Good tidings announced at Lions Club (Jan. 4, 2018)

on February 14, 2018

WEST POINT — It was a good year for Chambers County, Valerie Gray, executive director of the Chambers County Economic Development Authority (CCDA), reported during a meeting of the West Point Lions Club.

“We’re looking for opportunities to continue the county’s forward momentum and to move the organization and its volunteer leadership towards even higher levels of effectiveness,” she said. “Our goal was to provide our county with higher wage jobs, stability and diversification.”

To make this a reality, Gray said there were five key areas of focus: competitive projects, business retention and expansion, community development and business formation, operational excellence and marketing. She went on to break down each of those points, citing the successes in 2017.

COMPETITIVE PROJECTS: The first major success was the announcement of Project Angus wherein the John Soules Food company would be opening a facility in Valley.

Phase 1 of the project will see $70 million spent on the facility and 210 jobs brought in. Phase 2 will see another $40 million spent and 300 more jobs brought in. This would occur, Gray said, throughout 2018 into 2019.

“These are full-time jobs, not temps,” she said, noting that the facility would be for the processing and cooking of frozen beef and chicken.

Next up is Project Scramble, which involves a warehouse distribution company locating in the Valley Industrial Park, at a cost of $16.5 million and bring in 40-45 jobs.

Similarly, a local company will also be expanding and bringing in 15 jobs at a cost of $7 million.

“We are going after, at least, the minimum wages of $11.50 an hour,” she said.

The CCDA also worked on 47 projects in 2017 with 14 within targeted diversification sectors; worked on product development with the Valley Industrial Park and expanding opportunities for Cusseta, Huguley and LaFayette IP’s; partnered with East Alabama Water, Sewer and Fire on a grant to upgrade utilities for new industrial development; and consulted on a number of events.

BUSINESS RETENTION AND EXPANSION: Gray announced that six industry expansion’s had been worked on in 2017, resulting in $21,829,721 in capital investments and the creation of 85 new jobs. This did not include the restarting of Norbord Alabama, which began production in November and represents an investment of $45 million and the hiring of 134 full-time jobs.

The CCDA also started a program to educate local logging companies on East Alabama Medical Center’s new occupational medicine program and the Alabama Department of Transportation’s changes to commercial driver’s license compliance. They also held job fairs for WestRock and Norbord and worked on UAW and OSHA issues for existing industries in Alabama.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND BUSINESS FORMATION: The CCDA has been working heavily with Washington D.C. over infrastructure improvements at the airport and a recent partnership with Chick-fil-A that resulted in a Rivalry Restaurant. “We worked with them to show that their business would be successful here,” Gray said.

Additionally, the CCDA worked on long-term and county-wide transportation plans with East Alabama Regional Planning Commission for the City of Valley, new housing developments, expanding broadband capabilities and local government website upgrades.

Gray also announced that over $40,000 in funds and equipment from Sabal Trail had been allocated for local school support.

The area also saw 16 new retailers come in, two relocations and one restart. They had also worked with Circle of Care for workforce development and with Point University on establishing a talent pipeline.

OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE: The CCDA currently has three local student interns, one college-aged and two high schools, and the staff has compiled over 100 hours of continuing education/professional development and were installed in leadership roles across several statewide and local organizations.

Three new CCDA board members were also installed and the board itself will focus on stabilization of funding, which includes 31 corporate sponsors with over $80,000 in funding support.

MARKETING: Gray said they are focusing on a county-wide branding campaign that has seen unprecedented partner buy-in and support.

The Lions Club was receptive to Gray’s news, with many members asking questions and clarifications on a variety of topics.

Lions Club President Susan Bullock thanked Gray for attending, “There are a lot of positive things going on. Glad you were here.”

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