Athens High School recognized for blood drive efforts

Athens blood driveAthens High School has been recognized by Carter BloodCare as a “Best Performing High School for 2012” for its blood drive efforts. Students donated 384 units of blood, saving 1,152 lives. AHS teacher Rebecca Wilder, who is responsible for the blood drive efforts, said: “This is a great accomplishment and I am so proud of our students. It is great to be a Hornet!” (Photos courtesy Stacy Dunacusky/AISD)

See more photos on our Facebook page.

AMA: Economic development and the Athens EDC

Reporter Michael V. Hannigan

(AMA stands for “Ask Michael Anything,” and is our readers’ chance to ask reporter Michael V. Hannigan questions about Henderson County.)

QUESTION: Through our Facebook page, Scott Brooks of Athens asked what the Athens Economic Development Corporation was doing to bring jobs to the city, as opposed to all the restaurants currently going up around town.

SOURCE: I sat down with Athens Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Brian Malone to discuss Scott’s question.

ANSWER: Malone was quick to agree regarding the AEDC’s true goal.

“We definitely agree that having good jobs for people to be employed at is our main purpose,” he said.

If those retail/restaurant businesses approach the EDC, the board is going to listen and try and help, said Malone, but he added, “The retail development is a secondary function. Our main purpose still will be job creation and marketing existing industry.”

Generating jobs is one of those things “easier said than done” however, and Athens is in competition with thousands of communities around the country for those jobs.

To try and get an edge, the AEDC went through a strategic planning process with TIP Strategies of Austin last year. Several times during our discussion, Malone referenced things “the community told us,” or strengths and weaknesses learned during the study.

Malone said there are three main ways to build economic growth: entrepreneurship, working with existing industry, and recruiting new industry.

1. Entrepreneurship: Malone said one of the things to come out of the focus groups that were part of last year’s study was the need to help local people start new businesses.

To encourage that, the AEDC joined with the Trinity Valley Community College Small Business Development Center to offer a six-week course on going into business. The project started this month and at the end of the course, one business is going to earn a $30,000 grant.

2. Existing Industry: “We have many wonderful companies already here, when you get right down to it,” Malone said. “We work with those guys to identify opportunities to help them expand.”

That could include new equipment or buildings, or expansion programs.

As an example, Malone pointed to programs with Schneider Electric, where the EDC board agreed to help the company based on jobs created, or OTE International, where the board provided a low interest loan and employment incentives.

In the past, the board has helped Argon with its roof.

“That helps keep that business here,” Malone said.

“Investing in those businesses is something that we’ll look at,” he added.

3. Recruiting: “Everybody loves recruiting, but it is also one of the hardest things to do,” Malone said.

Athens is not only going against other communities in the region or state, but the entire country.

“It is a very competitive situation,” Malone said.

Malone has been to California three times in the past year trying to lure business to the city, twice as part of a delegation from the Northeast Texas Economic Alliance.

“You have to be active in terms of trying to create a pipeline of projects, and that’s really what we are trying to do,” he said.

One real drawback for Athens, which was pointed out in the study, is a lack of developed sites.

“What I mean is, if you go to Sulphur Springs they’ve got four or five industrial parks, 300-400 acres. If you go to Kilgore, they have 500 acres. If you go to Commerce, they have about 115,” Malone said. “Athens has nine acres. That is a competitive disadvantage that we have.”

That doesn’t mean Athens can’t succeed. Extreme Engineering is a company relocating to Athens, and the sports recreation equipment manufacturer expects to bring 33 jobs to the city.

“We are going to look at trying to capitalize on our strengths. We are going to really look at different ways we can visit at medical device companies because we have a good niche there, and see how we can expand that,” Malone said. “Right now there’s good traction for us to do that and that’s something we are going to continue to work on.”

While the interview was with AEDC President Brian Malone, he is certainly not the only one involved in making decisions. The board includes: Chairman Robert Gould, David Holdredge, Kelly Smith, Tere Lawyer, Jess Laird, Maurice Cox, and Joe Masso. (Athens Mayor Jerry Don Vaught and City Administrator Pam Burton are ex-officio members of the board.)

Sims named AISD assistant superintendent; McCowan new AMS principal

Winston McCowan
Winston McCowan

Two Athens ISD administrators were promoted Friday, Feb. 22.

Dr. Janie Sims was named the Assistant Superintendent, according to Superintendent Blake Stiles.

Sims had been serving the district as the Curriculum Director since 2011. Prior to 2011, she served the district in other administrative capacities including as principal of Athens Intermediate and principal of South Athens Elementary.

Also moving up is Winston McCowan, who was named the principal of the Middle School. McCowan has served the district since 2011 as an Athens High School assistant principal, and recently as the interim principal at Athens Middle School.

“I am confident that both of these individuals will positively impact the district and the community,” Stiles said. “I would like to offer my thanks, again, to all who served on the selection committees. The considerate responses of all of the members of the interview process were tremendously helpful to me in making these significant decisions.”

Athens girls powerlifters headed to Regionals

The Athens High School girls varsity powerlifters competed at the Fairfield Invitational meet Thursday night, finishing 6th.

Individually the girls finished as follows:

CeCe Monmouth finished 2nd with a total lift of 790 pounds. This placing and lift total sealed her a competing position at the Regional meet. She is currently ranked 8th in the region.

Wendi Pacheco finished 3rd with a total lift of 535 pounds. She also earned a position at the Regional meet in the 114-pound weight class. She is currently 8th in the region.

Ingrid Castaneda finished 3rd with a total lift of 520 pounds. She will be competing at the Regional meet. She is ranked 9th in the region right now.

Melissa Rodriguez will go to the regional meet as an alternate. She is ranked 11th.

The regional meet is at Wills Point Friday, March 1.

DAR hears about American Flag

Marsha Head (left), Claire Grant (seated at table), Billy Burford and Perry Holcomb at the recent DAR meeting. (COURTESY PHOTO)
Marsha Head (left), Claire Grant (seated at table), Billy Burford and Perry Holcomb at the recent DAR meeting. (COURTESY PHOTO)

By Fred Head, Special to HCT Now

Americans love their flag! Texans love their flag! The members of the Daniel McMahon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution love their flag!

At their Feb. 20 George Washington Tea, held at the Fellowship Hall of the First Presbyterian Church of Athens, members and guests showed their love for Old Glory as they enjoyed a program concerning the American Flag by DAR member Marsha Head.

In her presentation, Head discussed the flag and explained the meaning of the folding of the American Flag at military funerals. She was assisted with a folding demonstration by two local veterans, each with many years of military service, Billy Burford, career Air Force retired and Perry Holcomb, career Navy retired, as they slowly proceeded through the 13 separate folds while Head explained each of these folds to the large crowd in attendance.

In closing her presentation, Head said, “In the future, you’ll see flags folded and now you will know why. Please share this with our children and all those you love as we strive to keep our country strong and free.”

Outstanding area students were honored for their essays and their good citizen behavior by DAR member Claire Grant as she presented certificates and monetary awards to each of the winners.