fleet and placed it on the island

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ince the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism agency was formed in 1995, the Shoals tourism industry has blossomed and boomed. The area has attracted new hotels, events and attractions during the past several years as well as exploding numbers of visitors. In 2014, a new visitors’ center will open in McFarland Park. “The local leaders really value tourism and understand that a strong visitor industry equals economic development,” said Debbie Wilson, Director of Florence/Lauderdale Tourism. With an annual budget of more than $1.2 million, up from $97,000 in 1995, the tourism agency promotes the area, offers music tours and other visitor packages, and the tourism industry consistently injects $183 million into the local economy.

of St. Thomas. Four years later, the company added a 36-foot boat to the St. Thomas fleet. Today, Flournoy Yacht Charters offers three boats in the Shoals and two in the Caribbean. Most boats can be chartered “bareboat,” without a captain, for qualified sailors. Many of the company’s clients travel to the Shoals area from Birmingham, Nashville or other outlying places to learn to sail, lock through Wilson Dam and enjoy the Tennessee River. “Our area is getting more and more attention,” Chip said. “People are realizing the beauty and recreation that is offered in the Shoals, and that’s good for us.”

When the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa opened in 2005, tourism revenue skyrocketed. Other recently opened hotels include two Hampton Inns, Residence Inn, Comfort Suites and Holiday Inn Express. With healthy occupancy rates, Shoalsarea hotels consistently outperform other nearby destinations, Wilson said. There’s plenty to draw people to the area. The river has always attracted visitors, bringing in numerous fishing tournaments each year, including several that are televised nationally. In addition, the local recording studios bring in large numbers of visitors, especially following the 2013 release of the Muscle Shoals documentary. Other local attractions include historical sites such as Ivy Green, W.C. Handy Home and Museum, Rosenbaum House and Indian Mound, and festivals such as the W. C. Handy Jazz Festival.

Photo by Shannon Wells.


Photo by Shannon Wells.

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166 Photo by Shannon Wells.


Government Services

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The City of Florence Renaissance City Offers the Good Life for Residents, Businesses

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estled in the rolling hills of Northwest Alabama along the banks of the beautiful Tennessee River, Florence, the county seat of Lauderdale County, is the largest and principal city of the metropolitan area known as “the Shoals.” The Shoals metropolitan area encompasses two counties — Colbert and Lauderdale — and four major cities: Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia. The region’s residents are accustomed to a high quality of life, surrounded by high-ranking educational institutions and school systems and plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. With a thriving workforce and a relaxed lifestyle, Florence is a wonderful place to live. Located just 40 miles from the interstate to the east, less than 10 miles from the local airport and 70 miles from Huntsville International Airport, Florence is easily accessible from several major cities. Nashville and Birmingham are within a two-hour drive, Memphis is within a three-hour drive, and Atlanta is within four hours. Water, air, rail and excellent highways are all part of the local transportation system.

A Great Place to Live

Historic Downtown Florence

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Even with the business, educational and cultural amenities of a regional economic hub, Florence has preserved its small-town atmosphere. “Florence is a great place,” said Mayor Mickey Haddock. “The quality of life is outstanding. It’s one of the safest cities, usually ranking in the top 15 in the

Southeast. And we have a beautiful and vibrant historic downtown area, thriving with innovative businesses and unique shopping opportunities.” The University of North Alabama, with a student population of approximately 7,000, is part of the historic district in downtown Florence. Established in 1830 as LaGrange College, the university is known for its beautiful, 130-acre campus and surrounding historic neighborhoods. The Florence City School system, which educates students in kindergarten through grade 12, ranks among the best in the state. In addition to award-winning educational opportunities, residents and visitors in Florence can take advantage of a thriving arts, culture and recreation scene. Some of the busiest days in downtown Florence are First Fridays, when the streets are lined with vendors, artists and musicians, and downtown retail establishments and restaurants stay open late to cater to overflowing crowds. Unlike many vacant downtown streets across the country, Florence’s city center storefronts are vibrant and very much open for business. Sports and outdoors enthusiasts love Florence, with its 1,800 acres of parkland, proximity to the Tennessee River and a number of championship golf courses. The Florence Sportsplex plays host to local soccer, baseball and softball leagues, as well as tournaments for visiting teams from across the region. The city is also renowned for its musical heritage and annual cultural events including the W.C. Handy Music Festival and the official Alabama Renaissance Faire. Local museums and attractions include the Rosenbaum House, the only Frank


