Following their Board meeting this week, the Chambers County Development Authority released an economic breakdown of 2013 for Chambers County and the report shows that existing industries have created 313 new jobs over the past year. Though no new industries were announced, the current ones invested more than $220 million in 2013. There were six industry expansions, one restart and one rebuild.
CCDA Executive Director Valerie Gray noted that keeping industry is just as important as bring industry into the county, saying, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
She said that the CCDA, which employs a small staff of three, with only two recruiters, is currently working 36 active projects, including 22 industrial, eight retail and six commercial. And in 2013 the Development Authority funded five Small Business Grants to locally owned businesses in the amount of $25,000.
For the CCDA, the year got off to a good start in February when Industrial Service & Supply in Huguley announced an expansion with a $1.9 million capital investment and the creation of four new jobs.
In April, the CCDA made a big announcement about Knauf Insulation. The company will reopen their Huguley fiberglass operation, which closed in June of 2011. Knauf will invest $49 million and create 144 jobs.
In July, Daeil USA announced their relocation to the Fairfax Distribution Center in Valley, which will include a $7.5 million capital investment and the creation of 40 new jobs. Read the rest of this entry »
Some questions were brought up about ways the city can save money during Monday’s LaFayette City Council meeting, specifically by cutting back on fuel usage for city vehicles. The council also awarded a bid to repair the city’s electrical substation No. 1.
Councilman Mike Ellis asked the city’s department heads about the amount of fuel they are using in city vehicles. He also questioned how many vehicles were being taken home. The department heads didn’t have all the numbers on hand, and Ellis asked City Clerk Louis T. Davidson to gather the information for him. The department heads noted that fuel logs for each city vehicle are available.
Ellis reasoned that cutting back on fuel usage and limiting employees taking city vehicles home could result in significant savings for the city. He suggested including the potential savings in the city’s budget.
Councilman David Ennis said the city’s budget committee was planning to meet Wednesday to finalize the 2013-14 fiscal year budget, but that there was a deficit of $600,000 the committee was trying to work out. Ennis said that it would be hard to figure fuel savings in the current budget this late, but that the budget could be amended at any time to include those savings. He also noted that fuel usage and cost fluctuates and that department heads have always been able to take vehicles home as part of their benefit package.
Before the meeting adjourned, Ellis again reiterated his desire to find a way to save money for the city and discussed the benefits it could bring for the city’s recreational facilities. He stressed that city needed to look at potential fuel savings before passing a budget. Read the rest of this entry »
The Chambers County Commission approved tax abatements for Wooshin USA Monday afternoon in response to a planned expansion by the company. The request by Wooshin, which is located in the Chambers County Industrial Park, initially came at a Rules, Ways and Means Committee meeting last week.
Chambers County Development Authority Executive Director Valerie Gray told the commissioners that Wooshin is expanding their Cusseta operation and adding 60 new employees. The expansion includes 13,340,000 in new machinery and equipment. Gray also said the company is adding a new manufacturing process at the plant.
The commission approved 10-year non-educational sales and use tax and ad valorem tax abatements. The amount of funding generated for the school systems will be $82,867. Gray said the ad valorem taxes would be approximately $37,000 annually and $308,000 over the life of the abatement.
Gray also gave the commission a brief end of the year update from the CCDA. She said that though no new industries were announced, 313 new jobs had been created this year. There were over $220.8 million in capital investments by seven companies, Industrial Service & Supply, Knauf Insulation, Daeil USA, Great Lakes Metal Stamping, Daedong Hi-Lex of America, AJIN USA and now Wooshin USA. Another company, Norbord, also announced it was considering reopening their plant in Huguely which would include a $45 million investment.
Gray explained that attracting and keeping industry in Chambers County is “not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” She thanked the commissioners for their support and leadership.
This week the City of LaFayette was informed by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs that $200,000 in Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funds has been reserved to assist with the city’s water system rehabilitation project.
The receipt of the funds is contingent on the city submitting a full application, the availability of funds and by approval from the Appalachian Regional Commission in Washington, D.C.
If the ARC funds receive final approval, the city will have secured $821,265 for water line improvement.
LaFayette was awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) last month in the amount of $450,000. That grant will allow the city to install new water lines at dead-end portions and loop them back to existing pipes to improve water flow. The project will also replace approximately 2,000 feet of cast-iron pipes with PVC pipes on 1st Ave. NW and change the connection for houses on Alabama Ave. from the old cast-iron pipes to an existing PVC water main already in the area.
The city is required to provide an in-kind match of $50,000 for the CDBG funds, and because of the scale of the project, they have committed an additional $171,265.
The ARC funds must be coupled with another grant and in the city’s case, it is the Community Development Block Grant.
ARC funding requires no financial match.
It will be a busy weekend here in LaFayette with two big Christmas events scheduled. First, the Chambers County Career Technical Center will host their Winter Festival on the school’s campus on Friday night. Then on Saturday the first LaFayette Christmas Festival will take place on the Courthouse Square.
The Career Tech Center Winter Festival will take place from 5 pm until 8:30 pm on Friday night. The students and staff of the CTC have spent the past few weeks preparing for the big event. They have placed over 30,000 Christmas lights that will create a beautiful display for guests. They have also built holiday themed structures that will be used for several events.
