By Claire Aiello, Vice President, Marketing & Communications
This is the first in our new series, Fresh Faces, about people making new impacts in our local colleges and universities.
Delmonize “Del” Smith joined the faculty of Alabama A&M University in 2015. He was hired as the Dean of the College of Business & Public Affairs, but his role has expanded; he also now heads economic development. Smith said he wants you to think of the school as a partner for businesses and the community.
“Alabama A&M is rooted in the local community,” Smith said. “As a University, we control vast economic, human, intellectual and institutional resources, and by working together, Alabama A&M University, our government, and businesses can jump start the economic growth and lead the transformation of North Huntsville and the opportunity zone.”
The opportunity zone Smith refers to is a tract of land including the AAMU campus and adjacent community. It is three square miles, and stretches from Memorial Parkway east to the Chase area, all the way to Shields Road, then back west on Highway 72.
Governor Kay Ivey designated it an opportunity zone in 2018, along with nine other locations in Madison County, with the goal of fostering private-sector investment in distressed rural and urban areas.
There’s an investment in the works, too. Smith hinted at a mixed-use development near the campus with a hotel, restaurant and coffee shop to be announced soon.
Huntsville Educational Corridor
Smith said there is a wealth of talent within a three-mile stretch on Meridian Street, when you consider what is located between Oakwood Avenue and Winchester Road.
“In that less than three-mile strip, we have over 9,200 students between Alabama A&M University, Drake State, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, New Century Technology High School and Lee High School, and these range from Pre-Kindergarten to PhD,” said Smith. “So, one of the things we’re doing is trying to designate that three-mile strip of land as what we call the Huntsville Educational Corridor. We’re trying to spotlight the fact that this is a very unique asset in our community. Nowhere else in Huntsville can you go and reach that many students in a three-mile radius, from Pre-Kindergarten to PhD, and what we want to do is figure out what can we do to boost that asset for the community.”
Smith is charged with cultivating relationships and new partnerships for AAMU. In fact, this is how he ventured into his economic development role in 2017, after working with Redstone Federal Credit Union to establish a branch on campus. It opened the following year and is run by students.
“We had a fantastic ribbon cutting, and to date we’ve had a successful relationship with Redstone, and that has been a very, very successful venture. I think that’s the point where President [Andrew] Hugine said, ‘maybe we can do more of this.’”
Smith emphasized Dr. Hugine’s leadership has made these new relationships possible, pointing out the university’s record enrollment for the past five years, stable finances and significant investments in infrastructure. The school currently has approximately 6,100 students.
“All these things that we’re able to do, and we’re talking about doing, would not be possible if it wasn’t for the fact that we have a stable, financially strong, growing university,” said Smith. “That is what allows me to go out and spend the time focusing on how we can really use our assets to benefit the community. It allows us to really ask the question how can we do even more when it comes to being an anchor institution in the community?”
This article is published in the October 2019 issue of Initiatives magazine.