Florence Harbor and Marina

Lloyd Wright-designed building in Alabama; the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts; W.C. Handy Home and Museum; and the Children’s Museum of the Shoals. Historic sites include the Indian Mound and Museum, the largest of its type in the Tennessee Valley region; and Pope’s Tavern Museum, which served as a stagecoach stop, tavern and inn, and during the Civil War, as a hospital for wounded soldiers.

A Rich History The story of Florence dates back to 1818, when Italian surveyor Ferdinand Sannoner, along with General John Coffee and Hunter Peel, designed the city for the Cypress Land Company and named it after Florence, Italy. The city was incorporated in 1826, and it has been designated as Alabama’s Renaissance City. Since the city’s early days, Florence’s distinguished residents have made an impact on the world. Notable figures include W.C. Handy, the “father of the blues;” Sam Phillips, the pioneering record producer who discovered Elvis Presley; and Pulitzer Prize-winning author T.S. Stribling. These and 34 other notable Florence residents are commemorated with handsome bronze plaques describing their national and international achievements, which are on display in the city’s Walk of Honor located in River Heritage Park.

economic stability is based on a growing, healthy mix of retail, commercial and manufacturing businesses. Much of the success of recent years can be attributed to the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), which chose to develop a four-star hotel and a Robert Trent Jones golf course in the Shoals. Beyond that initial development, RSA was also instrumental in aiding several industries in the area, which allowed them to turn their businesses around and prosper even during the recession years. Moving forward, Florence leaders remain focused on continuing to build a strong, sustainable economy. The city offers a one-stop location for new business setup and a proactive approach to recruiting industry and supporting existing businesses. “Economic development is our main focus, because developing our community only enhances the quality of life we already enjoy here,” Haddock said.

The Rosenbaum House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in Alabama

A Healthy Economy While every area experiences economic ups and downs, Florence and the Shoals area have enjoyed a stable economy throughout recent upheavals that have left many regions devastated. The area’s 169


Town of Rogersville

A busy thoroughfare since the town’s founding, Lee Street in downtown Rogersville provides residents and visitors alike plenty of opportunities for shopping, strolling and special activities, including musical performances during Rogersville First Saturdays events. Photo by Wesley Cox, East Lauderdale News.

The 75-room resort lodge is the centerpiece of Joe Wheeler State Park, a popular destination for vacationers, day-trip enthusiasts and conventioneers. In addition to the resort hotel and restaurant, the park features a day-use area, campground (RV and primitive camping available), golf course, fullservice marina with permanent and temporary boat slips, and cottage-style cabins. The lodge also features large meeting rooms/convention facilities. Photo by Wesley Cox, East Lauderdale News.

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s the “gateway to the Shoals,” the Town of Rogersville has long welcomed westward travelers to the nearby Quad-Cities. But located along the banks of two rivers, the Elk and the Tennessee, Rogersville is a scenic destination all its own, offering small-town charms and a wealth of outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, skiing and camping. “When people come through Rogersville, they instantly have a positive impression of the Shoals area,” said Richard Herston, Mayor of Rogersville. The city’s location on the Elk and Tennessee Rivers made it a popular area for early American settlers as well as the Native Americans who came before them. The abundant wildlife in the area, including fish, freshwater mussels and deer, sustained the Cherokee and Choctaw tribes who lived in the area, as well as the frontier families who began settling in Rogersville in the early 1800s. The town of Rogersville was incorporated in 1858. In the more than 150 years since Rogersville’s beginning, the town has grown and changed with the rest of the country, but it has always maintained its hometown roots. “We have grown and become more cosmopolitan and modern, but we still have the quaintness of a small town,” Herston said.

