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Local leaders attend economic development workshop

Chilton County could be primed for economic development, and local leaders spent time Wednesday learning about the topic.

An economic development workshop titled “How Communities Compete for Industry” was held at the Alabama Power Conference Center.

About 50 local mayors, municipality councilmembers, county commissioners and business leaders attended the workshop.

Guest speakers included Ephraim Stockdale and Patrick Murphy from Alabama Power, Ted Clem from the Alabama Department of Commerce, Connie Bainbridge from Central Alabama Electric Cooperative and Nisa Miranda from the University of Alabama.

A previous meeting focused on the county having a vision and marketing its assets.

A significant asset was added since the previous meeting as the county and city of Clanton jointly purchased more than 500 acres near Interstate 65 Exit 212 for a planned industrial park.

“You ought to be applauded for that,” Stockdale said.

Clem gave an overview of the economic development process, noting that development requires significant investment of time and other resources.

“You think of economic development as a ribbon cutting or groundbreaking…It took years and years of work to get to that point,” Clem said.

Clem also talked about a company’s process of selecting a site for expansion and the competition in industry.

In Alabama, Clem said, there are 472 available industrial buildings and 500 available industrial sites.

Meanwhile, only 8 percent of the 18,000 business expansions in the United States each year expand off-site.

Murphy said a desirable industrial site is publicly owned, cleared or graded, has access to an interstate or four-lane highway, is accessible, is well-maintained and has competed engineering studies.

Murphy also stressed the benefit of pre-built “speculative” buildings, noting that 65 percent to 70 percent of companies looking for property in Alabama want an existing building.

Bainbridge talked about site selection factors, including skilled labor, labor cost, proximity to major markets, incentives, available buildings, highway accessibility, available land, tax exemptions, expedited permitting and shipping costs.