FLORENCE — Many comments during a Greater Shoals work group meeting Tuesday were met with nods of approval, but one regarding the interconnection of the Shoals generated a rousing round of applause.

"Everything's connected and if we lose sight of that and begin to build dead ends, we will find ourselves at a dead end," Nathan Willingham said during the Quality of Life group meeting, drawing the response.

The notion of cohesiveness throughout the Shoals has consistently popped up during meetings of each of the six Greater Shoals groups.

"When we work today, that's what you've got to keep in mind: It's not me and and I. It's we and us," said Debbie Bradford, who along with Pat Burney is co-chairwoman of the Quality of Life group.

The group discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the Shoals, often mentioning them in the same category. For example, race relations were mentioned as a positive but the lack of diversity in many areas was listed as a negative.

In addition, the Tennessee River was listed as a major advantage, but the way residents treat it as a barrier between Lauderdale and Colbert counties is a negative. In addition, the lack of access to the river is an issue they mentioned.

Deborah Bell Paseur said cohesiveness throughout the Shoals will be necessary to make the work that is going on through the Greater Shoals program produce results.

"We are concerned that we have done all this great work but where is it going to go from here?" she said.

Threats that were discussed include homelessness, the nation's negative perception of Alabama, need for high-speed internet access and the loss of young adults to other communities.

At the same time, the group listed numerous benefits, including the area's music heritage; Alabama Music Hall of Fame; the arts; the way K-12 schools, Northwest-Shoals Community College and the University of North Alabama work together; a push for technology; and the attractiveness of the area.

In addition, several ideas were discussed. Among them is the potential the area has for the film industry due to its variety of locations, having big concerts on the grounds of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and having a central unit to promote all of the cultural activities in the area.

The six committees formed after a Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama study titled "A Greater Shoals: A Pathway" was released this year.

Bank Independent President Macke Mauldin, former University of North Alabama President Robert Potts, Shoals Chamber of Commerce President Caitlin Holland, and Alvin Rosenbaum, author of "The Muscle Shoals: First Frontier of These United States," formed the steering committee for the effort.

During Tuesday's meeting, Rosenbaum said a big message the steering committee is hearing is there needs to be more young input. He said Mauldin is meeting with organizations such as Shoals Shift and NextGen Shoals, and Rosenbaum is trying to arrange something with the student leadership at UNA.

This was the second meeting of the Quality of Life group. The six groups each meet three times, with the third time being to determine recommendations that will be presented at an overall meeting June 18.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


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