“When you talk about an area being a good place to live, in essence, you’re talking about the people who live there. And over the years, we’ve been blessed to have great people and friendly people here.” Along with friendly people, Rogersville offers quality schools, active churches, arts events and the slower pace of life that many families are seeking. The annual music festival and frequent fishing tournaments draw crowds, and First Saturday programs feature live entertainment and after-hours shopping downtown. In addition, Rogersville is located within a half-hour drive of several larger metropolitan areas, including Decatur, Florence and Huntsville. “A lot of people say once they get here, they don’t want to leave,” Herston said. While Rogersville has long been a bedroom community, officials foresee increased opportunities for the local workforce to come. The Shoals Economic Development Authority has purchased the Rogersville Industrial Park and is actively recruiting industry to the town. “People who grow up here want to come back here, and people who visit want to stay,” Herston said. “Rogersville is just a good place to live and raise children, with great churches, great schools, good people and lots of community involvement in every initiative.”


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he Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments (NACOLG) is one of 12 regional planning agencies in the state and includes the counties of Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Marion and Winston. Few local residents understand the impact of NACOLG’s behind-the-scenes work in a number of areas including economic development, transportation, health care and aging services. “Most people have no idea what we do, but our work affects the lives of every resident in the region,” said Keith Jones, Executive Director of NACOLG. For instance, when new economic development projects choose to locate in the Shoals area,

NACOLG works to develop the infrastructure needed to get them up and running. The organization’s revolving loan fund helps provide capital for businesses to create new jobs. NACOLG also provides services to help local governments better serve their residents. For instance, its Geographic Information Systems department provides mapping support for local governments such as helping Florence reassign city council districts and helping Phil Campbell and Hackleburg rebuild after the tornadoes of April 27, 2011. The Council’s public transit program provides affordable transportation to senior citizens and others who need it through the Dial-a-Ride program. And as the designated Shoals Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, NACOLG is responsible for planning, programming and coordinating federal investments in local roads and highways. Funding for NACOLG projects comes from dues from its member governments, appropriations from state government and grants from various federal and state agencies.

Photo by Shannon Wells.

Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments Pictured is a map of the NACOLG region with (left to right) NACOLG Chairman/Florence Mayor Mickey Haddock and NACOLG Executive Director Keith Jones.

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Northwest Alabama Regional Airport Flying the Shoals

Florence Lauderdale County Port Authority Aerial view of the port’s main terminal and surrounding docks

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he Northwest Alabama Regional Airport has served as the gateway to the Shoals area since the early 1930s. Originally built to support the Tennessee Valley Authority, the airport has operated commercial and private flight operations for decades. “As the gateway to the community, the airport is generally the initial representative of economic development activities in the area,” says Barry Griffith, Airport Director and Manager of the Shoals Flight Center. “When a company is considering where they want to locate, an airport with commercial air service is at the top of the list. We serve the people that will build and live in the community.” For instance, many of the area’s leading companies use private hangars at the airport and rely on the airport’s commercial air service to facilitate business travel. Commercial air service was originally provided by Eastern Airlines in 1938.  The airport has seen commercial service from other major air carriers over the years including Southern Airways, Northwest Airlines, Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Delta Airlines.  Air service is currently available through Silver Airways and is subsidized by the U.S. Essential Air Service program. In addition to commercial air

