GROWTH SPURT: Economic development boons in 2018

Published 4:00 am Sunday, December 30, 2018

“It’s been an absolutely phenomenal year for economic development,” said Marsha Gaylard, president of the Pike County Economic Development Corporation. “It was phenomenal not only because of the recruitment of new industry but the expansion of existing industry, which is so important to our community as well.”

The year started with a bang when Gov. Kay Ivey announced the decision of Kimber Manufacturing to locate a new gun-manufacturing facility in Troy, bringing 366 jobs and an initial investment of over $38 million.

“It is the realization of a long-term goal for the City of Troy and for me personally to see a firearms manufacturing company with a stellar brand like Kimber creating jobs and investing in the community,” said Mayor Jason Reeves. “Troy has a strong manufacturing base, and Kimber will substantially add to that foundation.”

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Reeves said it was a “huge honor” for Ivey to include Kimber’s decision to locate in Tro yin her State of the State address.

“With talented Alabamians already manufacturing a wide range of high-quality products that are in demand around the globe, the state can offer Kimber an ideal business environment and a skilled workforce for its expansion project,” Ivey said in the address. “Kimber’s investment in Troy will create a significant number of high-paying design engineering and manufacturing jobs, and we are committed to helping the company find long-lasting success in Alabama.”

The city and state offered Kimber over $24 million in incentives to locate in Troy, which Reeves said is one of the biggest projects the city has undertaken.

The bulk of the incentive is a $16.325 million bond that the city is offering the company through the Industrial Development Board of the City of Troy for the design, renovation and construction of the facility.

The company’s facility will be built on nearly 75 acres of land in the Industrial Park. The  facility will feature a 225,000 square foot building, which will incorporate an existing spec building on the site.

Just a month later, Rex Lumber announced that they would be building a state-of-the-art saw mill in Pike County.

“It’s a game-changer, from the amount of initial investment they made here to their future growth,” said Robin Sullivan, chairman of the Pike County Commission. “We recruited them to bring better quality of life for our citizens; that’s what we were after and that’s what we think we got. I’ve been on the commission since 2004, and there has not been anything equivalent to it. The only thing countywide before that was Lockheed Martin and that was a game-changer for the county as well.”

The lumber company promised to invest over $100 million into the local economy and create at least 110 jobs.

“We’re pretty confident it’s going to be upwards of 150 jobs and they’re prepared to grow,” Sullivan said. “We already know their plan is that they came here to grow.”

The county offered $750,000 in incentives to recruit the company, including the purchase of the 214-acre property and reimbursement for site preparation.

Sullivan said the impact of the lumber company will be felt far beyond the initial investment and job creation.

“You’re going to start seeing other things happen because they’re here,” Sullivan said. “There will be 100 to 150 inbound log trucks every day, five days a week. …. Local landowners will see an immediate impact in their value for timber because of this company coming in. Loggers that have to haul their timber three hours to Mobile now will only have to drive 10 to 30 minutes once this is up and running.”

Both Kimber and Rex Lumber have been working feverishly since their announcements to construct their respective facilities and both are on track to be operational within the first six months of 2019.

Reeves said it has also been a transitional year in many ways as the two new industries work to construct the facilities, as well as Conecuh Ridge Distillery, which was announced in September 2017.

“We’ve been putting everything in place and setting up 2019 to be for the actual creation of several hundred jobs,” Reeves said. “When you look at Kimber, Rex Lumber and when you look at Conecuh Ridge, all of those things are tremendous and are going to provide a lot of jobs and a lot of growth, but also our existing industries continue to thrive, continue to expand and the university does so as well. It’s been a very busy year for economic development.”

Sullivan said one such important expansion of an existing industry came with the transfer of a county road to Lockheed Martin in March.

“For us to be able to help Lockheed grow all we had to do was close the road,” Sullivan said. “If we had approached any other corporation to bring at least 200 jobs into our area, it would have cost us several hundred thousand dollars.”

Although Lockheed Martin did not promise a specific amount of jobs that would be created by the road closure, representative Adam Carson explained that closing the road would allow the Pike County Operations to compete for more contracts that would bring more jobs to the area.

Gaylard said the new industries will provide jobs for people in Pike County who either don’t have a job or are underemployed as well as attracting new residents to live and work in the area.

“Job creation is the number one factor in recruiting,” Gaylard said. “Having new people coming into Troy is another reason why recruitment of new industry and expansion of existing industry is important. That helps our retail recruitment too. More people living in a community and higher wage rates are the two factors retailers look at when looking to locate in a community.”

Gaylard ensured that the workforce is strong and there are plenty of people in the area that still need work even in the strong economy. That workforce doesn’t just include Pike Countians, Gaylard said. There are 8,838 people unemployed in Pike and seven surrounding counties including Barbour, Bullock, Coffee, Crenshaw, Dale, Henry, and Montgomery.

“Existing industries have told me people commute into Pike County from every one of those counties every day,” Gaylard said.

Gaylard said economic development is poised to have continued success in the new year as the city, county and economic development board are working to complete even more recruitment projects in the coming months.

But 2018 will be hard to beat with so many developments coming at once.

“This is the biggest year for economic development growth that I’ve seen since I’ve been on the commission,” Sullivan said. “We’re very proud of all the things that are happening with economic development in our communities. There’s no better time to be a Trojan and Pike Countian.”