I suggested to a recent college graduate asking for career and life advice that he move his new bride to Sylacauga and start a family here. Some would ask, “Why?” I always answer, “Why not?” Then, I offer to explain.
Yes, I was born and raised in Sylacauga, yet my return was conscious, voluntary, and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
My business card has a New York City address, and I manage six southeastern states for an investment firm. Most of my friends and peers live in big cities all around the country.
I chose to live here because it’s less complicated, less expensive, and offers far more opportunities for me and my relatively young family. The savings – housing, transportation, taxes, and time – are significant and allow me to build a better future for my children. The relationships we have and are building here are real and absolutely anything we want to see or do is within easy geographic reach.
Sylacauga is a great place — ranking in the top 100 best cities in America to raise a family, the 23rd best school system in Alabama, home to a high school ranked among the top college prep public schools in the state, and rated as the best place in the nation to work in manufacturing. There’s increasing and diversified job growth, and the business and retail economies are expanding in ways we never dreamed possible.
Many of my friends and colleagues here and around the country spend a couple of hours each day commuting to and from work, and it adds up fast: 10 hours a week, more than 500 hours each year, or the equivalent of more than two work-months per year … time they are not spending with their spouses and families, time they will never get back.
People who choose to plant seeds in Sylacauga can save that time, enjoy a better quality of life, and truly participate in a kind of personal growth and net financial opportunity that’s less of an option in larger cities. This opportunity is grounded in a lower cost of living, as compared to so many places across the country and even across our state, yet tight-nit personal relationships you can’t always build in larger cities have been important for us as my wife battled cancer over the past two years. Sometimes, it takes going through tough times to find out who your friends truly are, and the compassionate support we have received from our community has been incredible.
In a community such as ours, the formula for success and continued growth is incredibly simple: support our businesses, shop here, dine here, invest here, open a business here, worship here, support local leaders and government, help community-focused support organizations, be enthusiastically positive, and, most importantly, live right here in the middle of it all.
I am often asked to make presentations away from home and start by proudly saying that I’m from Sylacauga. I note that we are known for four things, in no particular order of importance: Blue Bell ice cream (the best in the world, in my opinion), the whitest marble and one of the largest marble quarries in the country, Jim Nabors (“Gomer Pyle”), and the first place in recorded history where a falling meteorite hit a human. You’d be surprised by how many folks already know about most of these – just not how to spell Sylacauga.
I want to share my appreciation for Sylacauga and also issue five challenges to my fellow citizens, former citizens, and future citizens:
- I want to challenge everyone here to fully embrace quality of life opportunities offered in Sylacauga for our children and grandchildren. How? Let’s build on the success of our schools, (brought forth by our excellent administrators and teachers in our city and county systems) and use the industrial, business, and retail growth as an economic springboard. Let’s unify as one Sylacauga and be the best in everything we do. Our city and county schools are on the upswing, and our city schools’ athletic facilities are already top notch (thanks to recent capital projects), and, as we continue to improve and grow, more facilities will come. As business owners and as a community, let’s continue to invest more in our young people and their recreation, ball fields, and opportunities for development.
- I want to challenge everyone to help tap the resources surrounding us to help grow our area. Marble is our identifier, and our lakes, rivers, creeks, trails, national forests, and management areas are unique. How? By investing more in here, highlighting, advertising, and promoting these resources, we can hold our area out as a top destination for bikers, runners, hunters, campers, and fishermen. For calcium carbonate-related industry, we have unmatched raw materials, and we have the transportation network. Let’s keep growing our marble footprint by adding businesses that use it as an input ingredient in their respective process. The recent shingle plants show the blueprint. They came here because they use marble in their process. Let’s continue to seek these out and get them to come here.
- I want to challenge us to grow – not accidentally or incidentally, but with purpose and focus. How? Stay here, come here, or invite people here. Open a business here, work here, and think big. Participate. Look around and marvel at the freshly-paved streets and roads; significant expansion by Blue Bell, Nemak, Fleetwood Metals, Koch, and down the road but within commuting distance for many of our citizens Georgia Pacific and Honda; new local and national retail establishments, including Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Trailwares, PetSense, TJ Maxx, and, soon, Starbucks. A lot of people will say we can’t, but I think we can double our population over the next 10 years, meaning even more opportunities for those of us who choose now to make an investment.
- I want to challenge us all to be positive and support our city, county, and state. Try not to hide behind the keyboard and point fingers at those willing to get out and try to help make a difference. Support growth by electing the right folks to lead us. Get involved yourself, and participate in our growth.
- We must migrate away from “us and them”; all walks of life must come together. If you live on the fringe of Sylacauga in Stewartville, Sycamore, Fayetteville, Goodwater, Winterboro, Oak Grove, Alpine, Weogufka, Hollins, Millerville, Talladega Springs, or any of our many surrounding cities that make us a great place, we all have to buy in. If your mailing address says you’re in “Sylacauga”, if you go out of town and someone asks where you are from and you say “Sylacauga,” if you come to Sylacauga to buy groceries or worship, I want to challenge you to help us unify as a community and support our great city. In business, if you have passion about what you are doing, you will almost always find success. Let’s get passionate about Sylacauga, let’s focus on the areas where we can grow and make ourselves better, and let’s look forward to a great future.
It is an exciting time to be from the Marble City, USA.
Michael O. Adair
Michael Adair is a managing director with City National Rochdale, a New York-based investment firm. A 1997 graduate of Sylacauga High School and a member of the 1997 state championship baseball team, he earned a finance degree from the University of Alabama in 2001. Michael, his wife, and their two children are active in Sylacauga and in their church.