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he Florence Lauderdale County Port Authority was created in January 1981 by joint resolutions of the City of Florence and Lauderdale County. It operates with the oversight of a five-member Board of Directors appointed by the city and county and is managed by a Port Director hired by the Authority’s Board. The Authority also employs an Office Manager for bookkeeping duties and additional administrative tasks. The port is a leasehold operation with six different businesses currently operating in the port’s 40-plus-acre facility. Each business is an autonomous operation that serves a larger customer base in the region; however, the Authority works closely with each lessee in the growth and development of its customer base as well as general maintenance and development of the overall facility and land base. The port serves as an economic engine for the region through the vital transportation services offered to the customers serviced by the facility. Port users currently employ more than 2,000 workers, injecting an estimated annual payroll of $80 million into the local economy.

service, the Shoals Flight Center, the airport’s private fixed base operator (FBO), serves a number of local employers and transient corporate flight departments. The Northwest Alabama Regional Airport has continually made improvements and updates to its facilities. In 2013, the airport undertook a $1.6 million renovation project including new exterior cladding, a new roofing system and new interior wall finishes, to improve energy efficiency and passenger comfort. Future plans include developing aircraft hangars and office complex facilities on an additional 120-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Research Airpark that is slated for general and corporate aviation use, maintenance and repair operations (MRO) or to market to potential military supply and support companies. The facility offers intermodal transportation connections between barge, rail and highway transportation corridors that serve the Shoals region. Primary products handled include aluminum, steel, wood ties, sand, aggregates, bulk fluxes, fertilizer and grain. Annual tonnage handled through the facility averages approximately 450,000 tons per year. Future plans include the continued growth and development of the facility and diversifying the products handled. Planned facility improvements include a new 50,000-square-foot warehouse, bridge crane expansion, new office construction, and dock and channel improvements.


Photo by Shannon Wells.

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Corporate Sponsor Index Alabama Land Services 110 South Pine Street Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-764-2141 Fax: 256-760-9603 alabamalandservices.com pg. 118

Bigbee Steel Buildings 2705 Avalon Drive Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 256-383-7322 Fax: 256-381-9669 bigbee.com pg. 147

American Wholesale Book Company, Inc. 4350 Bryson Boulevard Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-718-8300 booksamillion.com pp. 160-161

Books-A-Million 402 Industrial Lane Birmingham, AL 35211 Phone: 205-909-3540 Fax: 205-909-3393 booksamillion.com pp. 160-161

Applied Chemical Technology 4350 Helton Drive Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-760-9600 Fax: 256-768-4638 appliedchemical.com pg. 150 B Electric, Inc. 3115 Northington Court Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-366-0369 Fax: 256-740-5530 belectricinc.com pg. 146 Bank Independent 210 South Pine Street Florence, AL 35630 1701 Darby Drive Florence, AL 35630 863 Cox Creek Parkway Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-386-5098 bibank.com pp. 114-115 BBVA Compass Bank 412 North Court Street Florence, AL 35630 210 Cox Creek Parkway Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-767-8860 bbvacompass.com pg. 119 Bethesda Cancer Treatment Center 208 Marengo Street Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-760-1150 bethesdacancercenters.com pg. 137 Valley Cancer Center 1110 South Jackson Highway Sheffield, Alabama 35660 Phone: 256-383-5211

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Catholic Hill Community 115 Plum Street Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-766-1923 Fax: 256-766-1715 catholichill.com pg. 137

Florence Lauderdale County Port Authority 851 Water Street Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-767-5388 Fax: 256-764-2871 portofflorence.org pg. 172 Florence/Lauderdale Tourism 200 Jim Spain Drive Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-740-4141 Fax: 256-740-4142 visitflorenceal.com pg. 164 Flournoy Yacht Charters 2430 Waterford Drive Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 256-762-3359 flournoyyachtcharters.com pg. 164

The City of Florence 110 West College Street Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-760-6300 Fax: 256-760-6388 florenceal.org pp. 168-169

Helen Keller Hospital 1300 South Montgomery Avenue Sheffield, AL 35660 Phone: 256-386-4196 Fax: 256-386-4559 helenkeller.com pp.130-131

Dixie Signs & Decals, Inc. 3116 Northington Court Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-765-0434 Fax: 256-765-9939 decalscentral.com pg. 149

