County acquires industrial park

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Chilton County Commission on Monday accepted an agreement with the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative that would deed the industrial park in Verbena to the county.

CAEC and its parent company, Alabama Rural Electric Association, purchased the land about four years ago and had work done to make the land ready to build upon.

The commission Monday agreed to pay back CAEC for paving the road going into the park, an arrangement that had been OK’d before CAEC began working at the site.

The commission will pay $50,000 a year for six years, for a total of $300,000.

Commission vice chairman Allen Caton said the benefit to the county will outweigh the costs.

“We didn’t have anything to offer anybody to come into this county,” Caton said. “Now, we’ve got a starting point.”

Caton said the park is at an advantageous location because of its proximity to Interstate 65, as well as Chilton County being halfway between Birmingham and Montgomery.

CAEC purchased land to build a “west operation center,” where work crews are based. The company realized they wouldn’t need all the land and began working on an arrangement with the county.

Connie Bainbridge, manager of community and economic development with CAEC, said growing rural communities and creating jobs is part of the company’s mission.

Bainbridge will continue to assist the county in trying to bring businesses to the park.

“We’re kind of getting in there and seeing who we need to go after,” she said. “Our target list is light manufacturing and distribution, because of the access to 65.”

The park now qualifies for grants it would not have otherwise if it belonged to a private company.

Caton said the park could receive grants for the installation of a sewer system and utilities like water, gas and electricity.

“It has got so many more advantages, belonging to the county,” he said.

Bringing the park under county control is the result of work by the county’s Industrial Development Board. The board will have an important decision to make as it moves forward with the park.

Joy Littleton, and industrial developer who was instrumental in the industrial park project, announced her retirement at Monday’s meeting.

“She’s going to be hard to replace,” Caton said, an opinion that was echoed by several at the meeting.

The job has been posted and will be filled by the Industrial Development Board.