It is marvelous to witness Heaven at work. The simple yet majestic power of day turning to night, caterpillars morphing into butterflies and buds blooming into flowers are all evidence of a higher power in control of timing.

This is how I feel about 2018 and what this year will mean to Tuskegee and Macon County.

I believe Gerald Long and Joe Turnham when they characterize 2018 as a defining moment in our history. They say Exit 38 will transform from a barren, desolate space into an economic Promised Land, fulfilling years of faith, hope and prayers.

According to their timetable, critical infrastructure work will begin in a few weeks when crews affiliated with Blankenship Contractors get busy extending utility lines and building access roads. They are pleased with the state of affairs concerning a hotel at Exit 38, explaining that the developer is approved for a Best Western Premier brand. This same developer is interested in bringing a Bennigan’s restaurant to Exit 38, which would allow us to enjoy a meal in a casual yet chic dining environment that is close to home.

Exit 38 also will offer fast food. Burger King seems to be definite. Popeye’s Chicken is a possibility.

Our neighbors in Montgomery got an early Christmas gift when the U.S. Air Force announced in December 2017 that Montgomery has been awarded the F-35 project. Turnham says the Alabama congressional delegation worked together to bring the F-35 to their home state and this same solidarity can work for the T-100 project, which would answer more prayers for Tuskegee and Macon County.

Many people are concerned that local residents could be left behind. Often I am asked about programs that can serve as pathways to prosperity for jobless men and women in this community. There is good news if people are willing to invest some time and energy. Training programs are offered for adults at the Career and Technical Education Center operated by Macon County Schools.

Anybody can go there and get hands-on experience with robotics, hydraulics and other aspects of Industrial Maintenance. Those who finish the training will become eligible for work in the aviation or automotive industries. This training is offered in a classroom setting or in a mobile bus that can pull up in your neighborhood, practically bringing school to your front door. Best of all, this training is free.

Now that 2017 is behind us, I can honestly say that for me, it was a very good year. Yes, we had a flood at our house. But our friends responded to our plight with numerous acts of kindness.

It was a busy time yet highly productive as I managed administrative functions at the Tuskegee Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2018, the Chamber will emerge as an exceptional organization with a new attitude. And I assure you that the Chamber will work in partnership with other modern-day Joshua’s who are committed to progress involving quality of life and BUSINESS MATTERS.

Karin Hopkins is executive director of the Tuskegee Area Chamber of Commerce and also co- founder of ECHOboom, a digital media platform. Contact her at ourchamberworks@gmail.com.

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