Herald Quickprint and Technology 328 North Pine Street Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-764-0641 Fax: 256-760-9175 heraldquickprint.com pg. 152

ES ROBBINS Corporation 2802 East Avalon Avenue Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 256-248-2400 Fax: 256-248-2404 esrobbins.com pg. 148

Lauderdale County School System 355 County Road 61 Florence, AL 35633 Phone: 256-760-1300 Fax: 256-766-5815 lcschools.org pg. 135

Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital 205 Marengo Street Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-768-9191 chgroup.org pg. 132 Florence City Schools 541 Riverview Drive Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-768-3000 Fax: 256-768-3006 fcs.k12.al.us pp. 126-127

Listerhill Credit Union 4790 East Second Street Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 800-239-6033 Fax: 256-314-6502 listerhill.com pg. 116 Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa 10 Hightower Place Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-246-3600 Fax: 256-246-3690 marriothotels.com pp. 156-157


Corporate Sponsor Index Milner Rushing Discount Drugs 202 Avalon Avenue Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 256-386-5880 Florence Boulevard Location 869 Florence Boulevard Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-764-4700 Hough Road Location 2602 Hough Road Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-740-5515 Fax: 256-386-5223 mrdrugs.com pp. 158-159 Neese Real Estate 101 South Court Street, Suite 2 Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-767-7000 Fax: 256-766-7854 neesere.com pg. 120 North American Lighting 100 Counts Drive Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 256-314-4200 Fax: 256-383-1725 nal.com pp. 140-141 Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments 103 Student Drive Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 256-389-0555 Fax: 256-389-0599 nacolg.com pg. 171 Northwest Alabama Regional Airport 729 T Ed Campbell Drive Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 256-381-2869 flytheshoals.com pg. 172 Northwest-Shoals Community College 800 George Wallace Boulevard Muscle Shoals, AL 35662 Phone: 256-331-5260 Fax: 256-331-5238 nwscc.edu pp. 128-129 Osa’s Garden 3511 Florence Boulevard Florence, AL 35634 Phone: 256-764-7663 Fax: 256-764-7793 osasgarden.com pg. 163

Progress Bank 230 East Tennessee Street Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-712-3220 myprogressbank.com pg. 120 Ray Miller Buick-GMC 246 Cox Creek Parkway Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-275-4378 Fax: 256-766-1464 raymillergm.com pg. 162

SunTrust Bank 201 South Court Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-767-8525 401 Cox Creek Parkway Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-767-8585 3509 Cloverdale Road Florence, AL 35633 Phone: 256-767-8577 Fax: 256-767-8476 suntrust.com pg. 117

Rogersville Chamber 72 Wheeler Street Rogersville, AL 35652 Phone: 256-247-9449 Fax: 256-247-9449 rogersvillealabama.com pg. 121

Supreme Lending 327 South Walnut Street Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-349-2254 Fax: 256-349-2721 supremelending.com pg. 121

Town of Rogersville 50 Wheeler Street Rogersville, AL 35652 Phone: 256-247-5446 256-247-5446 pg. 170

Tarkett 430 County Road 30 Florence, AL 35634 Phone: 256-766-0235 tarkett.com pp. 144-145

SCA 1834 Haley Drive Cherokee, AL 35616 Phone: 256-370-8108 Fax: 256-370-8195 sca.com pp. 142-143

TASUS Alabama 4310 Parkway Drive Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-764-6400 tasus.com pg. 152

Shoals Ambulance 201 Avalon Avenue Muscle Shoals, AL 35662 Phone: 256-381-7900 shoalsambulance.com pg. 136 The Shoals Chamber of Commerce 20 Hightower Place Florence, AL 35630 Phone: 256-764-4661 Fax: 256-766-9017 shoalschamber.com pp. 110-113 Shoals Hospital 201 West Avalon Avenue Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 256-386-1600 shoalshospital.com pg. 133 Shoals Scholar Dollars Phone: 256-764-4661 shoalsscholardollars.com pg. 134 (page donated by PFI Group)

