An update on Sunrise Selma

Published 11:55 pm Monday, October 5, 2009

Dear editor,

I am one of the founders of Sunrise Selma and in the last several weeks, many of you have asked, “What is going on with Sunrise Selma? When are we going to see some concrete evidence of the good things ‘Sunrise’ promised to bring to Selma?”

Some of you have even called me personally and asked about Sunrise Selma and I have told you we were in a “re-formation phase.” That may have sounded somewhat vague at the time, but it was the truth. This transition phase is complete and since this movement began as a community based effort, I feel an obligation to share with you what has happened and where we will go from here.

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First, the fact is that we did not succeed in convincing enough Selmians that it was critical and imperative for the private sector to get involved in this project. It’s as simple as that.

We came tantalizingly close, but in the end, some of our initial supporters withdrew their support due to their perception of the risk involved.

When this happened, I took the plans for Sunrise off the table due largely to the fact that it was then undercapitalized. Anyone experienced in business knows that the life blood of any business is capital — especially a new venture. We simply could not raise the support and capital in order to make this a viable business venture for our investors locally.

Sunrise was a business that was founded on the concept of progress and moving forward. Real progress is not just another day at the office. It is not just dreaming and talking about it – something in Selma we seem to do a lot of as time and opportunities pass us by.

True change for the better begins with faith and is followed by action. Real progress in life and in business is taking that next step. And it must be a step in the right direction. As badly as we need to move forward, I can’t and won’t do it in a financially weakened state. It’s just not good business practice and I won’t be a part of anything that is not good, sound and conservative business practice.

The one thing we don’t need in Selma is another failed business and thus, Sunrise Selma and its original format became a hope instead of the plan for action that it was intended to be.

Did it hurt? Yes.

Did it get us down? You bet it did.

Did we quit? Under NO circumstance.

Perhaps Selmians are just nervous about change and afraid of taking such a risk because they have seen so many people and organizations rise and fall, taking their empty promises and failed initiatives with them.

Risk and reward is the lifeblood of America — especially in small towns like ours. Risk is about believing in yourself and your cause. And risk is about staring failure in the face, and daring it to bring you down and taking carefully calculated chances in pursuit of your goals.

Sunrise’s cause is unique and it runs deep in all of us who have been caught up in it. I know that despite this side step, the risk will be worth it. The simple fact remains that we cannot afford to fail. It is not an option.

So after a period of honest and critical self evaluation Sunrise has reformulated its strategy. Now we are marshalling our resources to make another run at real progress. Our new plan involves the formation of a non-profit as well as two new for-profit companies. These companies will not spring up overnight – but will be placed in operation as the resources become available and plans are finalized. We are already well involved in setting up these organizations and will be moving forward very soon.

The names of these organizations and their business objectives are:

Sunrise Selma Inc, Inc.

A non-profit corporation formulated to preserve and reconstruct the old YMCA building located across the street from City Hall and to pursue other community based developmental opportunities including but not limited to the creation of an endowment for the Walker Johnson YMCA.

Sweet “T”

Architectural LLC

A reclamation and manufacturing business formed to deconstruct aging structures and salvage the antique building materials and architectural elements. From these materials we plan to manufacture finished goods ranging from custom milled heart pine flooring to high-end, made-to-order furniture.

27 ° Selma LLC

A real estate development located on the banks of the Alabama River with mixed use retail and luxury loft apartments with spectacular views of the Alabama River and the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

If we are successful with these ventures, we will create jobs and generate revenue and business opportunities within the city limits of Selma, thus improving the lives of Selma’s people and businesses.

I think of this as the new “Battle for Selma.” I get up every morning and go to bed every night thinking about it. This is the battle we cannot afford to lose. The battle for our home place and what we know it can be. Are you willing to join the fight for your community? Are you up to the task and prepared to take the risk?

I think Selma is worth the risk. I hope you do, too.

I feel very deeply that the time is now and the place is right here. The only question now is how and with whom we are going to join forces with in order to continue our fight for this community.

We think we have got the “how” figured out in that our plans are now smaller in scale, more focused, and more incremental in nature. Now all we need to do is locate the “who” — the individuals who still believe in our community and are willing to stand up and be counted.

We know now, as we did in the beginning, that it is not going to be easy, that we can’t do it alone. The question now for us is the support going to come from within or are we going to have to look for outside support. I believe strongly that at least some of that support needs to come from within – but I am prepared to go elsewhere if necessary.

We also know that we are not the only ones trying to make a change here and that other good people are making this effort as well. We support them and their efforts. We want to be a part of their work and we want the business community to be a part of Selma’s progress. We firmly believe that the business and private sector are the real answer to solving Selma’s problems and we all need to start doing our part today.

If you want to invest in your future as well as your community, call me at 334-874-8267. We have a place for you.

If you want to do nothing, then I will respect your choice. However, you should know that you are reserving your place on the sidelines. We have a lot to do and a community to revitalize. If you not interested, take a seat and watch the magic happen. We can’t wait any longer to bring peace and prosperity to this place that we’ve called home for many, many years. Once we show the community we are serious about this community’s revitalization, then perhaps we can enjoy some of the unity we have all talked about and longed for so long.

I truly believe that we can and should learn from our history and that we have within our reach the resources and the people to make it happen in Selma. I hope and pray everyone who reads this will be moved to some form of positive action.

Above all — do something for Selma. She deserves better than what we have given her and so do our grandchildren!

May God bless you all and may God bless Selma.


Tom Bolton


Editor’s Note: Although the above submitted article is contrary to The Selma Times-Journal’s policy on length, the editorial board made a decision to publish it as submitted with the exception of editing for style.