Santa will be on hand for the Winter Festival and local musicians will be providing the entertainment.
There will be activities for all ages, including face painting, crazy hair, ice fishing, a Little Debbie cake walk, paintball, bingo and bean bag toss. There will be a ginger bread house building contest and inflatables for kids, along with food and snacks.
There is no admission to the festival, and tickets will be for sale for the different events.
The Career Technical Center is located at 502 AVC Drive SE in LaFayette, across from the Board of Education offices.
The LaFayette Christmas Festival will take place from 9 am to 4 pm CST on Saturday in downtown LaFayette.
The day includes a children’s story time starting at 10 am at the LaFayette Library. At 11:55, a moment of silence in memory of the attacks on Pearl Harbor will take place. The Mount Zion Missionary Baptist church choir will sing at 12:05, and vocalist Karen Norred will perform at 1:30.
Also at 1:30, Santa will pay a visit to the festival. Pictures with St. Nick will be available.
At 3:00, the Heritage Carolers will provide the last of the day’s entertainment.
There will be several vendors, including crafts, metal art, ladies accessories and, of course, lots of good food. Admission is free and organizers are inviting patrons to bring a signed Christmas card for a collection that will be sent to the area nursing homes and the V.A. nursing home.
The bloodmobile will be on hand at in the Methodist Church parking lot for those who wish to donate.
For the second time in 2013 Chambers County’s unemployment rate has dipped below seven percent.
The Alabama Department of Labor released October’s state unemployment data last week, and Chambers County’s rate is 6.9 percent. In April, the county’s rate was also 6.9 percent. The last time it was below seven percent prior to that date was in 2007.
Chambers County’s rate represents 1,011 jobless individuals. There are 13,573 employed individuals in the county.
In October of last year the county’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent, representing 1,224 individuals.
Out of Alabama’s 67 counties, Chambers ranks 35th. The county averaged 19th in 2012.
Alabama’s October preliminary unemployment rate is 6.5 percent representing 138,029 unemployed, significantly lower than the 152,937 reported in October 2012.
After falling slightly in September, wage and salary employment statewide increased in October by 8,600. One industry leading this increase is motor vehicle parts manufacturing, which has increased by nearly 17 percent since October 2012.
With the exception of three, all counties are showing a decrease in their October 2013 unemployment rate from October 2012, some with drops as high as one and a half percentage points, like Chambers County (-1.5 percent), Greene County (-1.6 percent) and Washington County (-l.5 percent).
Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in October are: Shelby County at 4.3 percent, Lee County at 5.1 percent, and Cherokee County at 5.4 percent. Counties with the highest unemployment rates in October are: Wilcox County at 15.5 percent, Bullock County at 13.2 percent, and Dallas County at 13.0 percent.
A tax abatement, by definition, is the reduction of or exemption from taxes granted by a government for a specific period of time. It’s a term that’s becoming more and more familiar to residents in the area. As Chambers County fights to bring, and to keep, business and industry in the area, tax abatements have become an absolute must in the cutthroat world that is economic recruitment.
Tax abatements are statutory incentives in Alabama. Chapter 9B, Title 40 in the Code of Alabama 1975 provides for abatements of all state and local non-educational property taxes, all construction related transaction taxes (non-educational sales and use) and all mortgage and recording taxes. “Communities within Alabama have used the abatement of the non-education millage of property, sales, and use taxes for decades,” Jim Searcy, Executive Director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama, says. “It is the most widely used statutory incentive in the state and allows Alabama communities to compete with locations throughout the southeast.”
Here in Chambers County, tax abatements have been critical in renewing an economy that was crushed by the departure of the textile industry. In 2009, the county had the highest unemployment rate in the state. Now, according to figures released last week, the unemployment rate is under seven percent. Chambers County currently ranks 35th out of the state’s 67 counties in unemployment.
Thousands of new jobs have flowed into the area, thanks in large part to the location of several automotive suppliers. Without tax abatements, those companies would never have chosen Chambers County.
Despite that fact, citizens still express concerns about city and county governments granting abatements for incoming industries. Read the rest of this entry »
The Chambers County Commission Rules, Ways and Means Committee learned that another automotive supplier in Chambers County would be expanding to meet the needs of changes to automobiles produced by Kia and Hyundai. Wooshin USA, located in the Chambers County Industrial Park in Cusseta, will go through a retooling next year, which will include approximately $13 million in new equipment.
Chambers County Development Authority Executive Director Valerie Gray told commissioners about the expansion, which will create an additional 60 jobs at the plant. Gray said Wooshin would seek non-educational tax abatements on the new equipment.
The committee approved the abatement request and it will go to the full commission for final approval at their next meeting.
Gray also gave the committee an economic update in the county. She said the CCDA currently has 39 active projects, which include both retail and industry prospects.
Gray said Knauf Insulation is running ahead of schedule for their planned reopening, and that Great Lakes Metal Stamping will soon be seeking abatements to add new equipment to keep up with a growing customer base. Read the rest of this entry »