United Way of Northwest Alabama 118 East Mobile Street, Suite 300 Florence, AL 35631 Phone: 256-764-5892 Fax: 256-764-0088 unnwal.org pg. 153 (page donated by International Paper) University of North Alabama One Harrison Plaza Florence, AL 35632 Phone: 256-856-2950 una.edu pp. 124-125 Window World 717 Michigan Avenue Muscle Shoals, AL 35816 Phone: 256-383-8894 windowworldmuscleshoals.com pg. 162 Wise Metals Group 4805 2nd Street Muscle Shoals, AL 35661 Phone: 256-386-6000 Fax: 256-386-6354 wisemetals.com pg. 151 175


Sources, Credits and Acknowledgements

• Alyson Ray, Thread • Billy Reid, Designer • BillyReid.com • Chris Thompkins, Songwriter • Damon Williams, Hillshire Brands • Debbie Wilson, Florence/ Lauderdale Tourism Bureau • Donnie Fritts, Songwriter • Dr. Humphrey Lee, Northwest-Shoals Community College • Dr. Roger Briggs, Composer • Dr. Terry True, Shoals Hospital • Dr. William Cale, UNA • Emily Brown, local resident

• Fame.com • Florence City Schools • FlytheShoals.com • Gene Clark, Wise Alloys • George Pillow, Senators Coaches • Hal Greer, Port of Florence • Jeff Eubanks, City Hardware • Jenny Hill Hall, The French Basket • Joe Wheeler State Park • John Paul White, Musician • Jonathan McKinney, ECM Patient • Judge Ben Graves, City of Florence • Lee Freeman, FlorenceLauderdale Public library

• Mac McAnally, Musician • Mark Narmore, Songwriter • MarriottShoalsBrochure.com • Mary Settle Cooney, TVAA • Mayor Ian Sanford, City of Sheffield • MuscleShoalsSound.org • Natalie Chanin, Alabama Chanin • Ninon Parker, Colbert County Tourism Bureau • PortofFlorence.org • Brian Lindsay, MSHS • Randy Pettus • Russell Pigg, ECM • Scott Neal, Director of the Robert Trent Jones Trail of The Shoals

• The Shoals Chamber of Commerce Manufacturing Directory • Southwire.com • Steve Holt, The Shoals Chamber of Commerce • Terry Pace, UNA • Tim Stevenson, Artist • Tom Hendrix • Tommy Glasgow, TNT Fireworks • TVA.gov • UNA Magazine, Summer 2012 issue • UNA.edu • VisitFlorenceAL.com • W. Doug Arnold, Helen Keller Hospital • Walt Aldridge, Songwriter

Laura Anders Lee, Author Laura Anders Lee is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. She currently contributes to No’Ala magazine in the Shoals and Huntsville. Laura contributed regularly to Pensacola Magazine and the Northwest Florida Business Climate, wrote the annual Visitor Guide and generated more than 1,000 stories in the media nationwide promoting Pensacola as a place to visit and live. A native of Fairhope, Alabama, Laura graduated summa cum laude from the University of Alabama in communications. She now lives in Florence, Alabama, with her husband and two sons where they enjoy exploring the city’s parks and waterways.

Shannon Wells, Photographer Shannon Wells has been a professional photographer since 1978 and is the university photographer for the University of North Alabama. She is the mother of five grown children and grandmother to one grandson. She lives with two dogs, enjoys cooking, gardening and  mentoring young photographers.

Nancy Mann Jackson, Corporate Profiles A Shoals native, Nancy Mann Jackson has worked as an independent writer and editor since 2001. She writes regularly about business, finance and lifestyle topics for a variety of publications. Her work has appeared in Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com, Bankrate, Working Mother, AARP Bulletin, Smithsonian.com, Business Alabama and a number of other outlets. She previously worked as an editor in New York and as an English teacher in Georgia and Birmingham. She currently lives in Huntsville but still calls the Shoals home. All corporate profiles were written by Nancy Mann Jackson with the exception of the following which were client submitted: Books-A-Million, Applied Chemical Technology, Bank Independent, Listerhill Credit Union, and the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa. Profiles for The Shoals Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Northwest Alabama and Shoals Ambulance were written by Jennifer Kornegay.

Acknowledgements Southerners are great story tellers. I would like to thank the people of the Shoals for sharing their stories with me for this project. Educators and entrepreneurs, musicians and mentors, community leaders and creative types, friends and family — and all consummate Southerners. I will always be grateful for my time in the Shoals and for the wonderfully warm people who make it such a special place.

– Laura Anders Lee To the people of the Shoals I thank you for the opportunity to document you in our small progressive communities. In harmony we grow, embracing change while honoring our amazing past, welcoming new faces with innovative fresh ideas, inclusively acknowledging all the talented individuals who are developing the Shoals area. To the Chamber, thank you for allowing me to be your photographer of this wonderful publication. As a life-

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LAURA ANDERS LEE is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. She currently contributes to No’Ala magazine in the Shoals and Huntsville. Laura contributed regularly to Pensacola Magazine and the Northwest Florida Business Climate, wrote the annual Visitor Guide and generated more than 1,000 stories in the media nationwide promoting Pensacola as a place to visit and live. A native of Fairhope, Alabama, Laura graduated summa cum laude from the University of Alabama in communications. She now lives in Florence, Alabama, with her husband and two sons where they enjoy exploring the city’s parks and waterways. NANCY MANN JACKSON, a Shoals native, has worked as an independent writer and editor since 2001. She writes regularly about business, finance and lifestyle topics for a variety of publications. Her work has appeared in Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com, Bankrate, Working Mother, AARP Bulletin, Smithsonian. com, Business Alabama and a number of other outlets. She previously worked as an editor in New York and as an English teacher in Georgia and Birmingham. She currently lives in Huntsville but still calls the Shoals home. SHANNON WELLS has been a professional photographer since 1978 and is the university photographer for the University of North Alabama. She is the mother of five grown children and grandmother to one grandson. She lives with two dogs, enjoys cooking, gardening and mentoring young photographers. 

“We refer to ourselves as the South’s best-kept secret, but lately the word has been getting out. Just in the past year or two our community has been recognized in national publications such as US News & World Report, Southern Living, Executive Travel and Garden and Gun touting everything from our music, designers, schools and quality of life, not to mention our barbecue! ... Just ask any business or individual featured in this book, and they will tell you: There really is something in the water. Come visit us and learn more about what our wonderful community has to offer. I think this is a pretty special place, and I hope you will, too.” — Steve Holt, CCE, CED, President, The Shoals Chamber of Commerce —

ative American Indians called the Tennessee River the singing river, and its melodious tune has lured people to the area for thousands of years, flowing with promises of a new beginning. Nestled in the cozy northwest corner of Alabama, amid rolling hills, evergreen trees, secluded caves and expansive valleys, four communities are strung together like charms along the Tennessee River. Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals each possess their own distinct personality, yet are bound by common threads: Love of culture. Love of people. Love of place. The Shoals is a special place where the four towns play off each other’s strengths to form one community. The kind of place that encourages creativity and new ideas from artists, students and entrepreneurs, yet honors age-old traditions and family values. The kind of place where you’re just as likely to find a seventhgeneration native as meet an international student or multicultural executive. As you turn the pages in this book, you’ll see why word is getting out about this self-proclaimed best-kept secret of the South. Not only is the Shoals continuing to make a name for itself in the world of art, music and culture, but for a booming economy that was ranked No. 1 in 2012 for job growth and stability. This volume promises to be a treasured keepsake and resource for anyone who calls The Shoals home. We hope you enjoy your experience within these pages as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you.

The Shoals  
The Shoals